The conflict with Gaza took a fatal turn for Israelis on Thursday, with the deaths of three people in Kiryat Malachi from Hamas rocket fire and the launching of missiles toward Tel Aviv and its suburbs (to say nothing of Israel’s blistering response to Hamas). The Hebrew language press is on top of it, with massive Friday editions that bring the realities of war to the rest of Israel’s doorstep.
“There are no more deluxe wars,” writes Nahum Barnea in Yedioth Ahronoth, which fills its whole news section (minus three small economic stories) with stories about Operation Pillar of Defense, its effects on the south and the large call-up of reservists ahead of a possible ground invasion. “The three people killed in Kiryat Malachi were a painful reminder that in any military action, successful as it may be, there are prices.”
The paper writes extensively on the three casualties, noting that 26-year-old Mira Sharf was a Chabad emissary in New Delhi who had come to Israel to give birth to her fourth child. Eerily, the paper writes that she was killed on the fourth anniversary of the deaths of Chabad emissaries in Mumbai, during a terror attack in that city. In the next apartment over, Aharon Smadja and Itzik Amsalem declined to enter a safe area and stood by the window to film what they thought would be Iron Dome shooting down the rocket. They “paid with their lives,” the paper writes.
Maariv, which fills its news section exclusively with news connected to the conflict with Gaza, leads with the price Gaza is about to pay if it does not halt its fire on Israel, starting with the troop buildup in the south. The paper’s Amir Rappaport notes that despite the troop buildup, Israel has only a limited time to act before the international community ramps up its pressure for a ceasefire. “Will a ground operation in the coming days be like Cast Lead? It seems not. International pressure on Israel to halt the operation, which is expected to grow with the start of a ground phase; the fear of harming strategic ties with Egypt; and of course the fear of high casualty counts on both sides — all mean the IDF needs to act quickly and lethally.”
The paper also tries to capture the daily reality of life in or near a bomb shelter for residents of the south. Shirat Livneh, a mother of three from Ashkelon, writes of the constant fear and terror she has to deal with. “Thursday morning – After five hours of sleep, I am again making my way to Tel Aviv for work. The kids are at home and the train conductor announces we will go slowly because of missile sirens. Time stands still. Passengers constantly update themselves with the news and pass the info to anyone who’s interested. The tension is unbearable. And then comes a call from home. ‘Mom, there’re more sirens, but I can’t wake Gill up.’ I don’t know what to tell her. My whole body starts to shake and tears roll down. I’ve never felt so helpless in my life.”
Both papers feature the surreal picture of a scoreboard at Nokia Arena in Tel Aviv telling basketball spectators not to flee in case of a siren, but to put their heads between their knees and await instructions from the police. NBA this ain’t.
For the more staid Haaretz, which doesn’t let the march to war take up its whole front page, the most interesting thing on its A-1 may be the quarter-page ad accusing Israel of killing Gazans as an electoral diversion, and calling on people to take to the streets in protest.
Amos Harel and Avi Issacharoff write that, rather than lefties rallying, the end to the conflict will likely come from Egypt, and thus Friday’s visit by Egyptian Prime Minister Hisham Kandil presents Israel and Hamas with a way to climb down from the conflict, or show that they are determined to step it up: “Within the visit of Kandil lies also an opportunity: This could be an exit point from Operation Pillar of Defense, before it ramps up to worse violence. Under Egyptian pressure to end the conflict, Palestinian factions could be satisfied with defining shooting rockets at the Dan region as a victory, even if it is a pathetic victory. In a situation like this, Egyptian intelligence, which had refused to mediate since the assassination of [Hamas military head Ahmed] Jabari, would be able to swallow its pride and return to the picture.”
In Israel Hayom, which devotes the lion’s share of its news section to the situation in the south, Boaz Bizmuth ramblingly writes that, despite Egypt’s attempts to mix in, the clock is ticking on diplomatic efforts.
“Israel managed to assassinate Jabari and to destroy rocket depots. It got a green light from the West to act. But it won’t be like this for long. In the time allotted, Israel needs to return its deterrent effect, which has eroded, and to weaken Hamas significantly in girding [Abbas]. The visit of UN chief Ban Ki-moon to Jerusalem, Cairo and Ramallah is designed to bring a ceasefire. Today there are expected to be protests against Israel in Egypt… These are rough days for the historic peace. The Obama administration, now with four years of experience, understands how unsimple it is to bring about new peace agreements in our region. The challenge today for Obama isn’t peace between Israel and the Palestinians, but keeping the Israeli-Egyptian peace.”
The paper also takes a turn as Hamas propaganda, writing that the terror organization says it will still surprise Israel. “We have the ability to hit accurately inside Israel,” a Hamas spokesman said Thursday, the paper notes.
Analyst Nadav Shragai writes that, for Hamas, all of Israel is Kfar Darom, a small Gaza settlement that was the target of constant attacks on its women and children before the disengagement in 2005. “[For them] Israel is one big settlement, one big Kfar Darom. The little Kfar Darom no longer exists, but its spirit and might still draw power today.”