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Gaza Conflict: Rockets Target Tel Aviv and Jerusalem

Rockets target Jerusalem. Photo of Dome of the Rock.

What if a Palestinian rocket inadvertently hit the Church of the Holy Sepulchre or the Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem?

The world has been horrified by images of children killed in Gaza. But has the significance of rockets launched toward Israel’s big cities been overlooked?

As the latest conflict between Israel and the Palestinians in the Gaza Strip escalates, media reports focus on the rising Palestinian death toll after nearly a week of Israeli retaliatory air strikes. The photos of dead and wounded children are horrendous and are sparking anti-Israel sentiments in Arab countries and around the world.

Often lost in the reporting is the provocation of incessant rocket fire from Gaza into Israel. These latest Palestinian attacks seemed designed to strike fear into Israelis in cities that have traditionally been considered safe.

Reuters reported, “Tel Aviv has become a target from the air for the first time since 1991, when Saddam Hussein’s Iraq fired Scud missiles at Israel’s biggest city. A rocket also crashed near Jerusalem for the first time in four decades.” A second rocket triggered air raid warnings in Jerusalem on Tuesday, but fell in the West Bank, according to Reuters.

Symbolic or a sign of things to come?

For citizens in tiny Israel, these rocket attacks at their major cities were a powerful reminder that no place in their country is safe. They were also a reminder of the value of Israel’s expensive “Iron Dome” missile defense system and the civil defense initiatives that have kept Israeli casualties relatively low.

Another factor may be that some of the Palestinian rockets were modified to fly farther to make a statement.

Dan Williams reported for Reuters from Jerusalem Nov. 18:

“Some of the Palestinian rockets fired far into Israel during the Gaza flare-up have lacked powerful warheads because they were stripped down to increase range and spread alarm over a wider population, Israeli security sources said on Sunday.

“‘Our assessment is that the prestige of setting off alarms deep in Israel, and being perceived as fighting on, is as important to them now as spilling our blood,’ said an Israeli official briefed on security cabinet decisions. …

“The official said ‘not a few’ of the rockets reaching Tel Aviv and cities closer to Gaza were designed for much shorter ranges but had been shorn of their weighty warheads so that they flew further.

“‘They’re pipes, basically,’ said the official, who declined to be identified. …

“Hamas said the rockets it has fired at Tel Aviv were Iranian-designed Fajr-5s, with ranges of 75 km (46 miles) and 175 kg (385 lb) warheads that can shear through buildings.

“But there has been no word of direct impacts in Tel Aviv. The rockets were either blown out of the sky by Iron Dome or, according to some witnesses, fell harmlessly into the sea.

“If any did land in unpopulated areas, the locations were not disclosed by Israeli authorities, in order to deprive the rocket crews of any information that could help them adjust their aim. Iron Dome is designed to intercept any rocket or mortar on course to hit a populated area.”

But even if the current barrage of rockets has not been fully effective, Iran and other suppliers continue to improve the range and effectiveness of the Palestinian weapons. The rockets aimed at Jerusalem seem to be a sign of things to come.

Civilian targets

As the death toll of children and other civilians in the Gaza Strip rises, the world’s media and unsympathetic governments turn even more strongly against Israel.

Israel points out the irony of the situation, as they use the latest technology and careful military intelligence to precisely locate rocket launch sites and other military targets and to strive to avoid civilian casualties. However, not only is the Gaza Strip densely populated, Hamas has often used civilian sites for weapon storage and rocket launching as a kind of human shield. Women and children are too often put in harm’s way.

On the other hand, Israeli casualties are much lower only because Israel has invested so heavily in missile interceptors, bomb shelters and civil defense.

Imagine the carnage if the Israeli school in Ashkelon that was hit by a missile from Gaza had not canceled classes because of the danger!

According to the BBC, as of Monday morning this latest round of fighting has included:

  • 877 rockets fired toward Israel. Of these, 570 hit Israel and 307 were intercepted by the Iron Dome missile defense system.
  • 1,350 sites in Gaza hit by Israeli air strikes.

Relations with Egypt tested

The sometimes tense peace between Israel and Egypt negotiated by Menachem Begin and Anwar Sadat and maintained by Hosni Mubarak has become more tenuous since the Arab Spring toppled Egyptian President Mubarak. Egypt has promised to abide by the 1979 treaty, but many voices in Egypt have called for its end. The current Gaza crisis has strengthened anti-Israel sentiments.

What will happen if Israel once again sends ground troops into Gaza?

Israel withdrew its military from the Gaza Strip in 2005, but felt provoked by continual missile attacks to send in troops in January 2009. Will they invade again with ground troops? Israel authorized the mobilization of up to 75,000 army reservists, and “Mr. Netanyahu said on Sunday that he was ready to expand the operation,” according to the BBC.

“Egyptian President Mohammed Mursi has said an Israeli ground invasion would have ‘serious repercussions,’ saying Egypt would never accept it ‘and neither will the free world.’”

Still there are many conflicting reports of the peace negotiations going on in Cairo. Will Egypt or others be able to broker a lasting cease fire? It seems the chances of a continuing conflict or escalation are much higher than the chances of lasting peace.

Mideast peace will come!

But the Bible promises that peace in the Middle East—and the whole world—will come. First, Jesus Christ prophesied, at the end of the age (Matthew 24:3, Luke 21:24-27) Jerusalem would be surrounded by armies and conquered, and the world would come to the brink of destruction (Luke 21:20-24; Matthew 24:21-22). The intensifying crises and new uncertainties in the Middle East seem to be setting the stage for that now, though the conquering army from the “king of the North” that will “enter the Glorious Land” is not the one many might now expect (Daniel 11:40-41). Read more about this in our article “Jerusalem in Prophecy.”

But beyond that time, Jesus promised to return: “Then they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory” (Luke 21:27). He will put down all terrorism, war and rebellion and will establish the peaceful Kingdom of God.

As you watch the seemingly hopeless news coming out of Israel and Gaza today, you need the encouragement you can receive from the good news brought by the Prince of Peace. Read about it in our section on the “Kingdom of God.”

About the Author

Mike Bennett

Mike Bennett

Mike Bennett is editorial content manager for the Church of God, a Worldwide Association, in the Dallas, Texas, area. He coordinates the Life, Hope & Truth website, Discern magazine and the Life, Hope & Truth Weekly Newsletter. He is also part of the Personal Correspondence team of ministers who answer questions sent to Life, Hope & Truth.

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