Hamas Rocket Attacks: More Than Statistics


Using easy-to-read round numbers to describe the costs of terrorism shields our eyes from the true costs in human terms. More than 1,000 Israeli men, women and children have died as a result of Palestinian suicide bombings, shootings and rocket attacks, and over 2,500 Palestinians were killed during the Second Intifada, from July 2000 until the death of Yasser Arafat in 2004. Those numbers total 3,500, a figure greater than the number of innocent lives ended in the terrorist attacks on 9/11.

Each human life lost to terrorism, war or genocide is precious.


In the swirl of events and their coverage in much of the media, the true human costs of terrorism are often reduced to mere statistics. The coverage of the terrorist attacks against Israelis in recent weeks has also tossed around numbers of victims in headlines and the lead paragraphs of the many stories coming out of the Gaza Strip, Jerusalem, Dimona, Sderot and Ashkelon.

Palestinian sources say that from 120 to 160 Palestinians have been killed in the “Israeli attacks” on Palestinian towns without bothering to mention that the Israeli attacks were provoked by the hundreds of Kassam rockets fired by Hamas or Islamic Jihad terrorists from Gaza into Israeli towns like Sderot and Ashkelon. We read that “scores of Israelis were killed and many more wounded in the rocket attacks,” or that “eight yeshiva students” were killed by a Palestinian gunman in Jerusalem. What we do not read often enough in general media coverage are the specific stories behind those grim statistics. Let’s be specific with only a few examples:

* On Feb. 17, a Kassam rocket blew up near a preschool in Sderot, sending several people into shock. Two weeks earlier two brothers, Rami and Osher Twito, were on an errand to buy after-shave lotion for their father’s birthday when a Kassam struck, leaving both boys lying in a pool of blood, according to the newsletter Outlook, published by Americans for a Safe Israel. As a result of that attack, Osher’s leg was severed.

* In one four-day period, according to the same source, over 150 rockets exploded in Sderot and its surroundings.

* On Feb. 27, another Kassam rocket, fired by Palestinians in the Gaza Strip, killed a father of four in Sderot at the Sapir College parking lot.

* In a major escalation of the Hamas and Islamic Jihad attacks, Hamas used Iranian-made Katyusha rockets called Grad missiles, which have a longer range and heavier payload than the Kassams often used against Sderot and nearby towns. The same type of Katyusha-like rockets were rained down on Israeli towns and cities by the Iranian-backed Hezbollah two summers ago in the 34-day war in Lebanon between Israel and Hezbollah. Over 4,000 such rockets were fired, forcing nearly 100,000 Israelis into bomb shelters or to seek refuge in outlying cities.

* When the Palestinian gunman murdered eight innocent Jerusalem yeshiva students in cold blood before being himself killed by Israeli forces, at first Hamas boastfully claimed “credit” for the attack, but later recanted their claim, no doubt out of fear for what Israel might do in response to the wanton murders. That very evening, Palestinians took to the streets of the Gaza Strip to wildly celebrate the deaths of the eight yeshiva students. The world was stone silent in response to this grotesque display of inhumanity, while representatives at the United Nations were busy preparing the usual ritual condemnations of Israel for using “disproportionate” force in responding to the attacks.

Two years ago, the government of then Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon went forward with a controversial plan to withdraw all 8,500 Israelis from all 21 Jewish settlements in the Gaza Strip. In response, Hamas and Islamic Jihad have stepped up their Kassam and Katyusha/Grad missile attacks on Israeli towns and cities, especially Sderot and Ashkelon.

According to the Outlook newsletter, over 20 percent of the residents of Sderot have already left, and the government “seeks to impel the rest to remain.”

As we prepare to celebrate Israel’s 60th anniversary here in St. Louis, let us take time to write to our representatives in Congress and to the White House, State Department and United Nations to demand that Israel’s right to defend itself will not be curtailed or condemned. And let us remember that the victims of terrorism are real human beings with children, parents, siblings and friends. We must do everything we can, by our support and advocacy, to assure that their lives will not have been lost in vain.