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Rocket's Red Glare Exposes New 'Martyrs'

June 15, 2006
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It appears that a new Palestinian icon was born on the pages of newspapers around the world. An 11-year-old girl named Huda Ghaliya was shown weeping over the bodies of several Palestinians, mostly members of her family presumably killed by an Israeli artillery shell during an outing on the beach in Gaza. The image - as well as the grisly death toll - shocked everyone, including the government of Israel, which issued a statement expressing sorrow over the deaths but uncertainty over who was actually responsible.

The incident is reminiscent of the much-publicized death of 12-year-old Muhammad al-Durra, a Palestinian boy killed along the Gaza border while being photographed in the fall of 2000. At the time of the al-Durra affair, a stunned Israel rushed to admit guilt, and thus, the image of the dying boy being cradled by his wounded father became an international symbol of Israeli brutality.

But before the Palestinian hype machine goes any further in a new campaign based around Ghaliya and her "martyred" family, a few facts about the past and the present need to be clarified.

First, the al-Durra affair is now widely believed to have been wrongly reported. Investigators have, at the very least, shown that the boy was probably killed by Palestinian fire during a battle they initiated against an Israeli army position.

Second, despite the initial headlines, it's now certain that the Palestinians killed on the beach last week were not slain by Israeli fire. Army sources now say their guns were quiet when the explosion on the beach occurred and shrapnel collected from victims that were treated in Israel was not Israeli army ordinance. The deaths might have been caused by a Kassam rocket launched by terrorists or by Palestinian explosives buried at the site. But no matter who fired the shell, the focus on Israel's guilt is itself off the mark.

The blame for the ongoing gunfire along the border between Israel and Gaza can be laid at the feet of one side only: the Palestinians. Last summer, Israel unilaterally dismantled its Gaza settlements and forcibly evicted its settlers. In return, it asked only one thing of the Palestinians: observe a cease-fire along the border. Given that the Palestinians now have a government - led by an elected president and parliament, and protected by tens of thousands of armed security forces - that shouldn't have been a difficult task.

But rather than suppress the shelling of Israeli towns with Kassam rockets by Palestinian terror factions, the Palestinian Authority has let the situation escalate. It's now at the point where the sky over Israeli villages, such as Sederot in the Negev, is literally raining with potentially lethal missiles. The cease-fire that Hamas now says it will break is unknown to Israelis living along the border, who've been ducking rocket fire without a break for more than a year. Palestinian leaders and the terror groups at their command have been baiting Israel hoping to provoke an "atrocity."

Indeed, the beach incident could prove to have been created by Hamas specifically to spawn a conflict that would make a Palestinian referendum on accepting Israel's existence untenable. Like Ariel Sharon's famous walk on the Temple Mount, which was the alleged cause of the intifada launched in 2000, the deaths along the beach may be just another setup designed to fool a gullible press corps.

Israel desires peace, but it cannot allow either Hamas or the P.A. to "normalize" terror or the shelling of the border. Israel has the duty - and the right - to fire back at the source of the rockets and the terrorists who launch them. The real atrocity is the refusal of Palestinians, both "moderates" and "extremists," to halt their attacks. While this remains a tragedy for both sides, until the Kassams stop flying, Palestinians cannot expect Israel to sit quietly and take the abuse. Would we expect that of any other nation?

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