My satisfaction at the news yesterday that Israel had taken out a top Hamas leader was tempered somewhat by the fact that his family died with him — today’s stories put the toll at four of his wives and 10 of his children. On the face of it, that sounds like a lot of “collateral damage,” no matter how important the primary target.

But you’ll hear no criticism of Israel from me over this incident. Not only did Nizar Rayan consciously use his family as human shields, they also refused to leave the house even after Israel warned them that it would be destroyed.

Still, as a parent, it pains me to think of a small child being killed because the grown-ups can’t get along. However, small children grow up — and even before yesterday, Rayan already sacrificed one of his sons to “martyrdom”:

Rayan, 49, ranked among Hamas’ top five decision-makers. A professor of Islamic law, he was known for his close ties to the group’s military wing and was respected in Gaza for donning combat fatigues and personally participating in clashes against Israeli forces. He sent one of his sons on an October 2001 suicide mission that killed two Israeli settlers in Gaza.

Israel’s military said the homes of Hamas leaders are being used to store missiles and other weapons, and the hit on Rayan’s house triggered secondary explosions from the stockpile there.

Israeli defense officials said the military had called Rayan’s home and fired a warning missile before destroying the building. That was impossible to confirm. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss military tactics.

Meanwhile, Hamas itself has admitted that Rayan was the person who pioneered the human shield concept that claimed his family. From the valuable website of the Israeli Consulate in New York:

Hamas has released an official statement declaring that Dr. Nizar al-Rayyan who was killed in a pinpointed attack earlier today is the father of the “Human Shields” method:

“It was Dr. Rayyan, who took the initiative, two years ago, to protect homes against Israeli occupation air strikes by forming human shields which succeeded in stopping this practice by the Israeli occupation, where they used to phone the occupier of the home and warn him to evacuate it in ten minutes because the home is going to be bombed.”
[bold not in source]

Full statement can be read here.

I’m sorry the children were killed. But Rayan killed them. I stand with Israel.

Nick O’Neill has a good post at Social Media Today describing Israel’s use of social media in the current conflict in Gaza. Among other things, the Israeli Consulate in New York is engaging with supporters and critics alike, on Twitter. It’s reminiscent of Scott Monty’s efforts on behalf of Ford.

Update: Also see this, at Pajamas Media — it describes how Israel’s social media efforts represent an end-run around the mainstream media, much of which is bizarrely anti-Israel. “Now Israel can go directly to bloggers and other social media users to make their case without the biased filtering that takes place in all but a few outlets in the mainstream media.”

Updated Update: The IDF has a YouTube channel with a selection of precision bombing videos. In the one below, Israel strikes a Hamas truck as it is being loaded with Grad rockets. It’s a powerful answer to the charges that Israel is bombing indiscriminately. (Hat tip: Meryl Yourish)

Precision Strike Kills a Top Hamas Goon in Gaza

“A senior Hamas leader, Nizar Rayan, was killed today with his four wives and two of his children in an Israeli air strike in Gaza, medics said,” according to an account in The National, an Abu Dhabi-based, English-language paper. (Photo: AFP/Getty, via CNN)

The deaths of the wives and children are unfortunate, but Rayan knew he was a target and chose to endanger his family by using them as human shields. Whenever Israel has an opportunity to kill a senior terrorist, it would be irresponsible not to pull the trigger. Hamas can stop the conflict at any time by ceasing its rocket attacks against Israel, which have continued today.

In an earlier post I defended Israel’s use of “disproportionate” force. I later found a post by TigerHawk explaining why a disproportionate response to Hamas rocket attacks is not just defensible, but also necessary:

Massive, militarily disproportionate retaliation is the cornerstone of deterrence, and without it there would be more war, not less. …

The requirement that retaliation be proportional rather than “massive” destroys the credibility of the threat to retaliate and therefore the effectiveness of the deterrance. Why? Because it allows the attacker to determine the price he will pay for launching the attack. If the attacker knows that he can absorb a blow equal to the one he delivers, then he will not be concerned that the defender has the capability to retaliate massively.

This is like limiting the penalty for property crimes to restitution. Why not rob the bank? If you’re caught, you only have to give the money back.

Unfortunately I can’t find the link where I read the following idea, so I’ll just paraphrase: If Hamas and all the world’s jihadists were to lay down their weapons, there would be peace between Israel and Palestine. If Israel were to lay down its weapons, Israelis would be slaughtered to the last man, woman or child.

Can anyone offer any evidence that the above statement might not be true? This is a serious question, please leave a comment if you can make a substantive argument. And if the statement is true, I find it hard to understand why anyone would not root for the Israelis.

Good to See: Arab Leaders Criticize Hamas

Via Taranto (third item) comes the welcome word that some Arab leaders understand the cause of the Gaza conflict better than the Episcopal Presiding Bishop does:

Nimr Hammad, an adviser to [Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud] Abbas, told a Lebanese paper, “The one responsible for the massacres is Hamas, and not the Zionist entity, which in its own view reacted to the firing of Palestinian missiles. Hamas needs to stop treating the blood of Palestinians lightly. They should not give the Israelis a pretext.” Hammad also urged Hamas to cease “operations which reflect recklessness, such as the firing of missiles.”

The quote isn’t exactly cheerleading for the “Zionist entity,” and Taranto points out that the PA and Hamas are rivals for Palestinian leadership. Still, it’s the most pro-Israel statement I can ever remember seeing from a Palestinian leader in the context of hostilities. Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak also is said to be “very angry with Hamas.”

Quick Takes on Gaza & Hamas

Wired magazine’s Danger Room defense blog is covering the Gaza conflict — today comes the grim news that Hamas has obtained Chinese rockets with a range of 22 miles, doubling the terrorists’ reach into Israel. The rockets are also deadlier and more accurate (not that Hamas is concerned about precision targeting). Thanks for nothing, China… (Photo: Defense Update via Wired)

* * *

For six decades, the United Nations Relief & Works Agency (UNRWA) has been devoted exclusively to Palestinian refugees. (Surely there must be a UN agency devoted to the well-being of Israelis, right? Hello?) UNWRA said today that of the people killed in the ongoing Israeli offensive against Hamas targets in the Gaza Strip, at least 25% have been civilians.

The agency appears to mean this as a criticism of Israel. Personally I think it reflects well on Israel’s targeting ability if civilian casualties are so low, given the jihadists’ standard tactic of mingling terrorist personnel and infrastructure civilian population centers.

* * *

Katharine Jefferts Schori is the Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church, and as an active Episcopalian I deeply respect her. So it pains me to see her focusing blame on Israel in the current conflict.

After a perfunctory call for an end to the Palestinian rocket attacks, she unleashes her passion to make clear where her sympathies lie:

“Innocent lives are being lost throughout the land we all call Holy, and as Christians remember the coming of the Prince of Peace, we ache for the absence of peace in the land of his birth,” Jefferts Schori said in her December 29 statement. “Immediate attention should focus on vital humanitarian assistance to the suffocating people of Gaza.”

Sorry, PB, but I believe your sympathies are misplaced. Somebody (apparently not de Tocqueville) said that in a democracy, the people get the government they deserve. The Palestinians, having been handed a democracy, elected a terrorist group to lead their government.

On either side, the deaths of children and noncombatants are tragic — but we can never lose sight of the fact that Israel tries to minimize civilian casualties, while Hamas tries to maximize them.

I Stand With Israel

Spare me from listening to officials of the thugocracy-infested United Nations complaining that Israel’s assault against Hamas is “disproportionate.” Of course it is. It should be.

When a sovereign nation gets goaded into war by terrorist attacks upon civilians, its goal should be to destroy the terrorist infrastructure and kill as many terrorists as possible. The best way to do that is to attack with overwhelming force. Yes there will be civilian casualties, although Israel, like the United States, takes care to avoid excessive collateral damage (unlike the atrocity-seeking jihadists who deliberately target civilians, and who use their own people as human shields by mingling their fighters with civilians).

Civilians die in any war, and it’s tragic. But if Palestinians want to safeguard their civilian population, they need to start by taking control of their own territory and creating a government that will crush the terrorists, rather than a government operated by the terrorists.

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