Friday, November 04, 2011

'Instability and uncertainty' in the Middle East

New rumours of an imminent Israeli strike against nuclear installations in Iran were flying everywhere this week, fuelled by Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu's speaking to the Israeli Government about the threat from Iran, a rush of activity by Israel's military forces and the US publicly seeking to dissuade Israel from making the first strike.

Then it was said that the US was organising an attempt by the US, Britain and Israel to persuade Iran that an attack could become a reality if Iran does not give up its drive for a nuclear weapon. It is reported that soon Iran will have all its nuclear facilities deep underground where they will be invulnerable to attack.

Finally, it was suggested that Israel is preparing to defend itself against the fallout from a possible US-backed NATO attack on Syria aimed at deposing Syria's President Assad. Assad has threatened that if Syria is attacked he will attack Israel, creating a wider conflict that would make it more difficult to topple his regime. Syria has tens of thousands of missiles capable of striking anywhere in Israel.

The Iranian-backed Hezbollah in Lebanon similarly has tens of thousands of rockets ready for use against Israel; Hamas terrorists, sworn to Israel's destruction, are armed to the teeth in Gaza.

"If I had to summarise what will happen in our region, I would use two terms: instability and uncertainty," Prime Minister Netanyahu told his parliamentary colleagues on Monday.

Palestinians in Gaza fired a barrage of rockets at civilian targets in southern Israel in the past week, with 35 missiles falling in one day. They were using a Grad multiple rocket launcher believed brought from Libya. They are reported to have obtained others from the same place.

From the time the alarm sounds, Israelis have just 15 seconds to find shelter. Young children are particularly liable to emotional damage from the constant threat of incoming missiles.

There have been some remarkable escapes from death and injury in rocket attacks. One school has been turned into a makeshift synagogue for Sabbath services every Saturday for 40 years. Last Saturday the man whose job it was to open up was in hospital, so there was no service. When it would normally have been busy, the empty school was hit.

"It was a miracle," said one congregant. "People should come to see what a great miracle it was."

Others were not so fortunate. One man was killed and others injured.