In light of continued terrorist attacks and missile bombardments against Israel, the Israeli Security Cabinet designated (19 Sept.) Gaza as a "hostile territory." This step was taken following years of unprovoked attacks deliberately targeting innocent Israeli civilians living in the area surrounding the Gaza Strip.
In the summer of 2005, Israel disengaged from the Gaza Strip. In addition to removing 9,000 Israeli civilians and dismantling 21 communities, Israel pulled out all its troops and removed all its military bases.
Yet even after Israel completely disengaged from Gaza, terrorist attacks continued to emanate from that territory. Since the disengagement, over 2000 Kassam missiles and hundreds of mortar bombs have struck Israeli territory. Much of this violence has occurred since the Hamas brutally seized control of the Gaza Strip in June of this year. These missiles and other terror attacks have lead to the deaths of 14 Israelis and the injury of hundreds more since the disengagement.
The situation in Israeli communities that border Gaza has become intolerable. The almost-daily Kassam attacks have disrupted the lives of the residents, destroyed homes and businesses, damaged schools, kindergartens and other public buildings and led to an entire generation of children being severely traumatized by the constant threat of deadly missiles.
In addition to its disengagement from Gaza, Israel had hoped to end terrorist attacks through compromise and dialogue. However, these efforts have only led to more terrorism and more attacks. Israel has decided that enough is enough and the need for a new approach has become abundantly clear.
No government can be expected to fail to react when its towns and cities are subjected to deliberate bombardment from a neighboring territory. The Israeli government, like all governments, has the duty to protect the lives of its citizens. Given the same circumstances, any country would be forced to take action.
The determination made by the Security Cabinet that Gaza is a hostile territory is a factual (rather than legal) description of the region controlled by Hamas -- an organization dedicated to the destruction of the State of Israel. Indeed, the Hamas is recognized as a terrorist group by many others in the democratic world, including the EU, Canada, US, Australia and Japan.
The responsibility for this determination lies squarely with Hamas, which controls the Gaza Strip and supports and encourages the ongoing terrorist activity emanating from that area.
In addition to the counter-terrorist operations already being carried out, the determination provides a basis for sanctions on the Hamas regime. Israel cannot be expected to provide for those that attack its citizens, for example, by providing fuel to vehicles being used to transport Kassam missiles, or supplying electrical power to Hamas military installations. When has a state under constant attack, supplied a hostile population with the provisions necessary to carry out these attacks?
At the heart of this decision is the principle that although Israel remains committed to averting any humanitarian crises, it does not feel required to provide any supplies which go beyond that. It would be hypocritical to expect Israel to provide anything beyond the basic human needs of a population when a large number of its members, including the authorities, are engaged in systematic hostile activities. While Israel does not wish to see the innocent residents of Gaza harmed, it must protect its own citizens.
These are not steps that Israel takes lightly. Indeed, they have only been considered after other measures have been unsuccessful at preventing years of attacks.
Israel has stressed that this decision has no bearing on Israel's relations with Palestinian moderates, embodied in the Government of Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas. Israel will continue its dialogue with these moderates, in the hope of advancing the cause of peace and enhancing the welfare of the Palestinian population. Israel wants to reach out to those Palestinians who recognize that both sides share a common interest in stopping the terrorist and missile attacks, thereby alleviating the suffering of both peoples.