Israel-Gaza rocket exchange: media reactions | Middle East| News and analysis of events in the Arab world | DW | 25.03.2019
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Middle East

Israel-Gaza rocket exchange: media reactions

The rocket attack on a family home just outside Tel Aviv, and Israel's reaction, has dominated Israeli media. The coverage will play a large part in how Israel will respond. DW takes a closer look.

The aerial images show a house in ruins, destroyed — the captions explain — by a rocket from the Gaza Strip. Readers on Ynet, one of the most popular Israeli news sites, are able to click through images of the immediate aftermath: close-ups of the first responders amid rubble and ash; half-collapsed walls riddled with cracks; window frames blasted out by the impact. In one image, huge blocks of concrete lay atop a flattened mattress; a baby's cot stands nearby.

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Similar images top the lead stories all over media in Israel. The website of the left-leaning Haaretz newspaper features a photo of a child's blue, yellow and red spade in front of a mound of grey rubble. Walla, one of Israel's largest online news outlets, features an image of a pair of ballerina-like shoes among shards of glass.

Haaretz's headline reads: "Gaza rocket hits house in central Israel. Military prepares to deploy thousands." 

In Ynet: "IDF [Israel Defense Forces] blames Hamas for rocket; reservists called up as troops sent to Gaza border."

Headlines are being regularly updated via updates coming from the Israeli army. On Walla the question being posed is: "Why was the Iron Dome not activated?" referring to Israel's missile defense system that frequently prevents such attacks.

According to Ynet, seven people were injured in the attack — all members of the one family, including a baby, a 3-year-old and a 12-year-old. The house was in Mishmeret, less than 20 kilometers northeast of Tel Aviv.

A ball of fire rise over Gaza City (picture-alliance)

Israeli forces struck targets across the Gaza Strip on Monday, including the offices of Hamas' supreme leader

How will the attack impact the election campaign?

Before print media was able respond to the incident that took place in the early hours of the morning, the story dominated online news, as well as television and broadcasts.

Israel is in the middle of an election campaign. On April 9, the country will go to the polls to elect a new parliament and prime minister.

Considering the political atmosphere, many media sources are focusing on Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his chief challenger, Benny Gantz, both of whom are currently visiting the US.

The first reactions came on social media: "… There was a criminal attack here on Israel and we will respond powerfully," was the tweet from Netanyahu, quoted in a report by a journalist from newspaper Yediot Ahronot.

The prime minister later said he would return to Israel immediately after a meeting with US President Donald Trump.

Gantz, a former military chief of staff and lead candidate from the Blue and White alliance, tweeted: "Netanyahu has lost [Israel's] security … The reality in which Hamas has turned Israel into its hostage is unprecedented and unbelievable."

Gantz added that the blame for the next rocket will fall on the shoulders of those who fail to act today: "The person who failed to respond aggressively and forcefully and who has paid protection to Hamas, who treated attacks on the residents of the south dismissively and who downplayed an attack on Tel Aviv, has now received missiles on the Sharon [plain]. Will he be satisfied this time as well by an announcement by Hamas about a mistake….?"

Gantz was referring to two rockets which triggered air raid sirens in Tel Aviv 10 days ago — the first such instance since the 2014 Israel-Gaza conflict. The Israeli army responded by attacking over 100 Hamas targets on the Gaza Strip, before reports emerged that the initial rockets from Gaza may have been the result of a misfire.

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How will Netanyahu react?

Amos Yadlin, a former general of the army's intelligence service, told newspaper The Jerusalem Post that: "Hamas has figured out that when it provokes Israel with low-grade violence on the border or with a small number of rocket or mortar attacks, Israel is uncertain how to react since Jerusalem does not want to go to war."

However, Yadlin believes the IDF should respond with the greatest possible force, in order to inflict lasting setback for Hamas. Only then, he claims, can war be avoided.

Ron Ben-Yishai told Ynet that instead of an immediate response — and in order to prevent further missile attacks — Israel must prepare itself in the event that "an immediate response would be ineffective and fail to sufficiently hurt Hamas and Islamic Jihad — and it is better to prepare for a major confrontation before carrying out any response."

By this, he means what would ultimately sufficiently hinder Hamas and the Islamic Jihad, Hamas's ally on the Gaza Strip, is a land offensive — if necessary.

Read more: Gaza Strip: Hamas facing growing pushback

In Haaretz, Chemi Shalev highlighted the dilemma for Netanyahu in the final weeks before the election: the current prime minister's challengers are not some just some "lefties" but rather three former army chiefs with combat experience that no one would dare question.

Voters may be persuaded that these three would be more competent when confronting Hamas. In other words, Netanyahu's reactions may now be viewed as too weak.

But if Netanyahu were to order a military offensive, it could quickly become his downfall — even if just a single Israeli soldier is killed in the process.

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