Imagine your hometown under daily fire from deadly rockets. Imagine your children walking to school when an alarm sounds giving them only 15 seconds to find cover. Fifteen seconds that can make the difference between life or death. Imagine your house torn to bits by a rocket, your car blown up or your nursery school shredded by shrapnel.
This is the nightmare 3.5 million people in Israel have had to live with since mid of June. The Hamas bombardment of Israel has been unrelenting, indiscriminate and targeting civilians.
Israel hoped that its complete disengagement from the Gaza Strip in August 2005 would lead to an end to the violence emanating from there, and create an opportunity for peace. Instead Israel has suffered on and off from missiles and rocket attacks on its civilian population.
The recent attacks initiated by Hamas forced Israel to defend itself through the “Operation Protective Edge”. Since then, over 1000 rockets have been launched at Israel directed deliberately at civilian targets. About 800 of those rockets hit Israel, and approximately 200 rockets were intercepted by the Iron Dome missile defense system. 40% of the Israeli population lives now under the constant threat of missiles. The sirens in the last few weeks have sounded incessantly, and entered with force into the lives of millions of people who have interrupted their prayers, work, study, meals: everything had to stop at this sound.
No government can stand idly by while its citizens are being attacked. Israel, like any other State, has the right and duty to defend its civilian population against a terrorist organization, Hamas, whose purpose is to destroy us. In 1988 Hamas stated that “Israel will exist and continue to exist until Islam will obliterate it” and that “there is no solution for the Palestinian question except though Jihad (holy war)”.
The population of Gaza is not our enemy and we do everything possible to avoid civilian casualties which are a direct result of Hamas’ tactic of using the Palestinian civilian population as human shields for its terrorist activities. We are doing the utmost to reduce to a minimum the harm caused to civilians. We warn residents in Gaza about impending strikes using phone calls, text messages and leaflets and by firing warning shots.
Last Sunday, after the Angelus, Pope Francis sent out a heartfelt appeal calling for an end to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and invited everybody to pray for peace. Pope Francis encouraged all interested parties not to spare their prayers, and their efforts to achieve the cessation of all hostilities and the desired peace for the good of all.
On the 15th of July Israel accepted the Egyptian proposal for a ceasefire in order to allow for sustained quiet to be achieved diplomatically. Israel shares the international community’s desire to restore calm. It also shares an interest with other moderate forces in the region promoting stability. Israel had hoped that the ceasefire would have allowed civilians on both sides to return to normal life.
On the other hand, Hamas continues to fire rockets refusing to accept the cease-fire forcing Israel to continue and intensify the operations to protect its people. Hamas will bear responsibility for the consequences of continued rocket fire.
While confronting Hamas, Israel continues to believe in the two-state solution: two states living side by side in peace and security, the State of Israel as the homeland of the Jewish people and a future Palestinian state as the homeland for the Palestinian people.
Zion Evrony is Israel's ambassador to the Holy See.