Psychological Warfare on the Gaza Frontier
Residents of an Israeli border community are disappointed after a nearby Hamas observation post hit by the Israeli military is quickly rebuilt
Shortly after 3 am on Saturday, a terror group based in the Gaza Strip fired a rocket toward the border city of Ashkelon.
The Israeli Air Force’s Iron Dome defense system launched a missile that intercepted the rocket and carried out retaliatory strikes on Hamas targets in the Gaza Strip, including a weapons manufacturing facility and three observation posts along the border.
One of those observation posts was just across from Netiv Ha’asara, a moshav, or cooperative agricultural community of individual farms, in the northwest Negev, with a population of a bit under 900.
Despite two strikes on the post, which sustained significant damage, Hamas completely restored it within a few hours.
Residents of Netiv Ha’asara told The Media Line they are concerned by the post, which rises above the border wall that is intended to protect them.
According to Shimon, “The problem with the post is that they watch every house here, more or less every house, and it’s not good for people. People aren’t comfortable with the fact that they can look into their homes and snipe at them using regular, simple weapons.”
Many residents were shocked by the speed with which Hamas repaired the tower, with the Islamist movement holding it up as a symbol of “resistance.”
Rita Filler, another resident, told The Media Line, “They think it’s their victory, that they can put up a symbol and harass us daily, and actually, we can’t currently do a thing against it.”
Filler’s neighbor Hila explained that “the tower is a symbol, so first of all, yes, the symbol has to go, but behind the symbol there is passion − the passion to continue this fighting, to continue this terror, and we need to stop what’s behind it.”
Other residents disagreed that the tower had symbolic significance, emphasizing instead the very real security threat posed by the observation post.
Omri Elhayani, a visiting music teacher from the city of Sderot, said, “I don’t think it’s a symbol of anything, but I do think that everything happening here is very difficult, because young kids come here from the surrounding communities to study music, and it’s still scary, and we have the feeling that at any moment there could be a [rocket warning] siren, at any moment we might have to run away or hide.”
Other members of the community simply expressed the hope that the government would take a stronger stand against such structures and prevent future rebuilding efforts by Hamas.
Yael Medina, a young resident of Netiv Ha’asara who recently returned from a post-army trip to Malawi and Tanzania, recalled to The Media Line how she awoke on the morning following the air force’s initial strike to find the observation post intact.
“The next morning, I got up and saw the situation was back as it was, and even improved. So, there wasn’t really a change; I don’t think the attack was that significant, and I hope next time they [Israeli troops] use more force,” Medina said.
As evening fell, Idit SIlman, a member of the Knesset for the Yamina party and former coalition whip in the legislature, arrived at the border to show solidarity with the community and call for the destruction of the tower.
“I’m with the residents. I spoke to the head of the regional council. It’s a terrible feeling that this is what is in people’s faces. It [the observation post] has to come down,” she said.
Silman reinforced the notion that the observation post had taken on a symbolic, psychological aspect, saying, “The war on people’s consciousness is being waged throughout the land, there’s no doubt about it.”
Aron Rosenthal is a student at the University of Edinburgh and an intern in The Media Line’s Press and Policy Student Program.