What I did last summer
Allison Kaplan Sommer describes the political effects of the Hamas rocket attacks on the Israeli town of Sderot from locations in Gaza in an article in Pajamas Media. It's obvious, she argues, that Hamas is eager to provoke Israel in order to reunite Palestinians now engaged in civil conflict by rocketing Israel. And Israel, for domestic political reasons, will probably oblige, since Olmert can hardly stand around and do nothing while the equivalent of 60 mortar rounds (they come in three types, ranging from 60 mm to 200 mm) land on the border town each day. Once the IDF crunches into Gaza, the world press can go back to its normal characterization of the the violence as Jew on Arab, David against Goliath. Late last year I happened by Sderot at the invitation of a nongovernment organization and took some video.
It's a little nondescript town near Gaza with a shopping center and a strip mall. The Kassams themselves have no guidance systems. They are all marked "to whom it may concern" and at the time of my visit the last victim had been a lady walking her dog in the park. A little explanation on the video. The picture of masked men below is from a newspaper article and shows what a Kassam looks like before it is fired. A long rocket tube that can be fired remotely or by timer, thus making counterbattery problematic. The only things I actually saw were the fragments of recovered Kassams stored in the back of the local police station, which is piled high like a junkyard with these things. Later, we stopped by the mall where one had landed but caused no casualties other than ruining a storefront.
It seems odd to think that Israel has to endure the equivalent of getting mortared without being able to do much about it. But that's about the size of it. Israeli countermeasures will probably reduce the attacks for a while, but the attacks will probably reoccur in the future. As Allison puts it, "as the candidates in the United States debate about military action in Iraq because they worry the terrorists will follow them home, in Sderot, attacks are already as close to home as it gets – in their houses, offices, and their children’s classrooms." The unthinkable sometimes does happen. You accept it, but you never really get used to it.