Saturday, August 9, 2014

Hamas kills Palestinians

Hamas rocket firing from Gaza residential area
As I write this, Israel has finished withdrawing all its troops from Gaza and Hamas has at last agreed to a 72-hour ceasefire, which everyone hopes can be transformed into a long-term ceasefire. (No one expects Hamas to actually make peace.)
This same ceasefire was on the table three weeks ago, but Hamas rejected it. That rejection led to the deaths of another 1,600 people, maybe half of them civilians, and to the levelling of several Gaza neighbourhoods.

Israel has bombed the buildings used as rocket factories, weapons depots, and sniper posts. They’ve levelled buildings used to conceal entrances to Hamas’s many military tunnels and bulldozed other buildings looking for more tunnels.
And what Israel left standing, Hamas itself destroyed. Hamas booby-trapped houses wherever they operated, wiring much of Gaza to self-destruct. On one street alone, the Israeli army found 19 of the 28 houses rigged with improvised explosive devices. (See here.)
Given that Hamas operates exclusively in residential areas and has turned homes, mosques, schools and hospitals into military posts, it’s a wonder many more Palestinian civilians haven't been killed. Only Israel’s extraordinary efforts has kept the death toll down.
Israelis run for bomb shelter. Residents in the south have only 15 seconds from when a siren sounds until a rocket hits. For mortar shells, they have even less time to seek shelter. Fortunately mortars can't fire deeply into Israel. But on Aug 22, Hamas did succeed in murdering a 4-year-old Jewish child with a mortar strike on his community near the Gaza border.
Israel tries to hit only military targets and encourages civilians to leave areas it operates in, leafleting from the air, providing maps and directions to safe zones, even telephoning and texting individuals to urge them to leave target areas.
Hamas of course takes no such precautions. To date, it's fired more than 3,300 missiles toward Israel, attempting to murder innocent civilians.
Fortunately, Israel has invested billions in defensive measures. Throughout the country, sirens warn of incoming attacks, and almost every household and building has a bomb shelter nearby. Moreover, Israel now has the Iron Dome system that shoots down rockets headed for inhabited areas.
It's all worked. Hamas hoped to murder thousands of innocents. Instead all their rockets have killed just three civilians on the Israeli side: one Bedouin, one foreign worker, and one Jew. {As of Aug 22, one more: a 4-year-old Jewish boy.}
Hamas rockets have killed many more Palestinians.
Map showing first 280 Hamas rocket strikes within Gaza
These rockets are purely terror weapons. They can’t be aimed at anything smaller than a town. In fact to date, 450 of Hamas’s projectiles missed Israel entirely and fell within Gaza.
How many Palestinians have these misfired missiles killed?
Like Israel, Hamas has invested huge resources in making itself immune to attack from the air. They’ve built elaborate underground bunkers and many tunnels – miles and miles of tunnels built by child labour. Their “nimble bodies” makes children ideal for this work. But children are also fragile. According to Hamas officials, by 2012 at least one hundred and sixty children had died digging tunnels for Hamas.
Note that civilians are barred from sheltering in these tunnels. The underground bunkers keep Hamas commanders and fighters safe. The tunnels were built to store weapons and to enable terrorist attacks into Israel.
As 450 Hamas missiles rained down on Gaza, the civilian population was defenceless. Hamas did not leaflet the areas where they were operating to warn civilians to clear out. On the contrary, Hamas directed them to stay. And there were no warning sirens and no shelters that civilians were allowed to hide in.
Finnish journalist reporting Hamas rocket being fired from the parking lot of Al Shifa Hospital in Gaza
We happen to know that in one barrage Palestinian terrorists hit both Al-Shifa Hospital and a playground in Al-Shati refugee camp, apparently with Fajir-5 missiles, which carry a 100-kilogram warhead. The strike on the playground killed ten Palestinians, nine of them children and injured 46.
Another errant terrorist missile apparently hit a UN School in Beit Hanoun which was being used as a shelter for Palestinian civilians. Fifteen were killed and as many as 200 wounded.
In addition to the rockets, Hamas regularly fires small arms in the residential areas where it operates. Hamas’s weapon of choice is the RPG29, a shoulder-fired anti-tank missile that can penetrate thick reinforced-concrete walls. I wouldn’t want gunmen running around firing those off in my neighbourhood.
How many Palestinians has Hamas killed? We’ll never know. It’s not the sort of information Hamas shares with the world.
But there’s nothing new about this. On June 24, during the run-up to the current war, a rocket Hamas fired at Israel fell within Gaza, killing a three-year-old girl and injuring three other Palestinians (here).  And throughout the previous nine years, Hamas rockets have killed and injured as many Palestinians as Israelis.
Flyer showing Israelis how much time they have to find a shelter after a warning siren
There’s a widespread notion that Israel can’t win in wars like this, because when Israel defends itself against terrorist attacks, it only creates more terrorists. I don’t buy it.
Polls of Palestinians have shown Hamas losing popular support ever since they beat Fatah in the 2007 election. The most recent poll, taken in June, showed that Hamas is deeply unpopular: 88% of Gazans want the Palestinian Authority to take over from Hamas; 70% thought Hamas should maintain its ceasefire with Israel and 57% supported PA president Abbas's position that the Palestinian government should renounce violence against Israel. 

Obviously Gazans didn't get what they wanted.
There have been reports of deep anger at Hamas and of a Hamas spokesman being beaten by a crowd (here). This should surprise no one. Hamas’s policy of endless war against Israel has brought nothing but poverty, destruction and death.
If I were living in Gaza, I’d want to pull the Hamas commanders out of their nice safe bunkers and string them up on the nearest lamp pole. 
Postscript: Hamas broke the ceasefire two hours it was set to expire on Friday morning and began once again firing rockets toward Israel. These continue to fall indiscriminately on Israel and Gaza alike.
Diplomatic efforts continue in Egypt, and there still appears to be a good chance that a longer term truce will emerge. However, it’s also clear that Israelis have had enough. This is the third small war Hamas has provoked in seven years.
If Hamas and the other terrorists groups won’t stop firing rockets, Israelis favour taking Hamas out completely, even knowing this may cost the lives of hundreds of their young men.

Note: A slightly shorter version of this article appeared in the Jewish Tribune.

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