I’m sitting here in the idyllic Swedish summer-landscape and enjoying the quiet and the beauty. Meanwhile, there is a cruel war raging at home between Israel and Gaza. Hundreds of children in Gaza have been killed, amongst a huge amount of civilian victims. More than 60 Israeli soldiers too, two of whom I have a personal connection to. It’s a bit of a reality disconnect to spend the summer in the middle of the beautiful Swedish summer. Like Alice in Wonderland, I swapped one reality for another rather suddenly. The first two weeks of July, I was at home, in Jerusalem, under escalating rocket attacks from Gaza. A couple of times the Red Alert siren sounded and we had to relocate to the shelter. The last time I was already in the airport, on my way to Sweden. This is a vacation I’ve been planning for a long time and it seemed silly to cancel it in order to stay under intermittent alarms.
From north to south, Israel is full of shelters. Apartment buildings have them and there are also communal shelters. Down south, i.e. less than 200 km away from Jerusalem, there are lots of shelters. The civilians down there have been exposed to constant rockets for the last seven years, but in the beginning of July it went from a few a day, to a few dozen a day to 150-200 rockets per day usually concentrated in clusters towards specific civilian goals. Since a few years most of Israel is protected by an anti-missile device named Iron Dome which shoots down incoming missiles expected to impact in inhabited areas. It is quite spectacular and amazingly effective. But expensive. Each interception of an incoming missile costs in excess of $20000. But, since this lifesaving invention exists, not using it is out of the question.
So why the dramatic increase in the number of rockets fired by the Hamas? My theory, after the murder of the three Israeli teenagers, Israel blamed Hamas. There is little doubt that the murderers were Hamas supporters from the infamous Qawasameh family in Hebron. However, it is highly doubtful that the operation was ordered or sanctioned by the official Hamas leadership. But it made them loose face and it made Fatah recoil from the new coalition government partner they had just hugged to their chest. In addition, Hamas has lost much of their former popularity in Gaza. They were elected as Mr. Clean after years of corrupt Fatah leadership, robbing the general population of aid-money and charging exorbitant prices for goods smuggled into Gaza. But Hamas got greedy too, and increasingly intolerant of opposition to their rule.
Hamas has expelled or coerced Fatah sympathizers. Hamas charter, in addition to stating that Israel must be obliterated and all Jews killed, also forbids homosexuality which is punishable by death. Many, who were hopeful that Hamas would bring a brighter future to Gaza were disappointed or disillusioned. Hamas needed a victory. And so, they escalated the number of rockets shot at Israel over a number of weeks until Israel began to retaliate. When the strikes by the Israeli Air Force did not cause ”enough” victims, Hamas started circulating photos of dead children from Syria, claiming that they were taken in Gaza. All the while, the futile rocket attacks increased and were topped off by several incidents where heavily armed Palestinian fighters appeared in civilian neighborhoods, on Israeli territory, through clandestine tunnels dug from the Gaza side. The realization that there could be many such tunnels in existence made the IDF send in ground troops. So far, some 30 such tunnels have been found. The construction of these tunnels took years, ingenuity and huge funds. They were partially built by Palestinian children, an estimated 160 of which were killed during the enterprise. http://nation.foxnews.com/2014/07/27/report-hamas-used-child-labor-build-terror-tunnels-hundreds-killed
Wise from previous rounds of the conflict, Hamas knew Israel would retaliate the rocket attacks with air-strikes. They could have built shelters for their citizens, rather than terror tunnels. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5T6C_iBAC8M
Three more points about Hamas and the fighting in Gaza.
So far, three UN schools have acknowledged that rockets were found on their premises. Schools that are not run by the UN are not likely to even acknowledge such a situation. Hamas central command is situated under the Al-Shifa Hospital. Other missile launchers have been found in mosques, pre-schools and civilian homes. Private homes are booby-trapped to explode when IDF soldiers enter. Civilians are sometimes not allowed by Hamas militants to leave homes, although the Israeli Army has informed its inhabitants that the house will be destroyed. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TMwux0kpOwc
There is no freedom of the press in Gaza, the same way as other human rights are not respected. Journalists can only report on what they are allowed to report. That is a situation which, under normal circumstances, journalists of any integrity must report. In Gaza, journalists are taken to interview families of victims, to take pictures of the mutilated bodies of innocent children and to cover funeral and material destruction. You will not see pictures of armed Hamas fighters or fighters shooting missiles. They must exist, 3000 missiles in the past month did not spontaneously self-eject. The information that leaves Gaza is censored. But no one says so. http://hurryupharry.org/2014/07/31/40-questions-for-the-international-media-in-gaza/
Lastly, during a lull in the fighting in the beginning of this week Hamas summarily executed at least 25 people who were suspected of collaboration with Israel. http://www.algemeiner.com/2014/07/27/report-hamas-used-ceasefire-to-execute-25-gazans-accused-of-treachery-blamed-israel-for-deaths/
This is the double tragedy of Gaza. Their leaders have a one-trajectory-mind, and though they are not very competent at hitting their aim, they are willing to sacrifice any number of their own to gain what they perceive of as a victory. Israel’s leaders play into their hands by being very good at war and equally determined to protect their citizens.