This is a blog dedicated to a personal interpretation of political news of the day. I attempt to be as knowledgeable as possible before commenting and committing my thoughts to a day's communication.

Sunday, May 29, 2016

Living in Fear and Trepidation of Hamas

"Dear God -- we will be torn apart."
"I am sure, one million percent, that those with tunnels under their houses cannot sleep, or taste the joy of life."
Umm Nidal, fearful Palestinian woman, Gaza

"[Tunnels] create a sense of balance of power [against an enemy with sophisticated weaponry]. The Israelis can watch our fighters on the ground, but can they say what is inside a tunnel?"
"As long as there is Israeli aggression against us, the tunnels will be our priority."
Taher El-Nounou, Hamas spokesman, Gaza
 Hamas tunnel
Hamas tunnel found in southern Gaza. (photo credit:IDF SPOKESMAN’S UNIT)

Against all reason, Hamas operatives speak of 'Israeli aggression'. It is not the State of Israel whose mandate is the destruction of the Palestinian Territories and Palestinian life. But it is the guiding mandate of the Hamas terrorist group to destroy Israel and take the geography on which it stands as its own. Israel, understandably enough, does not subscribe to the Arab belief that the territory is their own by historical right, but the reality that history and heritage attribute Israel as the rightful nation in residence augmented by the legal status conferred through the UN's Partition Plan is shrugged away.

Israel has twice dispatched its military into Gaza while under the control of Hamas. In the first instance it was a belated response to the thousands of Qassam rockets blasted by Hamas and Islamic Jihad across the border into Israel. In the second instance, though the rockets continue as a provocation, it was the network of tunnels built from Gaza into Israel that elicited the response from the IDF when it was discovered that one of the tunnels exited beside a kibbutz in Israel.

The physical infiltration from Gaza into Israel gave Hamas terrorists the opportunity to kill five Israeli soldiers when their army base was accesse through a tunnel. On four separate occasions, the IDF found members of Hamas exiting tunnels into Israel, and they were killed before taking advantage of the opportunity they sought to kill more Israeli soldiers. More latterly, a number of Hamas members were killed in roof collapses while constructing tunnels.

Salma Najjar outside a makeshift shelter on the rubble of her home in Khuzaa in the Gaza Strip in October 2014, after the war between Israel and Hamas. Hamas is rebuilding tunnels from Gaza into Israel, and residents are worried about Israeli bombs dropping on their homes once again. Credit Wissam Nassar for The New York Times
The work of constructing more networks of tunnels continues, with materials meant to be used in re-building homes of Gazans who lost them during the 2014 incursion of the IDF into Gaza being diverted for use in tunnel-building. Hamas is renowned for using Palestinians as human shields in their belligerence against Israel. In 2014 convincing some Gazans to defy IDF warnings to evacuate buildings being targeted in response to bombs being set off against the IDF from them.

Now, residents of Gaza living close to the border with Israel, whose homes were destroyed in 2014 are living in makeshift temporary homes. And while living in those temporary homes they shudder in fear and apprehension at the realization that the sounds they hear of construction are not crews building new homes for them, but rather crews underground busy building new tunnels to enter Israel from Gaza.
[Photo: Abed Rahim Khatib / Flash 90 ]

These Palestinians hear the stealth but unmistakable sounds of digging during the night. The very same noises that keep Israelis on the other side of the border awake at night and terrified of what comes next. Fear of reprisals from Hamas ensure their voices of complaint keeps Gazans from being too specific about their fears, unwilling to name their neighbourhoods lest Hamas come looking for them or leading the IDF to bomb the tunnels reaching into Israel from underneath their homes.

Two tunnels about 30 meters underground were recently discovered by Israeli officials. One of the tunnels was seen to be equipped with electricity, communication lines and a rail system used to truck construction rubble out of the tunnels. Israeli authorities have commented that the IDF destroyed 32 tunnels during the 2014 operation, fourteen of which penetrated into Israel itself.

Digging tunnels under homes deliberately places civilians in harm's way, pointed out Lieutenant Colonel Peter Lerner, an IDF spokesman. He calls the practise "insidious", meant to enable Hamas to attack Israelis "while concealing Hamas activities behind the people of Gaza". The situation led Israel to suspend cement delivery to Gaza meant for the reconstruction of  homes, but the ban was lifted May 23.

Border residents in one area of Gaza are quite clear that they hear sounds underneath a shack they feel is the cover for a tunnel entrance. Living in a cluster of donated mobile homes, where hundreds have made their residence since the end of the last IDF invasion to stop infiltration into Israel, Gazan civilians are clearly angry: "We have a Gaza City under the ground, and we have nothing up here", said a man.

The dangers inherent in the tunnels being built nearby where these people live ends up making them feel reluctant to rebuild: "I give it 99.5 percent that our house will be destroyed again. I go crazy thinking about it", said another man. In a town along the border a man slipped into a tunnel during heavy rains and was pulled to safety by passers-by.

"We lost our home last time. This time we fear for the souls of our children", said one woman whose name was given as Umm Fadi [mother of Fadi}.
A tunnel entrance that Israel’s military says it discovered this month. Credit Amir Cohen/Reuters

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