A call for donations to buy cement for the civilian population in the Gaza Strip after Operation Cast Lead (Freegaza.org, April 12, 2010). The pro-Palestinian organizations represented the purchase of cement as humanitarian aid for the Gazans, but in reality the top priority was given to Hamas’ military buildup in the Gaza Strip.
1. Cement is a vital commodity, and was needed by Hamas in the Gaza Strip and the Gazan civilian population after Operation Cast Lead to build new buildings and rebuild those that had been damaged during the operation. However, ITIC information at the time indicated that Hamas made wide use of the cement that reached the Gaza Strip or was manufactured there to rebuild its military infrastructure damaged in Operation Cast Lead, and to construct new military-terrorist facilities. A significant amount of the cement was allotted to building the extensive system of attack tunnels (exposed during Operation Protective Edge), smuggling tunnels, and defensive tunnels under Gaza’s urban landscape. The cement was also used to construct posts and facilities for weapons storage, military training and rocket launching.
2. Allotting the cement to military purposes at the expense of Gazan civilian needs was part of Hamas’ strategic concept of giving priority to rebuilding and upgrading its military capabilities. Khaled Mashaal, head of Hamas’ political bureau, admitted as much at an Arab conference held in Damascus. In November 2009 he said that “Outwardly the visible picture is talks about reconciliation…and construction; however, the hidden picture is that most of the money and effort is invested in the resistance and military preparations…”
3. Given the limitations Israel placed on delivering cement into the Gaza Strip, in the years since Operation Cast Lead Hamas has used a variety of methods to acquire it to promote its military-terrorist needs. The most common method was smuggling large quantities in through the tunnels under the Egypt-Gaza Strip border. Other methods included manufacturing it themselves in factories in the Gaza Strip working under Hamas supervision; using building materials taken from the ruins of the Israeli settlements destroyed after Israel’s unilateral withdrawal from the Gaza Strip in 2005; and the commandeering of cement delivered into the Gaza Strip from international aid organizations or brought in by aid convoys.
Sacks of UNRWA building materials found by IDF soldiers during Operation Protective Edge which were used to construct tunnels (IDF Spokesman, July 29, 2014)
4. For additional information about Hamas’ military use of cement in recent years, see the June 14, 2010 bulletin “The cement shortage in the Gaza Strip makes it difficult to carry out rehabilitation works and improve the living conditions of the population. However, reliable intelligence indicates that Hamas uses cement for military needs as part of its overall strategy of giving priority to its military infrastructure over Gaza Strip residents’ needs.”
Free Gaza is an international pro-Hamas network whose stated objective is “breaking the siege” of the Gaza Strip. It played an important role in the flotilla project to the Gaza Strip and participated in the Mavi Marmara flotilla.
For further information see the August 3, 2014 bulletin “Prioritization of Hamas’ Military Buildup vs. the Gaza Strip’s Civilian Needs: Hamas’ genuine strategic priorities according to Khaled Mashaal, about a year after Operation Cast Lead.”