Hamas’ intensification of its hold on the Gaza Strip, includes the denial of freedom of expression and freedom of movement for the people of Gaza. Brain-washing of Gazans by the ritualistic imposition of oft-flogged political propaganda, compulsory enforcement of Islamic law and a spiralling sense of invincibility and arrogance set Hamas on a course of focused and vicious confrontation with Israel. Over the past eight years, missile attacks against Southern Israel have increased in intensity and boldness. With the democratic election of Hamas, civilian residents of the South of Israel found themselves front-line targets for Hamas’ hive of terrorists and labyrinth of weaponry. Iranian and Syrian backing for Hamas have provided the military and financial support to this Taliban-styled regime in Gaza. Iranian clerics provide the theological impetus which underpins Hamas’ ideology and strategy of removing Israel from the map of the Middle East. Iranian military machinery provides training for Hamas terrorists. The result? Ten thousand missiles have been launched into Israel proper over the past eight years from Gaza.
Israel airforce’s offensive on Gaza on Saturday the 28th December 2008 was aimed at changing realities on the ground for Israelis living in areas within range of missiles fired from Gaza. Israeli pilots launched attacks on military and police installations. Photographs issued by the IDF of the objectives bombed clearly show the exact nature and purpose of their targets. Among these were the headquarters of the operational forces in Tel Zater, used to train Hamas terrorists. There were also attacks on weapons arsenals and Hamas organisation camps. Injuries and deaths among civilians in Gaza have been remarkably, but predictably, low in view of the pin-pointed offensive by Israel’s airforce. The streams of bodies exhibited by Hamas television show, conclusively, that in the main these were uniformed soldiers and Hamas operatives and not civilians. Indeed, Hamas television confirmed that 180 of its operatives were killed in the first wave of attacks on the 28th December. Additionally, Hamas’ armed forces police commander, Tawfik Jaber, was also killed in the attack. Hamas television has also acknowledged that the vast majority of those killed are from Hamas’ military wing.
Hamas, on the other hand, instructs its operatives to fire from civilian centres in Gaza into civilian centres in Israel.
Israel’s decision to open the Kerem Shalom crossing with Gaza on humanitarian grounds during the course of its military offensive is moral poles apart from the cynical use of Palestinian civilians as human shields by Hamas terrorists. The terrorist organisation views Israeli civilians with equal contempt and sees them as legitimate targets. Israel’s military operations in Gaza take place within the framework of cardinal principles of international humanitarian law. Hamas sets itself outside these basic tenets by deliberately targeting Israeli citizens and sets up its military bases and weapons stockpiles in the very heart of civilian centres in Gaza. While Israel strenuously seeks to keep within principles of international law, Hamas purposely flouts these without regret or compassion.
Israel is a democracy; Hamas is inspired by anything other than democratc principles. The installations, centres and camps hit by Israel’s airforce on the 28th December, as aforementioned, are testament to the fact that Israel goes the extra mile in ensuring its offensive is directed at legitimate military targets and not civilians. When mosques are used to stockpile weapons, these too become legitimate military targets.
The opening of the Kerem Shalom crossing between Israel and Gaza on the 28th December, co-ordinated by Israel’s Foreign Ministry with a number of humanitarian organisations including UNWRA and the Red Cross, emphasises Israel’s commitment to spare no effort in permitting the transfer of necessary humanitarian aid to Gazans. 23 truck carrying medicines and supplies, basic food commodities and other humanitarian goods were transferred through the Kerem Shalom crossing. On the 29th December, 63 trucks carrying food and medicine supplies as well as ten ambulances were sent to Gaza This, while Israeli civilians are still targeted by Hamas operatives. On the 30th December Hamas increased its missile strikes into Israel maiming and killing indiscriminately. Missiles are threats to life and limb and are indiscriminately fired into Israel proper by Hamas terrorists whose conscience and human values are non-exstent. In the meanwhile, Israel’s compassionate behaviour inspire it to send humanitarian aid to Gaza and obliges its pilots to use focused precision in their attacks on military and weapons installations to avoid civilian casualties. However, collateral civilian casualties is a reality in military operations no matter how careful the planning. Israel’s Prime Minister, Ehud Olmert, put it most forcefully when he said “We are not at war with the Palestinian people but with Hamas and therefore we are bringing in goods to the Palestinian people.” This, from an Israel which is so viciously and unjustifiably condemned by misguided demonstrators whose loudly-expressed sympathies for Gazan remains apathetically silent for the plight of Israelis.
Israel’s military offensive was sparked by Hamas’ cynical flouting of agreements with Israel. The frustration of Egyptian leaders in pointing a wagging finger at Hamas as the party responsible for the current battle, speaks volumes.
Residents of Southern Israel have shouldered enough pain and suffering, psychological and physical during eight years. The scars of the past eight years are everywhere to be seen if one just takes the time and effort to venture into Sderot. The psychological scars affecting the young and old equally is palpable in this Israeli town. Even while missiles rained into Sderot and its people feared for their safety they smiled at the Heavens because this time there is an offensive against those in Gaza who have sown fear and pain, injury and death in Southern Israel during eight painful years.
And yet, Israel continues to supply Gazans, those who brought Hamas into power first through the ballot and then through the bullet, with humanitarian aid and medicines. Meanwhile, the world is up in arms because Israel, after eight years of hoping against hope that the situation would change, decided to act on her frustrations in ways which are morally legitimate and legally sustainable; ‘enough is enough is enough!’.