There are two Gazas. One is at street level, where Palestinian civilians serve as Hamas’s human shields in the face of Israel’s narrowly targeted response to the more than 1500 rockets that have rained down on its citizens in recent days. The other is the subterranean Gaza, consisting of a labyrinth of elaborate tunnels where Hamas military commanders hide in relative comfort and which they use as their bases for rocket launchings and incursions into Israel. Hamas’s political chief Khaled Mashaal is too cowardly even to live in these bunkers. He is living luxuriously in Qatar while proclaiming recently that Hamas will not accept a simple ceasefire and that “It’s normal that you see those cycles of violence.”
Hamas launched an incursion into Israel through its tunnel network with the evident intent to abduct or massacre Israeli civilians in a kibbutz, after rejecting a ceasefire proposed by Egypt and accepted by Israel. That had been the third time in the previous two weeks that Hamas used its tunnels to infiltrate Israel for the purpose of carrying out attacks. After Hamas subsequently ended a brief humanitarian ceasefire, arranged by the UN, with renewed rocket fire and infiltration into Israel through Hamas’s tunnels, Israel finally responded to Hamas’s ground invasion with one of its own.
“We know that Hamas terrorists are operating underground, and that’s where we will meet them,” the IDF said in a statement, as Israel’s ground operation to find and destroy the tunnels got underway. The IDF said it has already found 13 tunnels across Gaza, with 34 access points. But it is suffering mounting casualties in the process – at least seventeen soldiers killed so far including from the IDF Golani Brigades which lost 13 soldiers on July 20th in combat with Hamas in the Gaza Strip district of Shejayia, a center for reportedly manufacturing and storing Hamas rockets. Four of the Israeli fatalities resulted from attacks by Hamas operatives emerging from their tunnels on the Israeli side of the border.
According to DEBKAfile, the tunnels are Hamas’s main strategic asset which Hamas will fight to the death to preserve: “Around 16,000 men, around 15 percent of Hamas’ fighting strength, were assigned to the tunnel project in the last five years and substantial funds. The IDF will not be permitted to demolish this flagship project without a savage fight.”
Hamas commanders believe they can fight on for several weeks at least to defend their tunnels, the civilian population be damned. Khaled Mashaal has reportedly continued to spurn calls for a ceasefire coming not only from Egypt but also from the Arab League.
Yet, predictably, much of the so-called international community has lashed out at Israel for defending its own citizens. UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, who decided to visit the Middle East to explore ways to de-escalate the conflict, criticized Israel’s launch of its ground operation. Under-Secretary General for Political Affairs Jeffrey Feltman told an emergency session of the UN Security Council last Friday afternoon that while “we condemn the indiscriminate rocket fire from Gaza into Israel” that ended the brief UN-brokered humanitarian ceasefire, “we are alarmed by Israel’s heavy response.” He mentioned the killing of Palestinian children in this context.
Palestinian UN Ambassador Mansour used his speech to the Security Council to exploit the tragic loss of life of these children. He recited the names and ages of Palestinian children who lost their lives because of what he called Israel’s “murderous rampage,” “savage aggression,” “state terrorism” and every other pejorative that he could muster. But Israel did not put those children in harm’s way. Hamas’s cowardly leaders did, while operating in their secure underground bunkers built beneath the homes, schools, mosques and hospitals that they have used as their weapons storage facilities and portals to their tunnels. Indeed, if Hamas had not summarily rejected the ceasefire proposed by Egypt and accepted by Israel early last week, Palestinian children could be playing safely outside rather than cruelly sacrificed by Hamas’s leaders as “martyrs” for their jihad.
Mansour charged that Israel’s military operation was designed to bring about the “collapse” of the Palestinian “unity” government between Hamas and Fatah. In truth, it is Hamas that is bringing about the collapse of the Palestinian “unity” government all by itself. A mere one week after Hamas signed the reconciliation pact with Fatah, Khaled Mashaal made crystal clear what every clear thinking person already knew. Hamas had no intention of abiding by Palestinian Authority President Abbas’s commitment against the use of violence. “Our path is resistance and the rifle, and our choice is jihad,” he declared. “Jihad is our path.”
Palestinian civilians including children, living in street level Gaza, are Mashaal’s jihad cannon fodder.
As Israel’s UN Ambassador Ron Prosor described Hamas’s exploitation of civilians to the Security Council: “From the safety of their luxury hotels in Qatar, Hamas leaders like Khaled Mashaal order room service with one hand and order Hamas to use Palestinians as human shields with the other.”
Commenting on the discovery of rockets stored in a Gaza school run by the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA), Ambassador Prosor said that “Hamas is using UN facilities to commit a double war crime by targeting Israeli civilians while hiding behind Palestinian civilians.”
Palestinian propagandists are doing their utmost to train the “international community’s” eyes on the civilian casualties occurring in street level Gaza. They are succeeding. As this article is being written, the United Nations Security Council is meeting in an emergency session requested by the Palestinians. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said that “Israel must exercise maximum restraint and do far more to protect civilians.” Secretary of State John Kerry appeared to be criticizing Israel for civilian casualties in remarks captured by a live microphone. Meanwhile, in subterranean Gaza, the Hamas jihadists are criminally sacrificing those civilians to save their tunnels built with concrete that could have been used to build real schools and hospitals to educate and care for their people.
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