JERUSALEM – Hamas, desperate over its increasingly precarious situation in Gaza and eager to please Iranian paymasters, has escalated the premeditated, openly violent campaign aimed at breaching the Israel-Gaza border and attacking nearby Israeli communities.
This while the news media hypes Hamas-provided casualty counts and portrays the Gaza rioters as peaceful protesters frustrated that there is no Palestinian state and angry that the U.S. moved its embassy to Jerusalem. In doing so, the news media are actually advancing Hamas’s cause.
Hamas organized today’s massive escalation to coincide with the official opening ceremony of the U.S. embassy in Jerusalem and the Palestinians’ commemoration tomorrow of so-called Nakba Day, which mourns the “catastrophe” of Israel’s founding.
Hamas has been selling the nearly two-month-long mass riots as “return rallies,” marketing the fiction that Palestinians have a so-called “right of return” to the State of Israel while also demanding a state immediately.
It is outrageous to claim that the Palestinians would need to resort to such actions in order to create a state. The Palestinians have infamously turned down every Israeli statehood offer, each those that came with a shared capital in Jerusalem. Those offers were made at Camp David in 2000, Taba in 2001, the Annapolis Conference in 2007, and more offers were made in 2008 and reportedly in 2014. In each of these cases, the PA refused generous Israeli offers of statehood and bolted negotiations without counteroffers. Only today, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu yet again called on the Palestinians to return to the negotiating table.
The only thing standing in the way of the Palestinians having a state — even one with a foothold in Jerusalem — is the Palestinians’ own abject refusal to accept numerous statehood offers while rejecting Israel’s very existence.
Meanwhile, the Hamas-run health ministry in Gaza claims that so far 52 Palestinians were killed and some 1,200 more wounded in today’s riots at 12 locations along the border. The casualty numbers, which are expected to rise, could not be immediately verified. Hamas has a history of exaggerating casualty claims.
The news media has been brandishing the Hamas-provided numbers, just as they did with other recent Gaza riots. This while failing to provide the proper context for today’s bloody events and how Hamas is singularly responsible for leading its people to death.
A closer look at today’s casualties betrays the violent nature of the allegedly peaceful protests. Three Gazans were shot while trying to plant explosive devices at the border fence, while others were killed attempting to open fire on Israeli soldiers, the IDF said. Israel already identified at least 10 of the fatalities as Hamas members.
The Times of Israel reported on the numerous other violent attacks during today’s riots:
Protesters set tires on fire, sending thick plumes of black smoke into the air at several spots along the border, while the military said protesters assaulted the border fence and hurled rocks at soldiers. Several incendiary kites were flown toward Israel. One fell in a field outside Kibbutz Mefalsim, sparking a fire. Israeli firefighters and emergency personnel are at the scene.
At around 4 p.m., the time that the US was inaugurating its embassy in Jerusalem, military sources said Hamas-spurred groups were trying to breach the border at several spots along the Gaza fence.
The Facebook page for the Gaza riots instructed followers on where to breach the border fence and attempt to infiltrate Israeli communities, some of which are located about 1.2 miles from the Gaza border.
Hamas has a long and sordid history of using civilians, including children, as human shields, and that is just what it is doing today. It is indisputable that Israel’s borders are being attacked and that we are witnessing an orchestrated, terrorist-sponsored, violent campaign in which civilians and Hamas jihadists alike are trying to overrun the borders of a nation-state. Israel says Hamas jihadists have been instructed to wait behind civilian protesters and approach the border once a breach has been identified.
According to reports, Hamas is seeking to not only break the Gaza barrier and murder Jews, but gain control of some territory for a brief period of time to claim victory.
Why the riots now?
First there is Iran. Earlier on Monday, Israel’s Shin Bet security service revealed it possesses information that Iran is funding some of Hamas’ riots. The Iranians have an interest in riding the wave of Gaza violence to deflect the IDF’s attention from Syria, where Israel has carried out numerous bombing raids that have reportedly devastated Iranian military positions and Iran-run bases in that country. Iran is also seeking revenge for those Israeli strikes and for Trump’s decision to withdraw from the international nuclear accord.
Then there are prominent internal Hamas considerations. The Islamist terrorist group understands the Gaza population is frustrated that 11 years of Hamas rule has resulted in destructive wars – launched each time by Hamas itself – and an economy dangerously teetering on the brink of collapse. Hamas’s decision to turn Gaza into a terrorist enclave has prompted an Israel-Egypt boycott that has impacted all aspects of Gaza life, although Israel allows for truckloads of humanitarian goods and supplies per day to enter Gaza.
Gazans are also suffering from the Hamas-Fatah divide, with the rulers of the West Bank and Gaza Strip failing to reach a reconciliation agreement that would likely result in a flow of aid to Gaza.
Hamas views Israel’s 70th anniversary, yesterday’s Jerusalem Day, and President Donald Trump’s historic relocation of the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem as perfect opportunities to channel Gazans’ anger and redirect the rage toward the easiest target – Israel.
Hamas correctly estimated that the ensuing casualty count will bring international news media attention to the humanitarian crisis in Gaza and thrust the issue to the center of the foreign policy debate. The terrorist group couldn’t ask for a better publicity gift than major international news networks – reportedly including CNN, Sky News and the BBC – featuring today’s Hamas riots on a split screen with the opening ceremony for the new U.S. embassy.
The border clashes may also press Egypt into easing the blockade and putting Egyptian pressure on Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas’s Fatah party to reach a reconciliation deal, since Gaza tensions usually favor the jihadists operating against Egypt in the Sinai. Abbas must fear that the protests could spread to the West Bank and threaten his rule there.
And finally, Hamas has been cash-strapped lately after many of its state patrons reportedly pulled some of their financing. The Gaza riot campaign, with help from the international news media, puts Hamas back at the forefront and signals that it is useful to financially support the terrorist movement once again. This as Hamas leads the people of Gaza down the path of destruction.