UNHRC Report Demonizes Israel – Again

March 10, 2019

“A fact-finding group created by terms of reference that seek to direct its conclusions is essentially a waste of time. Its findings, at most, will reassure those whose minds are already made up.” (Prof. Thomas M. Franck)

The United Nations Independent Commission of Inquiry (COI) on the protests in the Occupied Palestinian Territory presented its findings on 28th February 2019. The report focuses on the demonstrations in the Gaza Strip, referred to as the “Great March of Return and the Breaking of the Siege”. The Commission has reasonable grounds to believe that during the Great March of Return, Israeli soldiers committed violations of international human rights and humanitarian law. Some of those violations may constitute war crimes or crimes against humanity, and must be immediately investigated by Israel,” said the Chair of the Commission, Santiago Canton of Argentina. (Source: UN press release)

The Commission was mandated by the Human Rights Council in May 2018 to investigate all alleged violations and abuses of international humanitarian law and international human rights law in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, in the context of the large-scale protests that began in Gaza on 30 March 2018. Acting Foreign Minister Israel Katz said in a statement that the UN Human Rights Council had “produced another hostile, mendacious and slanted report against the State of Israel … No one can deny Israel the right of self-defense and the obligation to defend its citizens and borders from violent attacks.”

The independent human rights group UN Watch has released its initial response to the UN Commission of Inquiry’s report accusing Israel of “crimes against humanity” against so-called “peaceful protesters” at the Gaza border. UN Watch engaged in a lengthy correspondence with the inquiry, and expressed disappointment that its detailed submissions of law and fact — including a lengthy submission (summarized in official UNHRC Written Statements here and here) — were almost entirely disregarded.

Report of the independent international commission of inquiry on the protests in the Occupied Palestinian Territory – A/HRC/40/74 (Release Date: 28 February 2019) English PDF | Word )

 

Background according COI

On 7 January 2018, Ahmed Abu Artema, a 34-year-old Palestinian poet and journalist, posted on Facebook the idea of a non-violent march at the separation fence, to draw attention to General Assembly resolution 194 and to the dire humanitarian situation in Gaza. In the post, ending #GreatMarchofReturn, he wrote, “what if 200,000 demonstrators marched peacefully and broke through the fence east of Gaza and entered a few kilometres into the lands that are ours, holding the flags of Palestine and the keys to return, accompanied by international media, and then set up tents inside and established a city there.” (Page 6)

In 2011, Ahmed Abu Ratima (or Rteima aka Artema), whose family originally came from Ramle, conceived the idea of Palestinians going peacefully to the separation barrier in protest for their right to return to the homes from which they had been driven, or had fled. So the the idea of a nonviolent march toward the border was thought up as early as 2011 by Ahmed Abu Arteima a spokesperson for the “Great March of Return” before and during the implemented ”March Campaign”. The idea of mass “marches of return” was tried a number of times between 2011 and 2013, and were organized by Hamas activists in Britain and other anti-Israeli activists around the globe participating in the campaign to delegitimize Israel.

For example on 30th June 2012 In the northern Gaza Strip (Beit Hanoun, near the Erez crossing) several thousand Palestinians held a demonstration. Zaher Birawi, a Hamas activist in Britain, said that the activity had been quite successful but the organizers were “realistic.” He said they were aware that had it not been for “weak spots in several Arab-Muslim countries,” many more people could have participated. He consoled himself with the fact that it had been the first step towards the next time and that the marches had caused Israel to be on high alert, which had cost a great deal of money. He called on various people to exert pressure on their regimes and said that all the organizations of the march would meet in the near future to formulate a working plan for the future (al-Aqsa TV, March 31, 2012).

One of the activists involved in media preparations is Zaher Birawi, a Palestinian activist based in Britain who is affiliated with Hamas and the Muslim Brotherhood; Birawi, chairman of the International Committee for Breaking the Siege on Gaza, provided on 5th September 2017 a stage for activity planned in the Gaza Strip on the Muslim Brotherhood-affiliated al-Hiwar TV channel, which broadcasts from London and where he is program director.

Asked whether ships would sail to the Gaza Strip in the near future, he answered it had been decided in principle to continue to try to break the “siege” by sea. He said the Freedom flotilla coalition was examining a plan to send one or more ships during the summer of 2018. They were currently discussing details and how to ensure success. He said the flotillas’ main goal is propaganda aimed at keeping the Palestinians, the Gaza Strip and the “siege” as “live” topics in international public discourse. According to Birawi, the objectives of the flotillas are to defame Israel, and to increase the effect of the political and media campaigns accompanying the flotillas.

Context according COI

The “great march” entailed weekly demonstrations by Palestinians near the fence that since 1996 has separated Gaza and Israel (along the Green Line traced by the armistice agreements of 1949), demanding that the blockade imposed on Gaza be lifted and the return of Palestinian refugees…By 2015, the Israeli blockade and restrictions on entry and exit of goods and people had halved the GDP of Gaza and reduced it to a humanitarian case of profound aid-dependency… (Page4)

First one should mention that the takeover by Hamas in 2007 led not only Israel but Egypt as well to impose a land, air and sea blockade on the Gaza Strip. The purpose is to prevent arms, missiles and materials to build weaponry enter to Gaza. Egypt has destroyed over thousand smuggling tunnels from Gaza to Sinai during last years. (More e.g in Gaza Blockade – It’s Egypt not Israel! )

The real background might be, that Israeli-Palestinian conflict has stepped aside for other Mideast conflicts, such as Syria, Iraq, Yemen, Iranian-Saudi and Shiite-Sunni proxy wars. To bring the Palestinian case back to the agenda and media headlines the new innovations are needed, the ongoing ”knifeintifada” in Judea and Samaria and occasional quassam-fire fro Gaza are interesting issues only in Israel, the Western mainstream media has more newsworthy material elsewhere.

An sure there has been political aims, like COI claims in their report, but those aims seem to be different than COI has in mind. The idea was motivated by Hamas’ strategic hardship, at the center of which is the economic deterioration of the Gaza Strip, for which Hamas cannot provide a solution. Other motivations are the stalled internal Palestinian reconciliation; Israel’s success in striking the tunnels entering Israeli territory (Hamas’ main asset for the “next round”); Hamas’ difficulties with Egypt (the Rafah crossing is still closed most of the time) and with other Arab countries.

Besides internal propaganda in Gaza the march was directed at Hamas’s rivals as well as Israel. Hamas wanted to send a message to the Palestinian Authority, which is learned from the Palestinian Papers was prepared to compromise on the demand that five million Palestinian refugees be given the opportunity to return to “their homes.” Palestinian negotiators know that Israel will never agree to allow millions of Palestinians who claim to be refugees to flood Israel. Hamas, however, insists the refugee issue is non-negotiable.

The report places all responsibility for the current impasse in peace negotiations on Israel. In fact, the Palestinians have rejected every peace plan ever offered to them since before the founding of the State of Israel in 1948. Most recently, the Palestinians rejected former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert’s 2008 peace plan. Placing the blame for lack of peace exclusively on Israel rewards Palestinian rejectionism and Hamas terrorism, undermines Israel’s right to self-defense, and makes a negotiated two-state solution much more difficult to achieve.

A peaceful non-violent march?

In the commission’s view, the demonstrations were civilian in nature, had clearly stated political aims and, despite some acts of significant violence, did not constitute combat or a military campaign. (Page 8)

Some activities, such as the launching of incendiary kites, cutting barbed wire or tyre burning, began to be organized by self-declared “units”, some of them through their own Facebook pages. The commission found no evidence to suggest that they were directed or coordinated by armed groups. (Page 14)

  • In February 17th 2018, four IDF soldiers were injured by an explosive device concealed in a Palestinian flag placed on the Gazan border fence during a Palestinian protest.
  • On 25 March, the IDF fired some ten Iron Dome missiles to intercept what the IDF sensors interpreted to be rockets, but which later turned out to be high-trajectory machine-gun fire during Hamas military exercises conducted in Gaza, which early reports said was directed towards Zikim.
  • In the week prior to 30 March, the IDF arrested a suspect who crossed into Israeli territory from northern Gaza; 2 Palestinians were seen near the now-defunct Karni crossing container port trying to set fire to army engineering equipment close to the border fence; a group of four Palestinians infiltrated Israel near Kissufim; and 3 Gazans, armed with grenades and knives, crossed the border and were captured some 20 kilometers (12 mi) from the border, near Tze’elim. (Source: Wikipedia )

 

Näytä kuva Twitterissä

 Israel Defense Forces:  This is what Hamas claims to be a peaceful protest

There is a lot of examples about incitement to terrorism and genocide by Hamas leaders, few quotes (Source: UN Watch):
  • Hamas Gaza leader Yehya Sinwar shouts: “We will tear down the border and we will tear out their hearts from their bodies.” (Al-Jazeera, April 6, 2018)
  • Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh says: “Palestine and Jerusalem belong to us…We will break the walls of the blockade, remove the occupation entity and return to all of Palestine.” (Times of Israel, April 9, 2018)
  • Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh says: “Our people will outnumber the occupation and force it from our land.” (Chicago Tribune, April 20, 2018)
  • Hamas Gaza leader Yehya Sinwar rallies the crowd: “We would rather die as martyrs than die out of oppression and humiliation…We are ready to die, and tens of thousands will die with us.” (New York Times, May 9, 2018)
  • Hamas official Fathi Hamad calls on Muslims: “to kill ‘Zionist Jews’ wherever they find them.” (Times of Israel, July 26, 2018)

Other Hamas admissions showing border violence is part of ongoing armed conflict between Hamas and Israel, and is instigated and supported by Hamas (Source: UN Watch):

  • Hamas spokesman Hazem Qassem admits that Hamas pays $200 to $3,000 to the families of Gazans killed or wounded in the rallies. Hamas website (quoted by MEMRI, April 5, 2018)
  • Hamas co-founder Mahmoud al-Zahhar admits to Al Jazeera that calling the border protests “peaceful resistance” is “deceiving the public.” (Al-Jazeera quoted by MEMRI, May 13, 2018 statement)
  • Hamas Politburo member Salah al-Bardawil admits in TV interview that 50 out of 62 people killed on May 14 were Hamas members, and more than 50% of those killed at border since March 1 were Hamas members. (Baladna TV quoted by MEMRI and Meir Amit Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center, May 14, 2018)
  • Hamas press release admits that the marches are being conducted by “the organizations of jihad fighters,” and managed and supervised by “combat organizations,” concluding “This is jihad — victory or causing death in the way of Allah.” (Hamas press release published by Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs) 

(Source: UN Watch )

The Israel Air Force dropped leaflets over the Gaza Strip warning again Palestinians not to approach the Israeli border on May 15, 2018

Protected groups

The commission investigated also victims who are entitled to special protection under international law, such as journalists and persons with disabilities. One example happened on 6th April:

Yasser [Murataja], a journalist from Gaza City, was shot in the lower abdomen by Israeli forces at the Khan Younis site while he was filming the demonstrations for a documentary. (Page 24)

The report forgot to mention that filming was made e.g. by drone-camera and the drone was Israeli side above IDF soldiers who so came in danger as their locations were uncovered. In addition Murtaja had a double identity: in addition to being a media person, he was also an operative in Hamas’ security forces. .

Other example from 13th April:

Ahmed [Abu Hussein], a journalist from the Jabaliya refugee camp was shot by an Israeli sniper in the lower abdomen at the north Gaza site while he was taking photographs of the demonstrations… He died of his injuries 12 days later. (Page 24)

An examination of Ahmed Abu Hussein’s identity revealed that in addition to being a media person, he was also a PFLP member. That was manifested in several ways: the PFLP’s military wing issued formal death notices for him; at his funeral red PFLP flags were carried; and the Ahmed Abu Hussein’s Facebook page posted notices glorifying the PFLP, its leaders and terrorist attacks (such as the assassination of Israeli minister Rehavam Ze’evi).

Remark: Also this PFLP terrorist ( Ahmed Abu Hussein) got treatment in the Intensive Care unit in the Tel Hashomer hospital in Israel!

Also the report claims that

Israeli army leaflets dropped over Gaza to warn Palestinian demonstrators not to approach the border fence

The Israeli forces also unlawfully shot other demonstrators with disabilities, [such as] Shadi Kashef (23, hearing disability) and Tahrir Wahba (18, hearing disability) (Pages 25-26).

It is nearly impossible for sniper to know if some person – potential thread – has hearing disabilities. To prevent this kind of accidents IDF distributed leaflets to Gazans, in Arabic, to stay away from the security fence and not to jeopardize their lives.

Violations of international human rights, war crimes, crimes against humanity?

The shooting by Israeli security forces of Palestinian demonstrators with high-velocity weaponry at close range resulted in killings and long-term, life-changing injuries, including paralysis and amputations. Although this was well known as early as April 2018, Israeli forces continued this practice throughout the period under review. Using such weaponry at short range, and justifying it by the need for accuracy at long range, indicates a disproportionate use of force. (Page 30)

The COI’s statistics for injuries and deaths of Gazans resulting from Israel’s use of live ammunition come from sources inside Gaza, mostly from the Hamas run health ministry, and are difficult to independently verify. In some cases, reports claimed protesters were killed by Israeli fire when actually they were killed by their own fire or explosives (see e.g.here).

The right to life includes the right to a life with dignity. As the occupying Power, Israel has obligations under international law to ensure the health and welfare of the Palestinian population. The commission found that the ongoing blockade of Gaza and its impact on the health-care system in Gaza, and the ensuing deprivation of essential goods and services necessary for a dignified life, including basic medical supplies, safe drinking water, electricity and sanitation, constitute violations of the fundamental rights to life and health, in particular of wounded demonstrators. (Page 31)

Few comments:

  • Israel didn’t block humanitarian aid to Gaza. In opposite ”peaceful demonstrators” attacked to Kerem border-crossing to prevent israeli and international aid cross the border to Gaza.
  • Also during the riots as always before many Gazans got treatment in Israeli hospitals.
  • Some medical supplies were used for other purposes, e.g. helium supposed to use in operational rooms in hospitals was used to fill ball-bombs.
  • Infrastructure in Gaza is in bad condition despite huge international aid as Hamas has used donations for benefit of ruling elite, materials supposed to build homes and public services have been used to build attack-tunnels against Israel, so blaming Israel or blockade is unfair.

However…

The commission found that, on 14 May, at least one gunman fired a weapon at the Israeli forces from within or near the demonstrations at a temporary demonstration site in North Gaza. Firing from the vicinity of a crowd of unarmed demonstrators endangers civilian lives and risks violating the principle of distinction under international humanitarian law. (Page 31-32)

Note words ”at least”.

Hamas terrorist who reached the border fence between Gaza and Israel caught on camera explaining how Hamas forces civilians to participate in violence against Israel.

Upotettu video

 

Bottom line

In 2005, the Palestinians of Gaza had a choice. They could have used their newly acquired freedom to build a strong economy in that coastal and fertile land, or they could have used that freedom to fight Israel. The fact that they chose the latter is not Israel’s responsibility, but it is not too late for Gaza’s Palestinians to choose a different path; e.g this: Hudna – The Hamas-Israel deal – on the Way.

As before, the UNHRC  once again has proven itself to be a body made up of a built-in anti-Israel majority, guided by hypocrisy and absurdity. Israel has not cooperated with COI as its task de facto was to impair Israel’s right to self-defense, and to demonize the Jewish state.

Removing all context from the events, and erroneously characterize them as “protests,” “peaceful,” and “civilian,” the report lacks any credibility; its proper use is to collect dust in archives among other similar UNHRC reports and high-flying, biased statements.

Israel and Hamas have been engaged in an international armed conflict and also the current events – violent or non-violent – are part of that armed conflict.  Indeed while describing “The Great Return March” as a media-campaign, I would like to transform the famous quote by von Clausewitz into form: Politics is the continuation of war by other means. 

Some of my previous related articles:

Israel’s Gaza Options – War or Ceasefire?

Some Aspects About ”The Great Return March” Campaign

“The Great Return March” Campaign Starts 30th March 2018

Western Donors Still Funding Terrorists

Hamas and Israel on Verge of the Deal

Gaza State Under Construction, West Bank Remains Bystander

Gaza Update: Hamas Downfalling – IDF Prepared

Gaza Blockade – It’s Egypt not Israel!

Hamas’ Relations With Egypt Worsened


Appendix:

NGO Monitor’s initial analysis: The major flaws of the Commission of Inquiry’s report on the Gaza border violence

Gaslighting Gaza: Initial Analysis of UN Commission of Inquiry on Gaza Riots
February 28, 2019

On February 28, 2019, the UN Commission of Inquiry (COI) on the riots along the Israel-Gaza border, which began in March 2018, alleged that “Israeli soldiers committed violations of international human rights and humanitarian law… and may constitute war crimes or crimes against humanity.” The COI created a “confidential file” of “which is recommended be given to the International Criminal Court (ICC)” and to be used by governments to “consider imposing individual sanctions, such as a travel ban or an assets freeze.”

Methodological Failures

  • In contrast to professional fact-finding standards, the COI clearly established pre-determined legal and factual conclusion and merely gathered “evidence” to fit its desired outcome.
  • In preparing its report, the COI relied heavily on Palestinian sources, including Hamas and terror-linked non-governmental organizations (NGOs). Notably, the COI uncritically adopts the NGOs’ application of a domestic law enforcement paradigm – erasing the context of the armed conflict with Hamas and other Palestinian terror groups – to analyze cross-border violence.
  • The COI used anonymous and unverifiable “testimonies.” When asked during a press conference to provide details about how many of the 325 the interviews it conducted itself or how it selected the 325 individuals reportedly interviewed, the Chairperson of the COI was unable to answer the question and stated he would have to provide that information at a later date.
  • The information provided in the published summary is a near copy-paste from NGO submissions to the COI. For example, all names of Palestinian children killed were provided by Defense for Children International – Palestine (DCI-P), an NGO with ties to the Popular of Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) terror group, i.e. one of the parties to the conflict in Gaza. (DCI-P’s submission was prepared in partnership with the CUNY School of Law Human Rights and Gender Justice Law Clinic.)
  • Reflecting the COI’s lack of expertise and muddled analysis, throughout the report, the COI mixes up the concepts of international human rights and humanitarian law and applicable rules and standards. For example, according to the Commission, the violence along the Israel-Gaza border was not a “military” or “combat” situation and therefore human rights law was the appropriate standard. Therefore, its conclusion that “human rights violations may also constitute “war crimes” is baseless, since war crimes can only where the laws of war are applicable.
  • The UN’s shoddy researching and reporting led them to write identical paragraphs about the same fatality, Mo’min Hams, on different pages of the “protected groups” section of the report.

Minimizing Palestinian Violence, Erasing Palestinian Terror

  • The COI largely erases the dimension of Palestinian violence along the Gaza border, as well as Hamas’ leading role in orchestrating the attacks. NGO Monitor’s two submissions to the COI provided significant detail regarding the presence of violence – including use of guns, Molotov cocktails, stones, burning tires, incendiary kites, etc. as well as the exploitation of children to perpetrate these acts – along the Gaza border. These and other evidence of violence are freely available from open sources. The COI ignored and minimized these armed attacks and reconstituted the riots as “peaceful protests.”
  • According to a statement made at a press conference, the COI deliberately focused on five main riot locations during the specific times of protests. This means that the COI ignored essential context including that the riots were used as diversions to attacks occurring elsewhere at the same time as well as military attacks, shootings and other violence that occurred at other times, particularly at night.
  • Although the COI acknowledges the involvement of terrorist organizations in planning the events along the border, it absurdly insists that “the armed wings of these parties were not represented on the [planning] committee.” In Gaza in particular, the distinction between “armed wings” of terror groups and other branches of these groups is meaningless.
  • The COI whitewashes statements made by Hamas officials that demonstrate Hamas’ role in organizing and directing the violence along the Gaza.  On May 17, 2018, Hamas leader Mahmoud al-Zahar stated that “when we talk about ‘peaceful resistance,’ we are deceiving the public. This is a peaceful resistance bolstered by a military force and by security agencies, and enjoying tremendous popular support.”
  • On May 16, Hamas spokesman Salah Bardawil claimed “I am giving you an official figure. 50 of the martyrs in the recent battle were from Hamas,” referring to clashes that took place on May 14.
  • According to analysis conducted by the Meir Amit Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center, dozens of fatalities named by the COI were members of or were tied to terrorist organizations, including Hamas, Islamic Jihad, the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), and the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine (DFLP).  Among these was 16 year-old Islamic Jihad member Ahmad al-Shaer, indicating the recruitment of children into terrorist organizations.

Baseless Conclusions

  • The COI claims that Israel “intentionally shot”  children, health workers, journalists, and those with disabilities, “knowing” that these people were “recognizable as such when they were shot.”
  • It is unclear how the COI could determine intent of or the information known to IDF soldiers at the time of a given incident.
  • One such disabled individual is identified as deaf. Obviously, an Israeli soldier, at a distance of 150m away, could not possibly know of this person’s condition.
  • In its press conference, COI members admitted that “maybe some of them weren’t visibly children.”

Illegitimacy of the COI

  • None of the COI members has any expertise in international humanitarian law or military operations. Unsurprisingly, then, the report ignores the applicable legal framework and instead lazily refers solely to human rights law, making the absurd claim that “the demonstrations were civilian in nature… and despite some acts of significant violence, did not constitute combat or a military campaign.”
  • The COI was marred by a lack of transparency and accountability. It was allocated the massive sum of $1.5 million to complete this report, yet has kept secret how this money was spent. The identities of the staffers and any consultants employed are not disclosed, making it impossible to independently verify their professional qualifications.
  • The COI was established by the notorious UN Human Rights Council. A body controlled by dictatorships and authoritarian regimes and known for extreme anti-Israel bias. Therefore, it is not a true “inquiry,” but rather a rigged effort to recycle the claims of partisan NGOs and to grant them the legitimacy of the UN. This is another round to target Israel via such pseudo-investigations, including the notorious 2009 Goldstone report.

 

 


This article first appeared in Conflicts by Ari Rusila -blog


Gaza Update: Hamas Downfalling – IDF Prepared

April 19, 2016

 

T

 

he IDF’s intelligence on Hamas’s military wing in Gaza has increased greatly over  the past two years, and the Southern Command’s war preparations have been enhanced as a result, a senior military source said on 14th April 2016 according Jerusalem Post.

In Gaza, the military wing is gradually growing in power at the expense of the political wing. Figures like Muhammad Deif, who leads the military wing, Yihye Sinwar, who was released in the Gilad Shalit exchange and Marwan Issa, are taking power away from Hamas’s political wing, as well as from overseas leader Khaled Mashaal.

Hamas military wing members receive military training also in Iran and earlier in Syria, in addition Hamas has military training camps for children who also receive hate indoctrination from public media and in schools and camps. The Izz al-Din al-Qassam Brigade is a separate armed military wing, which has its own leaders who do not take their orders from Hamas. Some cells have independent links with the external leadership, enabling them to bypass the hierarchical command chain and political leadership in Gaza and they do not tell their plans in advance to political wing.

Hamas’s military wing is helping terrorist operatives in West Bank as well the ISIS-affiliated Sinai Province group, transferring it funds, and caring for its injured, as well as trying to smuggle weapons through the group. Hamas’s military wing is in charge of police appointments, a task that once belonged to the political wing.

04intellisouthThe Southern Command is carefully monitoring Hamas’s 25 regional battalions and has prepared detailed files on each one as part of preparations for ground forces that could, in the event of a future escalation, be sent in to Gaza to land “painful strikes” on Hamas, according to the source. “We did not have this level of knowledge in Operation Protective Edge [in 2014],” the source said. “Our brigade, battalion, and company commanders are assigned regions, and will know many things that will assist them in destroying their targets,” the high-ranking officer added according Jerusalem Post .

The Southern Command has spent the past year and a half making intensive preparations for potential future conflicts. Plans include spreading out a “stronger defense” of southern communities, and a better layout of staging areas, that were targeted by Hamas in the previous conflict. All IDF battalion commanders have, in recent weeks, completed courses dedicated exclusively to the topic of “how to defeat Hamas, fighting in populated areas and the rapid build-up of forces.

Hamas’s military wing is busy with its own preparations, using the current quiet to build up its own offensive capabilities. This includes an intensified training for Hamas’s elite Nuhba forces, which make up a quarter of Hamas’s 20,000-strong armed members, and who are trained to launch cross-border raids into Israel. The Nuhba Force has increased its size and scope of activities, as well as its training, Hamas is also building up its naval commando unit and has begun assembling a drone unit. [Source: Jerusalem Post ].

Collapsed “tunnel economy”

Hamas remains in a state of distress and economic crisis, unable to pay members in time, and failing to smuggle many weapons from Sinai. Hamas’ economic well-being was in large part dependent on its system of smuggling tunnels snaking underneath the Gaza border with Egypt.

The tunnels were first constructed immediately after Israel’s disengagement from the Sinai Peninsula, as part of the Camp David agreement between Israel and Egypt. But digging got more intense after Israel declared a blockade on Gaza after Hamas won the 2006 Palestinian elections. Hamas’s government started to flourish on what economists called the booming “tunnel economy” until current Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi joined Israel in trying to destroy it.

Tunnel war infograph by Ari RusilaEgypt is now implementing measures which will totally block unofficial traffic aka smuggling. Egyptian military vehicles are transferring Mediterranean Sea water to the Rafah border, to fill a newly-built crude canal, flooding and destroying the lifeline tunnels connecting Egypt and blockaded Gaza.

The supply lines that have fed it cash, arms, goods, luxury items, fuel, and cement for its terror-tunnel industry suddenly were gone. These goods, which were smuggled into Gaza at obscenely low prices at the expense of Egyptian citizens, were no longer flowing in due to the closure of the tunnels. The economy of Hamas is weakening as Egypt has closed main part of over one thousand smuggling tunnels on Gaza border; before that Hamas administration got remarkable income from smuggling activities. [More in Gaza Blockade – It’s Egypt not Israel! ]

Since beginning of March 2016, Hamas has been forced to slash by two-thirds the wages paid to members of its military wing: each fighter now takes home $200 instead of $600 per month, and officers used to earning $1,000 must be satisfied with $350. DEBKA’s military and intelligence sources claims that the terrorist group has moreover halted recruitment for lack of funds to pay, accommodate or train new fighters. The cash crunch has also hit the Hamas government. Most of Gaza’s municipal services are suspended because city officials have not been paid. Iran’s boycott on military and financial assistance to the Gaza Strip was clamped down in mid-2015 over Hamas’ refusal to line up behind Iran’s unqualified endorsement of its allies, Syrian President Bashar Assad and Yemen’s Houthi rebels.

Hamas doesn’t currently have a patron in the Arab world. The Muslim Brotherhood is weak in the region: Jordan recently shut down their branches; they’re being chased out of Egypt; Kuwait and Saudi Arabia have outlawed them. Egypt has strengthened its grip on Gaza and won’t tolerate any violence on Hamas’s part in the near future.

Bottom line

According Channel 2 report (March 2016) the Israeli security establishment estimates that Hamas is not presently seeking a military escalation with Israel. The report noted that the assessment stands despite the terrorist group’s continued digging and armament of underground tunnels in the coastal Palestinian enclave.

Israel-Palestine roadmap to peace

Over one year Hamas has been negotiating with Israel about its plan to turn the Gaza Strip into a separate Palestinian entity in a bid to reach a long-term calm on the Gaza border. It might be that the international community must define their two-state solution with new content including two Palestinian state – one in the Gaza Strip and an other Fatah-controlled state in the West Bank. With “official” 2-State Solution there is other 2-State options such as Gaza and Palestine option. Related to possible deal between Hamas and Israel there is a risk that internal disagreements between Hamas’ political and military wings could endanger it. (more e.g. in Gaza State Under Construction, West Bank Remains Bystander, Analysis: Resolving The Israeli-Palestinian Conflict , Sinai Option again and Hamas and Israel on Verge of the Deal).

Hamas wings by Ari Rusila


Sinai Option again

November 11, 2015

Sinai OptionGreenJerusalem Post reports   that Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas was quoted on Monday [9th November 2015] as claiming that Israel and Hamas have been conducting direct negotiations to expand the Gaza Strip so that it would include some 1,000 square kilometers of Sinai. Abbas, who was recently visiting in Cairo, told that the idea of slicing off land from Sinai to expand the Gaza Strip was first proposed by ousted Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi.

Abbas said that he knows the names of the Hamas and Israeli negotiators, but did not mention them. He said that former British prime minister and Quartet envoy to the Middle East Tony Blair is supervising the purported negotiations between Israel and Hamas. Abbas told that he opposes the idea of annexing any part of Sinai to the Gaza Strip.

History of the Sinai option

The Sinai option indeed is not a new option to solve Egypt-Gaza-Israel conflict. According Middle East Monitor (MEMO) report [01 September 2014 ] Egypt offered Palestinian Authority’s President Abbas a Palestinian state in Sinai.   Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi offered Palestinian Authority 620 square miles of land adjacent to Gaza in exchange for relinquishing claims to 1967 borders for the purpose of establishing a Palestinian state. PA President Abbas reportedly rejected proposal. Speaking in a meeting of Fatah leaders in Ramallah, Abbas said: “The plan, which was proposed in 1956, included annexing 1,600 square kilometres from the Sinai Peninsula to the Gaza Strip in order to receive Palestinian refugees.” He continued: “The plan is being proposed again, but we refused it.” One idea with offer was to resettle “Palestinian refugees” in the Sinai.

At its core, the Egyptian initiative proposes expanding the Gaza Strip to five times its current size and settling all the Palestinian refugees in a state to be established there. Under the initiative, this state will be demilitarized, Army Radio reported. In addition, the report continued, the Palestinian Authority would be granted autonomy in the Palestinian cities in the West Bank in exchange for relinquishing the Palestinian demand to return to 1967 borders. The U.S. was involved and even greenlighted the initiative, Army Radio reported, adding that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was also brought into the loop, but did not brief the cabinet on it.

trilateralscenario1A similar idea was floated some eight years ago by Israeli academics, but it was rejected outright by the regime of then-Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak. Experts surmise that Sisi’s generous offer stems from Egypt’s current difficulty in controlling terrorist groups based in the Sinai Peninsula. Source: Israel Hayom

According Middle East Eye (MEE)   the scheme became the centrepiece of the 2004 Herzliya conference, an annual meeting of Israel’s political, academic and security elites to exchange and develop policy ideas. It was then enthusiastically adopted by Uzi Arad, the conference’s founder and long-time adviser to Benjamin Netanyahu, the current prime minister. He proposed a three-way exchange, in which the Palestinians would get part of Sinai for their state, while in return Israel would receive most of the West Bank, and Egypt would be given a land passage across the Negev to connect it to Jordan. (This and more plans in Herzliya Papers )

According to the reports, the territory in Sinai would become a demilitarised Palestinian state – dubbed “Greater Gaza” – to which returning Palestinian refugees would be assigned. The Palestinian Authority of Mahmoud Abbas would have autonomous rule over the cities in the West Bank, comprising about a fifth of that territory. In return, Abbas would have to give up the right to a state in the West Bank and East Jerusalem.

The plan probably originated with Giora Eiland, Israel’s national security adviser from 2004 to 2006. According Eiland’s Plan in 2004 that Israel hoped would be implemented after the withdrawal of settlers and soldiers from Gaza – the so-called disengagement – a year later. Under Eiland’s terms, Egypt would agree to expand Gaza into the Sinai in return for Israel giving Egypt land in the Negev. Eiland’s plan also stipulates that the Palestinians would be granted sovereignty over 89 percent of the West Bank as part of a final settlement to the decades-old conflict. ( More about Eiland’s Plan also in my document library )

According the Arab newspaper Asharq Al-Awsat (HQ in London but with strong ties to the Saudi royal family) the Egyptian source said a similar proposal was put to Morsi when he came to power in 2012. A delegation of Muslim Brotherhood leaders travelled to Washington, where White House officials proposed that “Egypt cede a third of the Sinai to Gaza in a two-stage process spanning four to five years”.US officials, the report stated, promised to “establish and fully support a Palestinian state” in the Sinai, including the establishment of seaports and an airport. The Brotherhood was urged to prepare Egyptian public opinion for the deal.

My conclusion           

Nimetön (60)There is some speculations that, were Isis’s influence to expand further in Gaza or Egypt’s adjoining Sinai peninsula, Hamas could end up forging a common cause — openly or otherwise — with either Israel or Egypt; co-operation between Hamas and Egypt, and between Hamas and Israel might be the outcome.

In my opinion annexing part of Sinai to Gaza as might partly solve Arab-Israeli Conflict. In addition Hamas-Israel Deal could pave way for the ‘Cold Peace Solution’ and beyond. (More in Hamas and Israel on Verge of the Deal )

Related articles:

Gaza Blockade – It’s Egypt not Israel!

Hamas and Israel on Verge of the Deal


[Sinai Option again  first appeared in Conflicts By Ari Rusila]

logotC


Hamas and Israel on Verge of the Deal

August 18, 2015

 

“This agreement is no longer just rumors or blabber, but will be signed any minute,” (Walid Awadh, a member of the political office of the Palestinian People’s Party in Gaza)

Israel-Palestine roadmap to peaceAccording to the Times of Israel, Hamas and Israel have essentially agreed on a long-term cease-fire. Hamas is about to sign a “comprehensive” agreement with Israel for the lifting of an eight-year blockade placed on the Gaza Strip in return for a long-term ceasefire The gist of the deal is that Israel will end the blockade and allow thousands of Palestinian day laborers to enter Israel. Gaza will import items through a Cyprus port overseen by NATO representatives (until a floating offshore port can be developed) and cease all rocket fire and tunneling for eight years. A prisoner swap may be in the works too.  Hamas-Israel Deal could pave way for the ‘Cold Peace Solution’

Israel Prime Minister’s Office gave following statement on 18th Aug. 2015: “Israel would like to officially clarify that it is not holding any meetings with Hamas, neither directly, nor via other countries, nor via intermediaries.” However – in addition to rumours described in my April 2015 article  Gaza State Under Construction, West Bank Remains Bystanderhamas-agreement-1 (2) – the original sources of last developments have been a Turkish official, few days earlier, it was a “knowledgeable source” in the Israeli defense establishment and before that, it was a U.S. State Department official. All confirmed that Israel and Hamas are discussing a long-term cease-fire deal. Already in April it was estimated that official representatives of the Israeli government and defense establishment have been holding a real dialogue even months with the Islamic terrorist group – Hamas – in a bid to reach a long-term calm on the Gaza border. These secret talks have been “partly direct” and partly through Qatari and European mediators. This information was based on an YNet article.

In April 2015 it was claimed that from the Israeli side the person pushing for talks with Hamas is the coordinator of the government’s activities in the territories (COGAT), in cooperation with new IDF Chief of Staff Gadi Eisenkot , with assistance from the political leadership. The official Israel continues to conceal the dialogue with Hamas: It would have disrupted the elections, it’s not good for the image of a right-wing government, and it gets in the way of continuing to define Hamas as a terror organization in the world. (Source and more in Ynet)

The Hamas-Israel Deal

In an interview- according The Times of Israel – with Hamas daily al-Resalah, Yasin Aktay, an adviser to Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu and deputy chairman of the ruling Justice and Development Party, said that Hamas’s political leader Khaled Mashaal came to Ankara last week to update the Turkish leadership on the details of an agreement reached with Israel. According Israel Hayom [18th Aug. 2015] Hamas officials told Arab media outlets that significant progress had been made in recent talks in Qatar between Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal and former Middle East Quartet envoy Tony Blair about the possibility of a long-term truce deal. Reports also cited a Turkish official as saying progress had been made toward such a deal between Israel and Hamas. According to the official, the deal would include the lifting of the blockade on Gaza. According to the reports, Gaza will be allowed to import merchandise through a “floating port” located 3 kilometers (1.8 miles) off the coast. An intermediary port will be established in Cyprus, where all Gaza-bound merchandise will be scrutinized by NATO representatives.

300px-gaza_strip_map2-svgMeanwhile, progress has been made in reconciliation talks between Israel and Turkey yet differences remain on several issues, the London-based Asharq Al-Awsat newspaper reported on Tuesday. The report quoted a Turkish Foreign Ministry official as saying that Israel had agreed to significantly ease the blockade on Gaza — which has been one of Turkey’s demands in the reconciliation talks.

According to Hamas daily al-Resalah, Israel would like to see a larger package deal that would include the exchange of “live and dead Israeli prisoners” held by Hamas — likely a reference to Ethiopian-Israeli citizen Avraham Abere Mengistu and a Bedouin man who both entered the Gaza Strip voluntarily, as well as the remains of Israeli soldiers killed during Operation Protective Edge last summer — in return for Hamas prisoners jailed by Israel.

Israeli Arabic-language website al-Masdar reported on 16th Aug. 2015 that Hamas’s leadership held a meeting in Gaza on 14th Aug. 2015, specifying the deal’s details. According to al-Masdar’s unnamed Hamas source, Israel has also agreed to allow in thousands of Gazan day laborers through the Erez crossing in return for Hamas’s agreement to stop launching rockets into Israel and digging subterranean attack tunnels underneath the border for a period of at least eight years. Hamas’s Shura Council, the movement’s highest deliberative body, endorsed the agreement following a three-hour debate.

Fatah/PLO against

The reported agreement is opposed by the PLO because it wasn’t consulted, and because it would “eventually detach Gaza completely from the West Bank and Jerusalem,” said one Fatah figure. Hamas officials, headed by Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh, have been dispatched to Egypt, Qatar, and Turkey to discuss the deal. But the agreement is facing domestic opposition from without, as Palestinian factions consider it a potential danger to the political unity of Gaza and the West Bank as stipulated by the Oslo Accords.

no_solutionWalid Awadh, a member of the political office of the Palestinian People’s Party in Gaza, said that his party, like all other PLO factions, is opposed in principle to the deal reached between Hamas and Israel. The agreement, carried out unilaterally by Hamas without consulting the PA, strengthens the political divide with Fatah and will eventually detach Gaza completely from the West Bank and Jerusalem, he argued. “Gaza faces an unknown future,” he said. “This agreement leads us from political divide to [Gaza’s] secession, making it impossible for Gaza to be part of the future Palestinian state.”Awadh said the agreement is being finalized “far from the Gaza Strip” by Hamas’s overseas leadership in coordination with Qatar and Turkey. Notifying the PLO organizations in Gaza was only done in order to market the agreement and portray it as a result of local consensus. Most factions in Gaza support a ceasefire with Israel, Awadh stressed, but insist that it be the result of “unified Palestinian representation, tying the future of Gaza to that of the West Bank.”

Awadh’s dismay with Hamas was expressed even more bluntly by Fatah spokesman Osama Qawasmi over the weekend. “Why insist on a naval passageway to the entire world but the West Bank?” Qawasmi wondered in a press statement published on Fatah’s official website. “Why has the land corridor with the West Bank, known as the ‘safe passage,’ not been proposed before anything else, given that the PLO delegation raised the issue forcefully? Is Gaza a humanitarian issue [only] or is it part of the Palestinian homeland?”

Two Palestine?

The eight-year split between Fatah and Hamas aka the Islamic Resistance Movement has cut off Gaza and its 1.7 million people from the West Bank and e.g from negotiating efforts; instead Hamas has implemented few military campaigns against Israel and Gaza still suffers from the last conflict Summer 2014.

According Jerusalem Post Hamas in April 2015 was negotiating with Israel on Palestinian state in Gaza. The Palestinian officials have claimed that Hamas was negotiating with Israel about its plan to turn the Gaza Strip into a separate Palestinian entity. From point of view of Fatah/PLO Israel wants to divide the Palestinian people and turn the Palestinian territories into separate entities and cantons. The idea of establishing a Palestinian state only in the Gaza Strip was first raised by late Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin in 1988; it is also claimed that the late Prime Minister Ariel Sharon proposed the idea about 10 years ago, when he decided to withdraw from the Gaza Strip.

Hamas is consolidating its grip over the Gaza Strip and making plans to turn it into a separate state. Palestinian Authority leader Mahmoud Abbas and Fatah consider the purported plan a “severe blow” to the two-state solution and unity among Palestinians. As the U.S. Administration and the international community continue to push for a two-state solution between Israel and the Palestinians, Hamas seems to be working toward establishing an independent state of its own in the Gaza Strip.

14374044578404767 (2)It might be that the international community must define their two-state solution with new content including two Palestinian state – one Islamist emirate in the Gaza Strip and an other Fatah-controlled wannabe state in the West Bank.

Earlier on April 2015 in my article Gaza State Under Construction, West Bank Remains Bystander I estimated that this possible deal between Hamas and Israel has a risk that internal disagreements between Hamas’ political and military wings could endanger it. Ezzedeen Al-Qassam Brigades might take advantage of instability within the Hamas to carry out attacks on the border with Israel without getting a green light from Hamas’ political leaders. Struggle inside Hamas is not the only battlefield in Gaza. A group calling itself Supporters of the Islamic State in Jerusalem has continued to challenge the Gaza-ruling Palestinian entity Hamas.

Hamas-Israel Deal pave the way for Cold Peace Solution

23boundar_map-popup (2)I still consider a two-state solution be possible. The final status agreement has been very close at least since Beilin-Abu Mazen understandings / agreement / plan (1995) where nearly all issues were agreed. The Olmert proposal (2008) was probably the last serious try (both plans can be found from my document library ) If however it can’t be negotiated so there is possibilities to make regional solution; I for example have long propagated the idea of the “Three-State-(return) Option” ( e.g. in ”The Three-State Option could solve Gaza Conflict” ). Also – if two-state solution is de facto cul-de-sac and if there is no readiness to regional solution so a unilateral ‘Cold Peace solution’ from my perspective is the best option especially if Hamas-Israel Deal will come true.

Israel could independently implement a ‘Cold Peace Solution’, a minimal level of peace relations,  to ensure its character as a Jewish and democratic state, by fixing a border between Israel and a future Palestinian state in the West Bank unilaterally. Creating a reality of two states for two peoples by separation into two nation states would be based on voluntary Israeli concession of territories outside of the large with Israel on the route of a permanent border on the basis of agreed-upon land swaps or independently in case negotiations does not take place. In the event that negotiations are not renewed, the temporary border will become permanent. As long as there is no agreement, the IDF and Israel would retain control of the outer borders and surrounding areas of the territories to be evacuated by Israelis who would be resettled within the state’s temporary borders. This kind of unilateral “cold peace” solution – that Israel annexes all Judea and Samaria (West-Bank) inside security fence and draws all outposts inside fence and Palestinians can do whatever they want in remaining territory – in my opinion might – in the course of years – develop to permanent state of affairs and thus end Israeli-Palestinian conflict.  An example could be the peace treaty between Egypt and Israel signed in 1979 which most Egyptians view as a cold peace;  retrospectively not so bad deal anyway.

Cold-Peace-Solution by Ari Rusila


Instead of Gaza’s Reconstruction Donor Aid Finances Terrorism And Corruption

August 12, 2015


“Magen veLo Yera’e” [Motto of Shin Bet]

shin betIt was not a hallucination when Israelis living in Gaza border area were hearing some digging sounds. In July 2015 the Shin Bet [aka The Israel Security Agency/ISA aka Shabak] with Israeli Police arrested a Hamas operative Ibrahim Adel Shehadeh Shaer – a tunnel digger in the group’s armed wing. According Israel Hayom the man was detained for questioning and he proceeded to provide interrogators with valuable information about the terrorist organization’s extensive digging plans and the location of new tunnel access points. The Shin Bet said that Shaer provided significant details about Hamas’ tunnels in the Rafah area, including the areas where digging was taking place, the location of entrance and exit points to tunnels, the identities of other tunnel diggers and the routes of the tunnels.

Shaer also told interrogators that to sustain its military infrastructure, Hamas diverts resources and materials delivered to Gaza within the framework of rehabilitation efforts. According to Shaer, Hamas fighters store explosives in residential homes, in accordance with directives from the group’s commanders, who are concerned that traditional military warehouses will be bombed.

Tiimes-of-LondonThe Shin Bet said that beyond the routine issues pertaining to his main function as a tunnel digger, Shaer was also privy to the link between Iran and Hamas, in the form of military aid the Islamic republic transfers into Gaza to strengthen the terrorist organization. According to Shaer, Iran supports Hamas by transferring funds, advanced weapons systems and electronic equipment, such as devices for jamming radio waves, which are used in efforts to bring down Israeli drones flying over Gaza. In addition Shaer underwent combat and command training, learned how to operate advanced weapons systems and received demolition training. On July 31, an indictment was filed against Shaer in the Beersheba District Court for being a member of, and engaging in, activities with a banned organization, attempted murder, contact with a foreign enemy agent, illegal military training, and various firearms charges. Source: Israel Hayom

Slow reconstruction activities in Gaza is nothing new nor the fact that donor aid for reconstruction is misused e.g. for tunnels. This aspect was very well highlighted by Dr. Ibrahim Abrashin – ex-minister representing political wing in Hamas – in his recent article (more in Palestinians: A Rare Voice of Sanity ) Today outrage spreads on social media due two documents leaked online detailing two attempts by Palestinian officials to misuse public funds, highlighting the corruption and mismanagement critics say remains rampant in the Palestinian Authority government. One document, by adviser to President Abbas, asks for $4 million for private building complex, another seeks funds for daughter’s private school. The core of comments is rampant corruption, mismanagement and nepotism in PA. Source: Israel Hayom ) A wider picture about non-existent skills of Palestinian authority to deliver international donor aid to beneficiaries one can find from my article Palestine – Placebo effect for people and society with 20 bn bucks

percap1

 

Some of my remarks related to news quoted above:

1)                         Shaer confirms suspicions made earlier that the donor aid for Gaza reconstruction activities is more or less used to dig [attack] tunnels. Western mainstream media has accused so far Israel and imaginary Gaza blockade about slow reconstruction process.

2)                         Hamas is still locating war materials in the middle of civilian buildings; if and when Israel during next Gaza conflict destroys these storages one can expect some civilian deaths and blaming only Israel for war crimes.

3)                         Despite of capasity building efforts for decades of Western international community to develop administration and facilities of dreamed Palestinian state is the outcome modest at best. In Western media many times Israel get the blame for this; a better address could be some inside aspects – such as corruption, misconduct and political elite making money at people’s expence – of Palestinian Authority.

4)                         As consequence tens of billions USD aid, which was intended to give good public services for people disappears on the way to beneficiaries.

5)                         The fact that Palestinian Authority can not make a negotiated peace deal with Israel might be caused by interests of the political elite of the PA and some donor agencies; chaotic situation has its benefits as the international aid flows with minimal transparency.

Appendix:

 

Palestinian Terrorism Industry: Salaries
 
The  Palestinian Authority [PA] pays high salaries and good benefits to convicted  terrorists in Israeli prisons. Much of money to reward terrorists comes from Western  tax dollars as the PA budget is heavily dependent on foreign aid. Donors gave  roughly $30 billion in international aid to the PA between 1993 and 2012; $7  billion came from the U.S. alone and $7 billion came from the EU; $10 billion
came from individual European countries, Japan, Australia, and Canada.
 
The  salaries are usually far higher than the West Bank average wage of $533/month  and sometimes higher than those of any other civil servants. The average  monthly salary paid to terrorists was 3,129 shekels ($850) in 2012 while the  average salary for civil servants was 2,882 shekels, ($783), and for  Palestinian military personnel it was 2,704 shekels ( $734).
 
In  2011, The PA announced the following wages and stipulated that they would be  linked to the cost of living index.
 
•All  security prisoners get a base salary of 1400 shekels ($400) per month.
•Terrorists  sentenced to 3-5 years get 2,000 shekels ($560) per month.
•Terrorists  sentenced to 5-10 years get 4,000 shekels ($1,100) per month.
•Terrorists  sentenced to 10-15 years get 6,000 shekels ($1,690) per month.
•Terrorists  sentenced to 15-20 years get 7,000 shekels ($2,000) per month.
•Terrorists  sentenced to 20-25 years get 8,000 shekels ($2,250) per month.
•Terrorists  sentenced to 25-30 years get 10,000 shekels ($2,800) per month.
•The  worst offenders, those who commit mass murder, get the top wage of 12,000  shekels ($3,400) per month—up to 10 times more than the average pay.
•Released  prisoners receive the status of a deputy minister or the rank of  major-general in the PA security forces – both worth a monthly stipend of NIS  14,000 ($4,000).
•In  2013, four thousand released Palestinian prisoners received monthly salaries  although many of them were able-bodied men who could work.
 

Minimizing Collateral Damage In Gaza Conflict

November 20, 2012

During its operation in Gaza, the Israeli Defense Forces did more to safeguard the rights of civilians in a combat zone than any other army in the history of warfare.”(Richard Kemp in the UN Human Rights Council hearing after Operation Cast Lead)

 

The role of civilians during ongoing operation Pillar of Defence is traditional one: Hamas and other Palestinian terror organizations intentionally target Israeli civilians and use the population of Gaza as human shields, storing and firing rockets from within populated areas. In stark contrast, Israel does not intentionally target Palestinian civilians; in opposite the Israel Defence Force (IDF) takes extraordinary measures to avoid Palestinian civilian deaths. Israel uses early warnings and sophisticated missile defence system to protect its own population while the role of civilian population in Gaza seems again to be that of cannon fodder and their value only propagandist.

Hamas has systematically fired rockets over 12,000 at the Israeli Home Front for the past 12 years. Since November 14, over 350 rockets fired from Gaza hit Israel, many of them directed at densely populated areas. Over the past months Hamas has armed itself with the Fajr-5 missile, an advanced weapon with a range of over 75 kilometers, which places 3.5 million civilians at risk. Out of 824 rockets fired from Gaza at Israel over the past few days, 270 of which were intercepted by the Iron Dome anti-missile system and 100 have landed in Gaza itself, IDF statistics show on18th Nov. So one part of civilian deaths in Gaza might have come from their own rockets.

Strategy of Hamas is fatal for population

The Operations of Hamas are targetted to kill Israeli civilians. Thanks to sophisticated early warning system and Israeli missile defense the casualties of Israeli civilians are small. The oposite is true with civilian population in Gaza due the fatal tactics of Hamas. Hamas (like Hezbollah in Lebanon, like the Taliban in Afghanistan and like al-Qaida and the Shi’a militias in Iraq), use their own people as both tactical and strategic weapons of war.

Hamas has intentionally used the civilian areas of Gaza as staging grounds for their attacks on Israel. Knowing that the IDF wishes to avoid civilian casualties, Hamas places its own civilians in the line of fire in order to hide and protect its own operations. Women and children, victims of the Hamas human shield tactics, usually ignore warning signals to evacuate buildings prior to an IDF strike. The victims remain in the house with Hamas members, knowing ahead of time that the IDF will not target civilians. Many innocent bystanders are killed as a result of Hamas’ abuse of its own civilians. Instead of keeping its citizens out of harm’s way, Hamas encourages and even forces its population to join the violent resistance against Israel, sometimes forcing women and children to remain in the positions that they would use to launch attacks from. Hamas used their people too on the strategic level, luring IDF troops to attack and kill them. People whose deaths would be callously exploited in the media as a means of discrediting the IDF.

There are several reasons for this: Hamas, of course, operates from within a civilian population and conceals its arsenals in built-up areas. The same is true of missile launchers, rockets and more. In addition, most Hamas militants make sure not to remain above ground most of the day. They stay in the network of tunnels built by Hamas beneath the Gaza Strip in recent years and, in effect, are at very low risk compared to the vast majority of the Gaza population. And the process of launching the rockets is extremely quick and is sometimes done by remote control, so that the ability to strike at those militants is very limited.

Israel’s strategy is to limit civilian casualties in Gaza

The following are some ways the IDF uses in order to avoid civilian casualties. While these warnings ruin the element of surprise and can help the enemy escape, the IDF believes that it must take these steps whenever possible in order to avoid harming innocent bystanders.

  1. Phone calls: During the last 24 hours of the operation, thousands of Israeli phone calls were made to residents of the Gaza Strip, warning them of IDF strikes in the area.
  2. Leaflets: The Israel Air Force has dropped leaflets over Gaza that warn civilians to “avoid being present in the vicinity of Hamas operatives.”
  3. Diverting missiles in mid-flight: During Operation Cast Lead in 2008-09, the IDF aborted many missions seconds before they were to be carried out, due to civilians being present at the site of the target.
  4. Roof Knocking: “Roof knocking” is when the IAF targets a building with a loud but non-lethal bomb that warns civilians that they are in the vicinity of a weapons cache or other target. This method is used to allow all residents to leave the area before the IDF targets the site with live ammunition.
  5. Pinpoint Targeting: The IDF, whenever possible, singles out terrorists and targets them in a way that will endanger few or no bystanders. This can often be hard to do, since terrorists prefer to hide in crowded areas. As example IDF video about the pinpoint strike on Hamas leader Ahmed Jabari and an other one (On Nov. 18, 2012, when the Israel Air Force targeted an underground rocket launching site near a mosque in Gaza. The strike was precise, and the mosque was unharmed.)
  6. In previous Cast Lead operation IDF left at least four hours’ notice to civilians to leave areas designated for attack

Israel helps patients in Gaza

One problem which civilians in Gaza have is the long standing shortage of medicines and medical supplies. The main reason is a dysfunctional relationship between the Palestinian Ministries of Health in Gaza and Ramallah. The conflicts between the two offices have resulted not only in a shortage of medicines and supplies, but also in restricted access to medical treatments for patients outside of Gaza. To help situation an Israeli State agency The Coordination and Liaison Administration to Gaza (CLA)works to ensure that patients from Gaza have the access they need to get medical treatments e.g. Following way:

  1. Of the thousands of patients that requested permits to enter Israel for medical treatments, 99.3% were approved. Patients were only denied permits when it was determined that they could receive necessary treatment inside Gaza (Sept 2012). This year (2012)more than 14,500 permits were issued by the Gaza CLA for patients and their chaperones to leave Gaza through the Erez Crossing.
  2. All the requests for medical supplies (equipment and medicine) submitted by the international community to the Gaza CLA have been approved for entry into Gaza.
  3. Since September 2012, international organizations, in coordination with the Gaza CLA, have impoted 32 trucks of drugs and medical supplies through Kerem Shalom Crossing. This has included spare parts for dialysis machines, helium for MRI machines, and three fully equipped ambulances. An additional five loads of medicine were imported into Gaza through the Erez Crossing through special coordination.

According to the World Health Organization, the process of referrals for patients from Gaza to receive treatment in Israel, the West Bank, and Jordan was suspended for nearly 10 days due to disagreements between the Ramallah and Gaza Health Ministries. As a result, a 38% reduction in monthly referrals left several hundred patients without necessary treatment. The WHO reports that due to the failure of the Palestinian Ministry of Health to pay its accruing debts to Jordan, Jordanian hospitals refused to accept government referrals of patients from Gaza. Medical suppliers are often reluctant to sell supplies to Gaza since there are issues with non-payment.

Despite the problematic security situation due ongoing operation Pillar of Defence and the ongoing rocket fire, the help from Israel to Gaza continues. On 18 November 2012, 10 Red Cross trucks with medical supplies and one UNRWA truck entered Gaza via Kerem Shalom Crossing. Two trucks have been designated as being of particular importance as they are carrying much needed anesthetics and bandages.

Media War with Pictures

They [Hamas] are putting these rockets in schools, in mosques, near hospitals, even in homes. We have pictures of rockets in homes because they not only have a military strategy. They have a media strategy. They want pictures of civilian casualties to make the front page of newspapers around the world,” (Michael Oren, Israel Ambassador to the United States)

The grand tradition of Pallywood has succeed again also with some respected medias, such as BBC, in which Palestinians on stretchers suddenly come back to life. It was usual also during earlier conflicts to bring the dead out from the hospitals in front of the cameras as victims of “Israel’s aggression”. Anybody who had died or who had been murdered for reasons of crime during these wars were brought to the CNN cameras as victims of “Israel’s aggression”

Yet another fake “Gaza” photo has used against Israel during the Pillar of Defense operation. An Arab news site called Alarab Net released the photo, which shows a family who was allegedly ‘massacred’ in Gaza on its Facebook page on Sunday, November 18. The caption in Arabic roughly translates into English as “martyred massacred family in Gaza shortly before…”

Thanks to Tazpit News Agency’s investigative work, it was found that the photo had been originally published on a news site based in Dubai, United Arab Emirates called Moheet one month earlier on October 19. On the Moheet website, the photo was titled “Syria killed 122 Friday…Assad Used Cluster Bombs.”

The original massacre, in Syria.

The “recycled” massacre, transplanted to Gaza.

And here another example where the Alqassam Brigades published an image which was taken in during the Syrian civil war weeks ago and attempted to pass it off as a picture taken in Gaza during current conflict.

Bottom line

Whatever the measures the residents of the Gaza Strip will continue to be the ones to pay the price and if ground operation starts, this price will be much higher than so far. As a result of Hamas’ strategy of using civilian areas for military purposes, it is inevitable that there will be civilian casualties in Gaza. Nonetheless, the IDF goes to great lengths to avoid civilian casualties and to minimize collateral damage.

As a result of Hamas’ strategy of using civilian areas for military purposes, it is inevitable that there will be civilian casualties in Gaza. Nonetheless, the IDF goes to great lengths to avoid civilian casualties and to minimize collateral damage. IDF however notes that despite all precautions, IDF forces may have mistakenly targeted sites and hurt Palestinian civilians. According IDF it is fully committed to ensuring that every allegation of wrongdoing be fully and fairly investigated, though this will happen after the conclusion of the operation.

The former Commander of the British Armed Forces in Afghanistan, Col. Richard Kemp, gives an insider view to civilian casualties in conflicts:

The UN estimate that there has been an average three-to-one ratio of civilian to combatant deaths in such conflicts worldwide. Three civilians for every combatant killed. That is the estimated ratio in Afghanistan: three to one. In Iraq, and in Kosovo, it was worse: the ratio is believed to be four-to-one. Anecdotal evidence suggests the ratios were very much higher in Chechnya and Serbia. In Gaza, it was less than one-to-one.”

As example Col.Kemp probably has earlier Gaza operation Cast Lead (2008-2009). I think that Hamas has learned some lessons from this and now, if Israel goes to ground maneuvers, the ratio of civilian to combatant deaths will be considerable higher. This makes the threshold to start next phase much higher than before.
More about IDF activities to avoid civilian damages in Gaza e.g. In this IDF video and to balance my story a bit here also a view (video) from Hamas side: 

 

More about Operation Pillar of Defence in my previous article:

Hamas Miscalculated: Israel Started Operation Pillar of Defens

BlogDash


Gaza Flotilla – a successful manoeuvre with win-win changes

June 3, 2010

“If ships reach Gaza – victory, if terrorized by Zionists – victory.(PM Ismail Haniyeh of Hamas)

The Gaza Flotilla is a model example of successful PR action to gain political aims. Israel sent commandos on an “aid” flotilla trying to pierce the blockade that both Israel and Egypt have imposed on Gaza, a territory controlled by the Islamist Hamas. Six vessels carrying nearly 700 activists after mission organizers ignored the Israeli government’s weeks-long call to bring the cargo to an Israeli port, where it would be inspected and transferred to Gaza.

When the Israeli soldiers then took over six ships five of these agreed to follow the orders of soldiers from Israel Defence Force (IDF) to redirect their route to the port of Ashdod instead Gaza strip. However one ship, the Mavi Marmara, was different than the other five ships of the flotilla. The Mavi Marmara was sponsored by a Turkish humanitarian relief fund -IHH – and there the Israelis meet a resistance that clearly – and fatally – caught them by surprise.

The death toll some 9-16 as well dozens of wounded ones from both sides spread into head lines in world media. Already now it is possible to size up the Islamist manoeuvre as tactical success. The question from the very beginning was not the humanitarian aid, if it were then the sponsors of the flotilla would have worked with Israel and Egypt to bring in the aid by land after a requested inspection of the goods. And they would not have declared victory in advance, regardless of whether any suffering was alleviated, as Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh did earlier claiming that it did not matter if the aid reached Gaza or if it was intercepted. The humanitarian supplies brought on board were just a ploy to hide their avowed political objective.


Unnecessary provocation

If taken the flotilla case away from its political context or from real objectives of the flotilla organizers the whole event was possible to avoid. Israel did all it could to stop it. Appeals to Turkey went unheeded and that country let the flotilla sail and gave its assistance. Israel offered to have all humanitarian supplies brought to the Ashdod port where they could then be sent to Gaza through our crossings. Israel also asked the “peace militants” to transmit a letter to captured IDF soldier Gilad Schalit, who has been in Hamas custody for almost four years.

The militants were not interested in any humanitarian operation. They wanted to carry out their joint Arab-European propaganda offensive against Israel in order to delegitimize the Jewish state, deepen its isolation and provoke an international outcry.

Israel lost the information war

The operation of Israeli Commandos took place 4.30 am. At 09.00 am the Israeli government was still silent about events. First official statements from Israel came at 3.45 pm – that is nearly 12 hours too late. It is clear that when other side had possibility to tell their side of story so this first impression also spread globally as given fact. Besides the drama about aggressive attack against poor civilians and massacre is always easy to sell due choking headlines. First strike in media was a success and has already got its political impact.

IHH – militants instead of peace activists

The Foundation for Human Rights, Liberties and Humanitarian Relief (IHH) played a central role in organizing the flotilla to the Gaza Strip, is a Turkish humanitarian relief fund with a radical Islamic anti-Western orientation. Besides its legitimate philanthropic activities, it supports radical Islamic networks, including Hamas, and at least in the past, even global jihad elements. IHH has strong sympathy among Turkey’s ruling party, but is banned in Israel, which accuses it of links to Hamas and al-Qaeda. IHH’s orientation is radical-Islamic and anti-American, and it is close to the Muslim Brotherhood (Hamas’ parent movement). IHH is a member of the Union of Good, an umbrella organization of more than 50 Islamic funds and foundations around the globe, which channels money into Hamas institutions in the Palestinian Authority-administered territories.

The CIA as long ago as 1996 noted it was linked to “Iran operatives” and gave “support for extremist/terrorist activity”, including in Bosnia. In 2001, Jean-Louis Bruguiere, the prominent French counter-terrorism magistrate, said at the trial of the “millennium bomber” that IHH had played “an important role” in the plot to blow up Los Angeles airport. He said the charity was “a type of cover-up” to infiltrate mujahideen into combat, get forged documents and smuggle weapons. In 2006 Turkish security forces raided the IHH’s Istanbul bureau and found firearms, explosives and bomb-making instructions, as well as records of calls to an al-Qaida guest house in Milan. The Turkish investigators concluded this “charity” was sending jihadists to Bosnia, Chechnya and Afghanistan.

More about IHH and similar Islamic organisations in “The role of Islamic Charities in international terrorist recruitment and financing” by Evan F. Kohlmann – a publication of Danish Institute for International Studies

Peace activists?

On board the Mavi Marmara ship that arrived as part of the flotilla towards Gaza was a group of approximately 40 people with no identification papers, who are supposed to be mercenaries belonging to the Al Qaeda terror organization. This group wore bullet-proof vests, and carried with them night-vision goggles, weapons, and large sums of cash. Gaza flotilla participants chanted Islamic battle cry invoking killing of Jews. The name Khaibar mentioned in battle cry was the last Jewish village defeated by Muhammad’s army in 628. Video “Kill the Jews” about Gaza flotilla can be found here (Palestinian media watch/Al-Jazeera, 29.5.2010)

Reasonable doubt

In my opinion the embargo is an acceptable measure taken between entities that are in a state of armed conflict, as are Israel and Hamas-run Gaza. On 4 Nov 2009 Israel caught approximately 200 tons of weapons, rockets, and missiles were found on the ship – Francop – disguised as civilian cargo flying an Antiguan flag, which was intercepted and brought to the Ashdod port. This cargo were smuggled by Iran to Hezbollah. (Slide show about case here)


Humanitarian Aid”

The cargo was taken off the boats at the Ashdod port and checked there, in accordance with the Israeli embargo on Gaza. Much of the equipment and supplies aboard the “humanitarian” ships for Gaza has been checked and found to be worthless. Many of the medicines are expired and/or came in an assorted, not easily organized manner. In addition, much of the equipment is in poor condition. Despite this, it is being taken to the Kerem Shalom crossing, and will be distributed in Gaza by human rights organizations.

The humanitarian situation in Gaza however is alarming. Israel allows about 15000 tonnes of humanitarian aid like food and medicines into Gaza every week, but not enough e.g. construction materials. Besides emergency relief the international community gives also huge donations for capacity building activities. One problem however is that The impact of the international assistance is poor if not even non-existent in relation to sustainable development. As The Palestine Economic Policy Research Institute (MAS) concluded “it has been almost impossible to trace any positive impact of these mobilized resources on the ground” . More about MAS analysis in “Placebo effect for people and society with 20 bn bucks” .

Conclusions

“Bit by bit Israel is turning into more of a burden than asset for the US,” (Mossad chief Meir Dagan)

The Gaza Flotilla was successful political manoeuvre planed by Hamas and their supporters. Success was guaranteed by win-win position of operation. Either the Flotilla goes through blockade or Israel uses force to stop it – with both cases Hamas could take a tactical win. The later option realized even better than dreamed: There were casualties, there were Western politicians, aid workers from Israel’s former ally Turkey, there were other useful public figures brought along for camouflage to guarantee media coverage. Same time IDF acted according insufficient information without sufficient force and was late in its media response giving the theatre on hands of Hamas. The early conclusions that Israel aggressively attacked Turkish aid vessel carrying desired humanitarian relief to Gaza will have its effect to political climate long time.

What EU can do? First EU could consider is the two-state solution an option any more, is it worth still waste time with this dead road map. Then EU among others and especially with local stakeholders could facilitate developing some new alternatives such as three-state option or similar. What EU should not do is to continue its hypocrisy based on manipulated media by political PR campaigns such as Gaza flotilla.

The most severe impact in short term is that Israel’s relations with Turkey could be unfixable. The US will have more and more difficulties in UNSC defend Israeli’s viewpoint and US lead proximity talks between Israel and the Palestinians could be stopped. UN, EU etc also will put pressure for Israel to lift the blockade on Gaza. Israeli’s position that the successful arrival of the flotilla in Gaza would have created “a corridor of arms smuggling” is not gaining wide understanding now and the new flotillas are already on the way.

My related articles:

The Three-State Option could solve Gaza conflict”

Gaza War: Could Balkan history show way out?”

Will (East) Jerusalem be the End of Two-State Illusion?

Placebo effect for people and society with 20 bn bucks”



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