IDF work to find tunnels on Gaza border.
(photo credit: IDF SPOKESMAN’S UNIT)
Last week’s uncovering of the second Hamas attack tunnel within a few weeks was both good and bad news. It was certainly encouraging for an increasingly tense public to learn that the IDF’s tunnel detecting technology is better than ever; but discouraging to be reminded that the Islamist enclave on our doorstep continues to plot our destruction.
Israel’s discovery of the shafts led to an immediate escalation by Hamas, which fired mortar rounds at troops searching for more of the tunnels Hamas has continued to build despite Operation Protective Edge. The mortar attacks were responded to with tank and aircraft fire, in tit-for-tat exchanges that indicate Hamas’s determination to prevent the uncovering and destruction of its only strategic threat to Israel.
The increasing efficiency of IDF technology is seriously reducing the threat of terrorist incursion via tunnels. Hamas vainly tries to impede shaft detection by shelling anti-tunnel troops. The IDF returns fire and continues the grim search for the would-be conveyors of death from out of the ground, targeting Israeli civilians. The young soldiers are in a surreal movie, Raiders of the Lost Tunnels.
Against the background of the current escalation, and the clamor of “Free Gaza” supporters among the BDS anti-Zionist crowd, Israel recently eased the transport of goods by truck to Gaza on the one hand, while an IDF general seriously proposed creating a Palestinian-designated port area in Ashdod for a similar purpose.
It remains to be seen whether Hamas will be able to make the right choice between improving Gaza’s economy of and missing another opportunity to do right by its people. But while Israel tries to facilitate the transfer of civilian goods, Hamas last week tried to boost its military capability, in an unsuccessful bid to smuggle some 4 tons of rocket-manufacturing material – ammonium chloride – on a truck to Gaza.
Instead of burying its foreign-donated treasure in deep tunnels, the Hamas leadership could be using the construction materials it siphons off legitimate shipments in order to build housing and provide employment. The highest-paying jobs in Gaza are as diggers of Hamas attack tunnels.
That Hamas is still more concerned with mounting a futile military challenge to Israel – which its charter says must be destroyed – than with the welfare of its own people is part of the delusional character of the Palestinian leadership as a whole. But at least the territories controlled by the Palestinian Authority have enough to eat.
According to the Israeli NGO Gisha – The Legal Center for Freedom of Movement, more than 70 percent of Gaza’s population depends on humanitarian aid from abroad. On the eve of 2014’s Operation Protection Edge, 57% of the population suffered from food insecurity. The unemployment rate was 38.4% in the fourth quarter of 2015 (compared to 18.7% in 2000).
According to January 2016 data from Shelter Cluster, more than 100,000 Gazan housing units were damaged during the 2014 fighting. Some 11,000 of them were totally destroyed – of which 326 housing units were rebuilt. Of some 6,800 housing units that were severely damaged, 1,844 were repaired. In other words, Hamas has left 10,674 families homeless while using scarce construction materials to build attack tunnels.
Israel’s growing expertise at destroying Hamas attack tunnels follows Egypt’s determined effort to destroy hundreds of the terrorists’ arms- and-goods-smuggling tunnels. According to the CIA, Egypt’s ongoing crackdown on Hamas’s smuggling network has led to increasing shortages of fuel, building material, and consumer goods.
Maj.-Gen. (res) Yom Tov Samia, a former OC Southern Command, last week proposed that Israel permit the Palestinian Authority to operate a cargo terminal at Ashdod Port, where ships could unload goods bound for the nearby Gaza Strip. It is noteworthy that the proposal is for the Fatah-ruled PA, which would thereby gain a foothold in Gaza, misruled by its bitter Islamist rival Hamas.
Samia’s plan followed the announcement by Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon that half of some 800 trucks transporting goods to Gaza each day will be rerouted from the Kerem Shalom crossing in the Strip’s south to the Erez crossing that enters its north. Israel had halted commercial traffic through Erez in 2000 after the second intifada erupted, permitting only passenger transit.
“This would be part of an overall plan, a comprehensive Israeli initiative,” Samia told a radio interview. “We need to do something,” he said. “We can’t just sit there and do nothing.”
Syria was a state that disappeared into chaos; Gaza is a would-be Palestinian state that has yet to emerge from chaos.