Terror in Gaza: Eight months since the Hamas takeover
June 15, 2007 - February 14, 2008
Ministry of Foreign Affairs
14 February 2008
On 20 January 2008, Hamas exploited Israel's precautionary closing of the border crossings for two days (due to Hamas rocket fire) to create an impression of a humanitarian crisis in the Gaza Strip. Timing a power blackout (they threw the switch themselves) to coincide with the evening news, they distributed thousands of candles to Gaza citizens to create an impressive photo-op with children sitting in the dark, huddled around candles. The ploy was successful, and the global media sent the pictures around the world - with headlines blaming Israel, of course.
Following a massive Hamas rocket attack on Israel, Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak announced, on 17 January, that the crossings between Israel and the Gaza Strip would be temporarily closed and that no merchandise or fuel would enter. On January 20 most of the crossings were closed: the Karni Crossing (used for the passage of merchandise), the Nahal Oz Crossing (used for the transfer of fuel) and the Sufa and Kerem Shalom Crossings. The Erez Crossing remained open for cases of humanitarian aid.
The border closing was the direct result of the rockets launched by the Hamas itself - more than 150 rockets landed in four days in Sderot and other western Negev towns and villages. The crossings were closed on January 20; already on January 22, they were partially opened, with limited amounts of supplies (such as diesel and cooking fuel, milk, flour and drugs) being allowed through.
Israel delivered enough diesel fuel - 2.2 million liters - to run the Gaza power plant at the usual 60 megawatts for a week. Israel and Egypt provide Gaza with another 140 megawatts from their own grids.
"Even without the new fuel supply they have enough electricity for more than half of Gaza, since Israel regularly supplies [the region] with 70 percent of its electricity needs," said a senior defense official. Israel is not providing gasoline for cars, however, since gasoline stores were diverted by Hamas for use in its rocket launching apparatus.
"We will not allow a humanitarian crisis," Prime Minister Ehud Olmert stated Monday night (January 21), "but we have no intention of making their lives easier. As far as I'm concerned, the residents of Gaza can walk, and they will not get gasoline because they have a murderous, terrorist regime that does not allow the residents of southern Israel to live in peace."
Another event orchestrated by Hamas with impeccable timing was the collapse of the fence on the Egypt-Gaza border. The breaching of the fence seemed to be a spontaneous reaction to the pressure created inside Gaza by Israel's closing the border crossings. In fact, as border guard Lt. Abu Usama of the Palestinian National Security told the Times of London (24 January), work on demolishing the wall that runs along the Philadelphi Corridor between Gaza and Egypt has been going on for months - long before Israel placed a blockade on Gaza. He said that Popular Resistance Committee men have been using oxy-acetylene torches for months to slice through the heavy metal wall, enabling it to be completely toppled by the dozens of bomb blasts set off overnight (22-23 January) by Hamas explosives experts.
As soon as the fence was breached, hundreds of thousands of Gazans streamed into Egypt. "Rafah became a huge Middle Eastern bazaar," as James Hider of The TimesOnline (Jan.24, 2008) described it. "Thousands of people were herding back cows, sheep and even camels from Egypt into the Gaza strip. Some staggered back into Gaza carrying televisions, and others sported brand-new mobile phones."
One of Hamas's goals in breaching the fence is to force the Rafah crossing (which is controlled by Egypt) to be opened and to create a new arrangement for control of the border, effectively canceling the Agreed Principles for Rafah Crossing November 15, 2005 achieved by Israeli and Palestinian negotiators after Israel withdrew from Gaza in August 2005. A breached border fence and the possibility of a reopened Rafah Crossing under Hamas control would enable the terrorist organizations to keep up a steady stream of advanced weapons and Iranian-trained operatives into the Gaza Strip, including global jihad terrorists, who have easy access to weapons and supporters in the Sinai Peninsula (Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center, IICC, 29 January 2008).
Israeli Public Security Minister Avi Dichter ordered police to step up operations in the vicinity of the Israel-Egypt border. In the wake of the massive southward migration of PA residents into the Sinai, he expressed concern that terrorists could try to infiltrate into Israel from the Sinai to carry out attacks against Israeli civilians and cities. While Gaza is bounded on the Israeli side by a relatively secure perimeter barrier, the border between Egypt and Israel is much more open. Security officials estimate that hundreds of people, most of them African refugees, smugglers and migrant workers, manage to cross the border illegally every month.
Summary of events emanating from the Gaza Strip since June 2007
I. Rocket and mortar fire at targets in Israel
June 15, 2007-January 31, 2008: 716 rockets and 767 mortar bombs see:
II. Terrorist Attacks and Israeli Counter-Terrorist Operations see:
III. Hamas' offensive strategy and its military buildup
The former Hamas foreign minister, Mahmoud a-Zahar, explaining why Hamas in the past two years has favored rocket attacks over suicide bombings, told the Sunday Telegraph's correspondent (21 August 2007), "Which do you think is more effective, martyrdom operations or rockets against Sderot? Rockets against Sderot will cause mass migration, greatly disrupt daily lives and government administration and can make a much huger impact on the government. We are using the methods that convince the Israelis that their occupation is costing them too much. We are succeeding with the rockets. We have no losses and the impact on the Israeli side is so much."
Moshe Kaplinsky, Deputy Chief of Staff, told the New York Times (28 August 2007) that Hamas was building a force similar to that of Hezbollah in south Lebanon. He said that several hundred Hamas terrorist operatives had been sent abroad for military training, most of them to Iran.
Israel Security Agency chief Yuval Diskin told the government (February 3, 2008) that, during the past few days, large quantities of weapons had been smuggled into the Gaza Strip through the open fence along the Philadelphi route. He said that "no exact quantities can be indicated. Apparently standard weapons were smuggled in, including long-range rockets, anti-tank and anti-aircraft missiles." Also, according to Diskin, many terrorist operatives have returned from training in Iran, Syria and Egypt and are now in the Gaza Strip.
Hamas taxes the estimated 150 smuggling tunnels leading from Egypt into the Gaza Strip, charging the owners $3000 each a day. The tunnels bring in a total of $150 million annually, while the value of men, weapons and other merchandise smuggled in each year total close to a half-billion dollars. Five tunnels were blown up when their owners refused to pay the fee; the others quickly paid up, giving Hamas a monopoly on the tunnels.
The tunnels are run in a systematic manner and categorized according to the goods that pass through them - weapons, cash, Hamas military commanders who seek to return to Gaza, food, medicine, computer equipment, and dangerous drugs.
In a report for the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs (vol. 7 no. 25, 19 December 2007), former IDF Southern Command chief Maj.Gen. (res.)Yom Tov Samia stated, "The Palestinians have brought into Gaza more than 30,000 rifles during the past two years, more than six million rounds of ammunition, more than 230 tons of explosives, and scores of anti-tank and anti-aircraft missiles."
IV. Statistical Data: Monthly distribution of identified rocket hits over the past year Monthly distribution of identified mortar bomb hits see:
V. Hamas behavior towards their brethren in Gaza On November 12, at a rally commemorating the third anniversary of Yasser Arafat's death attended by at least 250,000 people, Hamas security forces opened fire on the crowd. Seven Palestinians were killed and 150 wounded, some critically. Afterwards, Hamas police carried out a wave of arrests of Fatah activists throughout the Gaza Strip. The well-organized rally, attended by hundreds of thousands of people, was interpreted as an expression of public protest against the Hamas regime.
VI. Statements by Hamas Leaders
Hamas's continued opposition to negotiations
Hamas spokesmen expressed their views at a mass rally celebrating the 20th anniversary of the movement (December 15, 2007). A recurring theme in the day's speeches was that there are two tracks in the struggle to destroy the Jewish State; but that Hamas's armed attacks are more effective than Fatah's negotiations - as was proven by Israel's retreat from the Gaza Strip. Hamas prime minister Ismail Haniyya stressed, "The option of the resistance and jihad is the shortest way to liberate Palestine, and to restore Jerusalem and Palestinian rights. Not the path of negotiations, not the path of bargaining." Haniyya said that realizing "the right of resistance" would prevent the implementation of the first stage of the Road Map.
Musheir al-Masri , member of the Palestinian Legislative Council: "the Jews have to return to where they came from, we are digging graves for them.We will remain firm until the liberation of Palestine, all Palestine, from the [Mediterranean] sea to the [Jordan] river." (Al-Aqsa TV, December 14).
Khaled Mashal, head of Hamas' "political" bureau in Damascus: Since the movement was founded in 1987, "it restored the honor of the option of resistance" in contrast to those who believed in "the option of an arrangement and negotiations." Hamas created "new models" of heroism, sacrifice and suicide bombings. The lesson Hamas taught Israel and the world was that "the land [of "Palestine"] will only be liberated by the rifle."
Hamas statements about a "hudna" (hiatus)
In the wake of the intensive activity carried out by the Israeli security forces in the Gaza Strip and the media reports of a possible extensive IDF incursion into the Strip to stop the rocket fire on Israel, Hamas talked about implementing a potential hiatus (hudna) in the fighting. However, the statements are not uniform, which may indicate differences of opinion.
Prime Minister Ismail Haniyya told a reporter for Israel TV's Channel 2, "we have no problem in negotiating with Israel at least about two topics, Kassam rocket fire and targeted killing, to achieve a mutual hudna" (Dec. 18).
However, Ahmed Yussuf, a political advisor in the foreign ministry of Haniyya's government, said it was a question of a short-term lull and not a cease fire (hudna). "Resistance [i.e., terrorism] will remain an option. As long as the Occupation exists, the resistance will exist" (al-Jazeera TV website, Dec. 24). An important figure in the PIJ (the organization responsible for most of the rocket attacks), Khaled al-Batash, said, "no one can impose a lull on the PIJ because it is a resistance movement"
(Nidaa al-Quds website, Dec. 23). Other statements by Hamas and related
After the Hamas-perpetrated suicide bombing in Dimona (4 February), in which an Israeli woman was killed and ten civilians were wounded, senior Hamas official in the Gaza Strip Osama al-Muzeina said that if it seemed as though there were fewer suicide bombing attacks, Dimona proved that it was an illusion. Asked whether there would be more suicide attacks, he answered "all possibilities are open" (Filastin al-An website, 6 February). Another senior Hamas official, Yahya Musa, said that more attacks would follow the one in Dimona and that a new terrorist campaign (intifada) would break out (Al-Aqsa TV, 6 February).
Following the breaching and resealing of the border fence between Egypt and the Gaza Strip, Hamas threatened that, if the border with Egypt were hermetically sealed, this time its operatives would "blow up the entire border fence and not just parts of it" (Agence France Presse, February 1, 2008). Abu Ubeida, a spokesman for Hamas and the Iz a-Din al-Qassam Brigades, stated, "No international conference will be able to tie our hands or prevent us from fulfilling our obligations in resisting and attacking the oppressive occupying enemy" (Hamas/ Iz a-Din al-Qassam website, 14 October). An editorial in the Hamas newspaper Felesteen on 29 September stated: " If the American-Israeli plan is adopted at the Annapolis conference, "the Palestinian people will have no other option but a third intifada. which will be stronger and more violent than the previous one."
Khalid al-Batish, a high-ranking member of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ), declared that his organization will not be bound by anything that may come out of the Annapolis conference and that the PIJ would continue to carry out attacks('resistance'), even if an agreement is reached to establish a Palestinian state in the 1967 borders. In his view, "all of Palestine is occupied and not only the territories captured in 1967" (Al-Quds al-Araby, 3 October).
VII. ISA Summary of terror 2007
In contrast to the impressive decrease in successful terrorist suicide and shooting attacks in Israel, which the IDF attributes to the security fence, quality intelligence and operational freedom of action throughout Judea and Samaria, rocket and mortar attacks continue from the Gaza Strip. In 2007, 1,263 rockets and 1,511 mortar bombs struck Israel, compared to 1,722 rockets and 55 mortar bombs in 2006. Two residents of Sderot were killed in 2007. The ISA estimates that since the Hamas takeover in the middle of June 2007, 80 tons of explosives have been smuggled into the Gaza Strip from the Sinai.
VIII. The crossings between Israel and the Gaza Strip
On 30 January, in its response to an appeal against restricting supplies of electricity and fuel to the Gaza Strip, the Israeli Supreme Court determined that since Israel had disengaged from the Gaza Strip it had no effective control over what occurred there. The judges also determined that Israel had no commitment "to deal with the welfare of the residents of the Gaza Strip or to allow unlimited amounts of goods and merchandise" to pass through, but only vital and humanitarian goods (Israel Supreme Court website, January 30). At present, fuel, gas and humanitarian goods continue to pass through the Sufa and Nahal Oz Crossings, and pedestrians with serious humanitarian needs are permitted to use the Erez crossing.
IMRA - Independent Media Review
and Analysis Website: www.imra.org.il