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On Our Terms

Israel’s Security Cabinet met for several hours in the evening of July 31 to discuss, among other things, a proposed 72-hour humanitarian ceasefire that had been jointly presented by the US and the UN. Hamas had accepted the ceasefire, which was to go into effect at 8:00 a.m. the following morning; Israel followed suit and also agreed. The agreement called for a complete halt to hostilities, but IDF forces could remain in Gaza and continue demolishing the Hamas attack tunnels. The UN was to monitor the Israeli troop lines to ensure there was no advance during the period of the ceasefire.

However, less than 90 minutes into the ceasefire Hamas gunmen sprang from a tunnel entrance behind Israeli soldiers and attacked them, killing two IDF soldiers and wounding another, Second-Lieutenant Hadar Goldin. Two gunmen, still firing machine guns, dragged Goldin down into the tunnel shaft. Other Israeli soldiers rushed to help Goldin and, disobeying explicit IDF commands, entered the tunnel shaft and chased after the gunmen for several hundred meters (yards), but were unable to locate Goldin.

Israel was outraged by yet another Hamas violation of an humanitarian ceasefire, which this time included the abduction of a soldier. Israel abandoned all restraints and heavily bombarded the area around the region of the attack; the order given was, “If it moves, shoot.” It was a desperate attempt to prevent the abducted soldier from being moved to another area. Over 100 Palestinians were killed in the intense Israeli air, land, and sea bombardment. It was yet another 100 Palestinian lives tossed away by Hamas who will fight to the last drop of blood, Palestinian civilian blood that is.

The ceasefire fell apart completely and both Israel and Hamas intensified its fighting. It was the seventh ceasefire in a row that Hamas had flouted; both the US administration and the UN laid the blame for the breakdown of the truce squarely on Hamas. The attack upon the Israeli soldiers came from under a house near the border town of Rafah. Hamas’s account of the attack had several versions: One Hamas leader was quoted claiming responsibility for the soldier’s capture, then backtracked. Other senior Hamas commanders contended that the attack took place at 7 a.m., before the ceasefire came into force even though Palestinian media reporting the fighting near Rafah began three hours later. One said that the Hamas gunmen had acted only to counter “Zionist incursions.”

As it turned out, on Sunday, August 3, the IDF announced that Sec.-Lt. Hadar Goldin was dead and that a burial service was to be held for him. Goldin’s death was confirmed by DNA testing of human remains recovered in a destroyed Hamas attack tunnel. Apparently, the incredibly fierce bombardment launched by Israel following Goldin’s abduction killed both Goldin and his abductors. Israel was saddened by the confirmed death of Goldin, but was, at the same time relieved: he was not in the hands of Hamas terrorists, which would have been a fate even worse than death.

Hamas itself called for a ceasefire and presented a list of demands in Cairo that it said had to be met if there was to be calm. If there was to be a ceasefire it would have to be “on our terms.” The demands were:

1) Immediate IDF withdrawal from the Gaza Strip

2) Lifting of the blockade and opening of the border crossings

3) Extension of the fishing zone to 12 nautical miles

4) Lifting of the civilian no-go zone near the Gaza border fence

5) Creation of airport and seaport

6) Rehabilitation of the Gaza Strip through international donors

7) Release of the fourth batch of 32 prisoners from the failed talks between Israel and the PA in June when Abu Mazen’s Palestinian Authority (PA) joined forces with the Hamas terror organization and created the “Unity Government.”

8) Release of the prisoners set free in the Gilad Schalit deal and rearrested during Operation Brother’s Keeper in the aftermath of the kidnapping and murder of the three Israeli teenagers, and the release of Palestinian legislators.

Israeli officials dismissed this list of demands as “completely unrealistic.” Israel informed Egypt that it would not be sending a delegation to Cairo to discuss a ceasefire because Hamas had broken all ceasefires thus far, therefore negotiating another truce was simply a waste of time. Israel had made it clear time and time again that if Hamas stopped launching rockets into Israeli population centers then, and only then, would it cease firing. Israel’s Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu also made it clear that there would be no withdrawal of Israeli troops from Gaza until all terror tunnels had been completely destroyed; however, on August 4 senior IDF officers indicated that almost all known tunnels had been destroyed. Israel’s defense minister Moshe Ya’alon stressed that the campaign had not yet ended, but said it had “set Hamas back five years.”

Hamas demands for the blockade of Gaza to be lifted and border crossings into Egypt and Israel opened are ludicrous demands as far as Israel is concerned. If Hamas could amass around 10,000 short, medium, and long-range rockets as well as thousands of mortars while its land and sea borders were blockaded by Israel and Egypt in an attempt to prevent weapons and explosives entering Gaza, what can justifiably be expected if Gaza’s borders were thrown open? The answer is obviously wholesale importation of weapons and explosives. Israeli leaders would have to be collectively insane to allow Gaza’s borders to be opened while the Strip is still governed by Hamas. Only the demilitarization of Hamas, Islamic Jihad, et al, and reverting Gaza’s government back to the PA could allow for such a thing.

The above argument is also valid for not allowing Gaza to establish an airport and a seaport. Planeloads of weapons would arrive at such an airport and ships would arrive heavily laden with weapons at a seaport. Even in the current restricted fishing zone Gaza fishermen are involved in the bringing in of weapons and explosives; allowing their boats to go further from Gaza shores will only compound the problem. And releasing hundreds of Hamas operatives, along with previously convicted murderers of Israeli men, women, and children, will do nothing to foster peace between Israel and the Palestinians. It is a documented fact that 68 percent of Palestinian prisoners released by Israel quickly return to terror activities. The no-go zone along the border with Gaza is to prevent Hamas from planting IEDs (Improvised Explosive Devices) along the border fence or penetrating the fence itself to carry out terror attacks in Israel.

Hamas demands that Gaza be rehabilitated by international donors, but the rehabilitation of Gaza must be linked to its demilitarization. Hamas spent 40 percent of its entire budget to build its terror tunnels and the manufacture of rockets to fire at Israeli civilian communities; donor countries did in fact fund the building of the underground terror city and the development of rockets. The international community needs to take a break from its vilifying of Israel over the damage and loss of life in Gaza and share responsibility for the rehabilitation of Gaza along with the demilitarizing of its terror organizations. Tut-tutting is not going to prevent further loss of Palestinian life in the future; only active boots-on-the-ground involvement can do that.

On August 2 the Al-Hayat newspaper reported that the European Union presented to Egypt a number of suggestions for lifting the blockade of the Gaza Strip. The EU reportedly suggested reopening the six crossings to and from the Gaza Strip to allow movement of people and goods. It also suggested that the Rafah crossing between Gaza and Egypt be manned by EU observers.

As it has been shown above, the opening of the border crossings is a non-starter for Israel while Hamas remains the governing power in Gaza; it is only jelly-brained talking heads that do not understand this reality. Under current conditions, such suggestions from the EU only proves its bankruptcy of sound ideas in the diplomatic arena in which it remains a dwarf. And the last time EU observers manned the Rafah crossing between Gaza and Egypt the observers ran from before Hamas like terrified children before a mythical dragon; they ran to the safety of an IDF base. They never returned to the Rafah crossing.

Israel is not about to place the safety of its nation and its people in the hands of the EU, the UN, or the US. The international community can step up to the plate and work alongside Israel to help bring peace and stability to this most volatile of regions, or it can sit back and do nothing but vilify Israel as has been its want for several decades.

Currently there is a new 72-hour ceasefire brokered by Egypt, whether it holds or not is up to Hamas; no other ceasefire made it past the first hour or so without rockets being fired from Gaza into Israel. The ceasefire agreement is unconditional; Israel only agreed to it because it believes its tunnel destruction is complete and has now pulled all its troops out of Gaza, but should rocket fire begin again the IAF will make further punishing strikes against Hamas targets.

The IDF believes it has destroyed all the terror attack tunnels that run underneath the Gaza-Israel border. This writer does not believe for one minute that the IDF has destroyed all the tunnels, but he has no wish to be proven correct by an infiltration of Hamas gunmen. He hopes and prays that Israel will quickly develop the technology by which tunnels can be detected even if they are constructed to a depth of a 10-story building below ground level as has been actual reality in Gaza.

If you have enjoyed reading these postings by Ramon Bennett and would like to read more of his writings, you can subscribe to Arm of Salvation’s “Update,” which is a regular newsletter covering events around the world that affect the nation of Israel. To subscribe, click on the tab marked “Newsletter” on this site. It is available in either digital or printed form.

            Arm of Salvation would welcome readers’ comments and also donations toward covering the costs of maintaining this Shekinah website and as an appreciation of the time and effort Ramon invests in producing the postings.

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