The Israel-Hamas Conflict Is a War Like No Other

Hamas learned from Hezbollah to use a whole civilian population as a human shield. In Gaza, only the disarming of Hamas is the answer.

Moshe Arens
Moshe Arens
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A Palestinian man pushes his bicycle amidst debris following an Israeli military strike in Gaza city, on July 23, 2014.
A Palestinian man pushes his bicycle amidst debris following an Israeli military strike in Gaza city, on July 23, 2014.Credit: AFP
Moshe Arens
Moshe Arens

The fighting between Hamas and Israel is a war — a war between a terrorist organization and the State of Israel. The terrorists are attacking Israeli civilians and Israel is doing its level best to defend them. The civilian casualty toll in Gaza is high and rising. The civilian casualty toll in Israel is still low.

The reason for this disproportionality, lamented by some, is obvious to all. The terrorists in Gaza have put their missile launchers, tunnel entrances and command-and-control centers among the civilian population. There is no way to hit them without causing civilian casualties.

That is their diabolical plan. Israel is protecting its civilians from rocket attacks by activating Iron Dome interception batteries deployed around the country. It could restore “proportion” to the “disproportional” casualty toll by shutting down Iron Dome and letting the Hamas rockets launched from Gaza fall on Israel’s cities. None of Israel’s critics have yet had the temerity to suggest that.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry was overheard criticizing Israel, sarcastically mentioning a “hell of a pinpoint operation.” Can he tell Israel how to pinpoint the terrorists embedded among civilians in homes, mosques and hospitals better than the Israel Defense Forces’ constant efforts to minimize civilian casualties? He might have done better to call on Hamas to declare Gaza’s population centers open areas free of Hamas military activity — and therefore immune to attacks by the IDF.

The role Gaza civilians are being forced to play by Hamas in this war is unique in the annals of warfare. Civilians have always suffered in times of war, but they have never been used deliberately as a shield for armed forces. The military has never before hid behind women and children and chalked up public relations points every time a civilian was killed.

This is Hamas’ contribution to the art of war. Those who could have called the world’s attention to the danger that Hamas is exposing the Palestinian in Gaza to, UNRWA officials there, preferred to keep their mouths shut.

Actually, the patent for this diabolical tactical idea belongs to another terrorist organization, Hezbollah. It used it in the Second Lebanon War, placing its rocket batteries aimed at Israel in Shi’ite villages throughout southern Lebanon. Here the application of these tactics was of necessity limited to the Shi’ite villages controlled by Hezbollah. The rockets were not welcome in Lebanon’s Sunni, Druze and Christian villages.

But in Gaza, Hamas and its terrorist ally, Islamic Jihad, have complete control over the entire population. Everyone is at their mercy; the terrorists have turned everyone into a target.

What is clear to many, not only in Israel, is that Hamas with its arsenal in Gaza is a ticking time bomb threatening the stability of the entire region. Until the group is disarmed, this bomb can go off at any moment with unforeseeable consequences. This is the reason for the support Israel has received in many quarters, even from some who are not traditional friends of Israel. But they expect Israel to take on the unpleasant job of disarming Hamas in Gaza.

Some believe that even if this task is not accomplished, the punishment meted out to Hamas so far will deter it from resuming terrorist attacks at a time of its own choosing. These people are only deluding themselves — just as they deluded themselves after operations Cast Lead and Pillar of Defense into thinking that the IDF’s actions had convinced Hamas to desist from attacking Israel for an extended period of time.

Quite the contrary was the case. What Hamas advertised as victories over Israel only served as encouragement for the next round to be initiated with a bigger and better arsenal of terror weapons. If Operation Protective Edge is suspended before Hamas is disarmed, the next and even bigger Hamas terrorist offensive will not be long in coming.

The very idea of deterring terrorists is a delusion — unless the international community, realizing the danger that Hamas poses to the entire region, including the Gaza Palestinians, is prepared to launch an effort to demilitarize the Gaza Strip. The greater the success of the IDF’s current operation, the higher the probability that such an effort will be made and will succeed.

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