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Blame Hamas for this terrible war

Blame Hamas for this terrible war

Author: Kanchan Gupta
Publication: The Pioneer
Date: January 14, 2009
URL: http://www.dailypioneer.com/149834/Blame-Hamas-for-this-terrible-war.html

Here's the latest news from Gaza, as monitored from wire services: Israeli Defence Forces on Tuesday pushed deeper into Gaza City, overcoming resistance from Hamas fighters, and by nightfall were a short distance from the heavily crowded city centre. As on the other days of the armed campaign launched by Israel on December 27 to destroy the terror apparatus of Harkat al-Muqawamat al-Islamiyyah, better known as Hamas, several buildings were destroyed, Palestinians were rendered homeless and many lives were lost on Tuesday. An Associated Press report, filed from Gaza, evocatively described how the intense fighting on the streets and the shelling sent "terrified residents running for cover". According to hospital officials, "more than 900 Palestinians, half of them civilians, have been killed" in the 18-day-old war. That's a huge death toll, given the fact Gaza is only a strip of land, less than a dot on the disputed map of West Asia.

It is no doubt distressing to watch television footage and photographs of dead Palestinians half-buried in the rubble of what were their homes. But it is equally distressing to watch Israelis cowering in bomb shelters in Sderot and Ashkelon as Kassam rockets are fired by defiant Hamas jihadis from Gaza, undeterred by the collective punishment that is being meted out to Palestinians. Before we accuse the Israelis of indulging in wanton killings, as is the fashion of the moment, we should pause and consider some harsh truths.

It is by now clear that true to the tradition of Islamist jihad, Hamas fighters have been callously using Palestinian women and children as human shields. For instance, a senior Hamas commander, Nizar Rayan, rather than come out of his home and boldly confront the Israeli soldiers in the streets of Gaza, locked himself in his bedroom with his four wives and 12 children. In the event, he was killed along with his wives and 10 children. There is also incontrovertible evidence to prove that Hamas gunmen have taken shelter in UN-run schools from where they have been firing at Israeli soldiers, daring them to shell the compounds teeming with refugees.

The civilian casualties would not have been so high had Hamas been less cynical and half as brave as jihadis claim to be. Surely Israel cannot be blamed for Hamas's cowardly deed of using civilians, especially children, as human shields to protect their own miserable lives. That apart, this is a war which Hamas has invited upon itself; so long as it did not force an end to the six-month ceasefire negotiated by Egypt and which came into effect on June 19, 2008, Israel did not respond despite repeated provocations by way of a daily barrage of Kassam rockets fired at Israeli towns like Sderot and Ashkelon.

Even at this stage, when Hamas's terror infrastructure has been crippled and Arab countries have refused to up the ante against Israel as they do not wish to be seen as supporting an organisation of Islamic fanatics who have caused immeasurable damage to the two-state solution to the Israel-Palestine issue and virtually undone the tremendous progress that had been made since the Annapolis peace conference of November 2007, Mr Ismail Haniya and his cohorts refuse to agree to a UN-brokered ceasefire. Given the belligerence of Hamas's shadowy Damascus-based supreme leader, Mr Khaled Mashal, it would be unrealistic to expect Israel to pull back and pull out of Gaza.

Hizbullah's intransigence and unrestricted growth have shown that UN Security Council resolutions are not worth the paper they are printed on for those who refuse to be reconciled to the existence of Israel. The Charter which guides the terrorists of Hamas remains unamended and calls for the total destruction of the Jewish state. And so shall it remain till such time Hamas ceases to exist. Mr Mashal has made this point more than once, asserting, "Anyone who thinks Hamas will change is wrong."

It is, therefore, not surprising that Hamas should have rejected the January 8 UN Security Council resolution calling for an "immediate, durable, fully respected ceasefire in Gaza leading to full withdrawal of Israeli forces". Nor does it make sense to berate Israel for ignoring the Security Council's pious words since that would amount to conceding Hamas the right to behave in any manner it pleases without fear of retribution, collective or otherwise.

This has, however, not prevented UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon from embarking upon a peace-making tour of West Asia (he is scheduled to be in Israel on Thursday) to tell both Hamas and Israel that the Security Council resolution should be "respected fully". Mr Ban Ki-Moon, faced with the first serious crisis after he assumed office, would do well to go through Hamas's record of violating every possible agreement and breaking all promises it has made to Arab Governments, especially the Government of Egypt, to which it owes an enormous debt of gratitude but has not hesitated to let down repeatedly. The elaborate network of tunnels that has been set up by Hamas and its collaborators in Syria to smuggle Iranian arms and explosives from Sinai into Gaza has left President Hosni Mubarak of Egypt looking increasingly less in command. Yet, had it not been for Mr Mubarak's restraining hand, Israel would have snuffed out Sheikh Ahmed Yassin's dreams along with the paraplegic mullah in March 2004.

It is anybody's guess as to how the war against Hamas - it is not a war against Palestinians just as the war against terror is not a war against Muslims - will play out in the coming days. If Egypt is able to convince Israel of its ability to tame Hamas and put an end to the smuggling of arms and explosives from Sinai into Gaza, and Saudi Arabia underwrites the next hudna, then Mr Ban Ki-Moon may well succeed in his mission. But it will at best be a temporary pause in hostilities as Hamas has repeatedly demonstrated its ability, thanks to Iran's patronage, to recover from severe military and political setbacks. For anything more permanent, the Palestinians must come to a decision on the future of the state they crave for but are unable to hold together.

There are three possibilities now that Annapolis is history. Jordan can resume charge of West Bank and Egypt can look after Gaza, thus effectively converting the two-state solution to a three-'state' arrangement with Palestine as a moth-eaten entity. Second, Palestinians can restore the supremacy of Fatah and let Abu Mazen arrive at an honourable final settlement with Israel, thus breaking free of their cursed past. Third, Palestinians can condemn themselves to a never-ending war which will fetch them nothing but death and destruction. At the end of the day, it is their choice, not Israel's.

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