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"EYELESS IN GAZA" - ISRAEL LOOKS FOR NEW SOLUTIONS

IDF troops near the Gaza Strip

For 12 weeks, thousands of Gaza's men, women, and children have been trying to break through the border fence into Israel. Israeli soldiers have stood in the breech with marksmen opening fire at the leaders and Hamas terrorists who are leading their charge. Over 130 Palestinians have been killed and thousands more wounded (including a female medic that was also filmed throwing firebombs into Israel). The Palestinians have been burning tires that create huge clouds of black smoke that pour into Israel. Using this for cover, Hamas terrorists among the civilians try to get as close to the border as possible to open fire at the Israelis.

It is fair to say that the force and determination of the Palestinian violence first took the IDF by surprise. This resulted in over 60 Palestinians being killed on one day. The troops were ordered that on no account would the Palestinians be allowed to cross the border and symbolically mark what they call "the march of return". At present they have succeeded in torching thousands of acres of Israeli farmland by sending incendiary kites and balloons over the border.

What has caused this sudden eruption?

Both senior IDF officers and the Shabak secret service agree it is the intolerable living standards. Unemployment in Gaza is running a some-50%, and even those lucky enough to get a job earn a paltry wage. There's electricity for only a couple of hours daily, and only running water every four days. Medical supplies and food are also scarce. This is also the result of Hamas terrorism against Israel. Compare this to those Palestinians on the West Bank who lead relatively prosperous lives because there is little terrorism from there, and thousands of them come daily to good-paying jobs inside Israel.

Moreover, the elected Hamas government in Gaza has invested a sizeable chunk of its foreign aid into digging terror tunnels under the Israeli border. Time after time the IDF has detected and demolished them. And now, a new twist - stymied on land, Hamas has tried to build a tunnel under the Mediterranean with the idea of attacking Israel from the sea. This tunnel has now be detonated by the IDF. So, thwarted at every turn and facing a disastrous humanitarian situation, Hamas leader Yehiya Sanwar, in cahoots with Iran, hit on the idea of simply sending tens of thousands of Gaza's children, women, and men to try and breach the Israeli border. This would force the IDF to halt them. It's a satanic strategy that first surprised the IDF by its intensity. Moreover, Israel is still searching for a solution to the incendiary kites and balloons.

Israelis, if anything, are not stupid and realize that Hamas has maneuvered the IDF into a PR crisis. In order to reduce Palestinian civilian casualties, a "senior" IDF officer has been stationed along every IDF sniper. This officer must give his permission to open fire on a visible terrorist or a Hamas ringleader who is organizing the firebombs. This has drastically reduced the Palestinian casualties.

The question is asked, why the IDF still has not found less lethal tactics for intercepting the airborne firebombs or stopping Palestinians trying to breach the border fence?

  • Tear gas is the first obvious solution. However, the problem is that there is a prevailing west wind, so when the IDF fires tear gas canisters at the approaching Palestinians, these winds quickly blow the tear gas back at the Israelis. 
  • The IDF marksmen have also been ordered not to shoot to kill unless their own lives are in immediate danger. For example, if disguised and armed terrorists suddenly appear. Otherwise, they are ordered to shoot at the legs and not at the torso or head of potential terrorists. 
  • Non-lethal rubber bullets: these bullets have a very limited range and are not effective for riot control when thousands of people must be deterred. 

Israeli security officials have warned previously that the terrible humanitarian conditions in Gaza could spark an outbreak of rioting that would be directed against Israel. By the way, Egypt also controls the border with Gaza, but there is no love lost between Gaza and Cairo. However, for some reason, it is always Israel and not Egypt that takes the rap for the tough times in Gaza. In fact, Cairo has just cut its very small supply of electricity to Gaza, possibly due to Hamas ties with Islamic State fighters who are attacking Egyptian forces in Sinai.

Bodies of IDF soldioers Oron Shaul & Hadar Goldin are stilling being held ransom by Hamas in Gaza.

In any case, the Israeli government appears to have realized that Gaza has to be dealt with. PM Netanyahu has just convened a special session of the Security Cabinet to consider what, if anything, Israel should do to improve living conditions in Gaza, whose government has declared war on the Jewish state. No decisions were taken, but several ministers tabled several ideas. They included setting up a joint Israeli-Gazan industrial zone that provides jobs for Gaza's workers. However, it is unlikely that Israel will again allow Gazans to work in Israel as a result of the terrorism. Another proposal is to build an Israeli desalinization plant to ease the water shortage and to upgrade the electricity supply, which also comes from Israel. The most ambitious idea is to build an artificial offshore island for bringing in cargos while blocking the smuggling into Gaza of more weapons and rockets. Obviously, the security officials, who are pushing for Israeli steps to improve living conditions in Gaza, realized that the current hardships would eventually spill over to violence against Israel; although, their own Hamas government is to blame. IDF Chief of Staff Gadi Izenkut has set one precondition - Hamas must first return the bodies of two dead Israeli soldiers as well as releasing two Israeli civilians. But for his part, Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman contends that it doesn't matter how much Israel will help Gaza, Hamas will continue its terrorism against Israel, particularly after its making-up with Iran. As for PM Bibi Netanyahu, he did not make his position clear. The Security Cabinet's discussion is to be continued.



Political Analyst David Essing

 

 

David Essing

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