There continues to be a total impasse with the Gaza Strip and the Israelis. The Gaza Strip is an area about two times the size of Washington D. C. where 1.7 million people live. Israel pulled out of the Gaza Strip in 2006. However, Palestinians elected Hamas, an offshoot of the Muslim brotherhood, whose charter calls for the destruction of Israel. There was to have been an official 72 hour cease fire, but it only held for two hours.
When Hamas fired 150 missiles into Israel within 24 hours, Israel knew something had to be done. In just the last month Hamas has launched 3,073 rockets. Israel’s ground troops have as their objective the destruction of a vast network of tunnels where Hamas hides weapons, handcuffs, and other devices to kidnap Israeli civilians, what Netanyahu calls “death from above and death from below.”
After 26 days of fighting, there are 1,650 Palestinian deaths and 63 Israeli soldiers dead and three civilians killed. More than 8,000 Palestinians have been injured and now the power systems in Gaza are out which also affects their water supplies, since they need electricity for the water pumps.
Israel blames Hamas for hiding rockets and launchers in civilian areas and UN inspectors concur. The Shijaiyah neighborhood, northeast of Gaza City, has been a primary launch site for Hamas’ missiles. Israel dropped leaflets telling residents to leave the areas they planned on attacking. They made calls and sent texts to be sure everyone could clear out. Hamas countered on radio and TV instructing civilians to ignore Israeli warnings, saying it was merely psychological warfare.
The Palestinians do not feel free to criticize Hamas. Mr. Abusada, a Gaza political scientist, explains that any Palestinian who speaks out against Hamas will be marked as an Israeli collaborator. However, in reality, they say they do not have a lot of places to go. The strip is surrounded by concrete walls and fences along the north and east boundaries with Israel and the southern boundary with Egypt. On the west is the Mediterranean Sea. Of course, the reason there are concrete walls are to keep rabid terrorists out of their respective countries.
Israel has already uncovered numerous tunnels and found more than 70 side shafts. The promised cease fire only held two hours when Hamas soldiers burst from a tunnel to kill two Israeli soldiers and kidnap another. He has now been confirmed dead. The concrete tunnels take about a year to build and cost $2 million each. These expenditures are made when Palestinian unemployment stands at over 40 percent. Hamas blames Israel, saying the problem is a result of the Israeli-Egyptian economic blockade. Gaza has received huge amounts of money from countries around the world, but has used it to make missiles, construct tunnels, and train terrorists. The Gaza Strip impasse continues.
The UN Security Council called for an immediate and unconditional humanitarian cease-fire. The statement was drafted by Jordan. However, as a statement and not a resolution, it is not legally binding. Hamas says they won’t accept anything less than ending the blockade and releasing Palestinians captured in the West Bank. Netanyahu has said Israeli troops will not leave Gaza until the tunnel network is destroyed. Egypt has demolished virtually all the tunnels from Gaza leading into their country. Only ground troops can destroy tunnels and Hamas has constructed them under hospitals, mosques, homes, and even schools.
Solutions to this Gaza Strip impasse continues to be hard to come by. Israel is about the size of New Jersey, around 10,800 square miles, while Arab nations have approximately 5,368,000 square miles. However, no country has offered to welcome these beleaguered people. Middle Eastern countries are divided. Egypt, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates are a more pro-western group and are not amiss to crushing the Muslim brotherhood. Qatar, Turkey, Sudan, and the non-Arab part of Iran hold that Islam represents the future of Middle East politics.
It is difficult to see the pictures of suffering people in the Gaza Strip. However, as one astute observer pointed out, “Israel is using missiles to protect its citizens while Hamas is using its citizens to protect their missiles.” Hamas’ motto calls for the destruction of Israel and the murder of the Jews. They have vowed no recognition (of Israel as a state), no peace, and no negotiations. It sounds like the continuing impasse in the Gaza Strip needs the Prince of Peace.
Opinion By Laurie Stilwell