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Hamas’ Tunnel Network Could Have Been a Game-Changing Strategic Asset for the Terrorists

Jonathan Kay
22nd July 2014 - National Post

A photo posted to Twitter by the Israel Defence Forces on Friday, July 18, 2014 purports to show Hamas tunnels uncovered in Gaza. ISRAEL DEFENCE FORCES/TWITTER

“When Hamas manages, despite everything, to continue launching missiles at Israel and disrupting normal life there … this restores [the Palestinian] feeling of human dignity.”

As Evelyn Gordon notes on the website of Commentary Magazine, this one sentence from a Haaretz news report — describing the view of a former Palestinian Authority official — encapsulates the real reason Israel and Hamas go to war every few years: In schools and in mosques, Palestinians have been taught to measure their national self-worth by the amount of pain, or even mere disruption, they can inflict on Jews. No other self-styled national-liberation movement in the world sets the benchmark for victory so pitifully low.

The stunted nature of Palestinian politics and civic culture can be traced to this phenomenon. Israel left Gaza almost a decade ago. By this time, the territory could have had a thriving seaside tourist industry. Instead, Hamas’ theocrats have poured their scant financial resources into missiles. Their civil infrastructure has been turned into one big launching pad. Even Palestinian artistic culture is a victim of Jew-hatred: The dominant theme of Palestinian music, art and broadcast media is a schlocky, sentimentalized veneration of “martyrs” and jihad.

Had Hamas played its cards right, it could have humiliated Israel in the current confrontation. The group’s greatest prize is a kidnapped Jew: Witness the lopsided 1,027:1 trade that the Israeli government made for captured soldier Gilad Shalit in 2011. And this week, many Gazans celebrated when Hamas claimed (without definitive proof) that they’d managed to kidnap another IDF soldier. For years, Hamas has been producing an elaborate and expensive network of tunnels under the Gaza-Israel border, with kidnapping in mind. Had they used this subterranean infrastructure to send their operatives into Israeli territory at the right moment, in a co-ordinated strike, they might have taken in a rich haul of captives and traumatized Israeli society, perhaps forcing another large-scale prisoner swap.

Instead, Hamas attacked when Israel already was on high alert thanks to the kidnapping and killing of three Jewish hitchhikers in the West bank. And so Israel’s ground forces now are systematically destroying that Hamas tunnel network, as well as whatever missile stocks they can find. Hamas’ ability to attack Israel from underground en masse, years in the making, now has been squandered at a stroke.

As one would expect from any un-uniformed paramilitary infantry corps playing defence in an urban combat theatre full of civilian shields, Hamas has managed to use small arms and RPGs to kill several dozen Israeli soldiers. Predictably, Hamas also has won sympathy in some Western media because of the lopsided overall death toll: When Israel fires back at rocket launchers deployed in homes, mosques and hospitals, civilians and terrorists alike will suffer. Tragically, the list of victims includes many completely innocent women, children and grandparents.

But as Rex Murphy noted in Satruday’s edition of the National Post, fewer and fewer Westerners are getting taken in by Hamas’ exploitation of the Palestinian population as involuntary martyrs. Most informed observers realize that the body count doesn’t tell the whole story. As Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu put it: “Here’s the difference between us: We are using missile defense to protect our civilians, and they’re using their civilians to protect their missiles.”

Here's one of the tunnels that we have uncovered in Gaza. http://t.co/R5RcEESSwf

IDF (@IDFSpokesperson) July 18, 2014

The IDF should continue its military operation until it has destroyed all of Hamas’ tunnels into Israel. When the army eventually leaves, Hamas will declare “victory,” as it always does. And many Palestinians no doubt will echo the cry, given how low they’ve set the bar for gestures that restore their “dignity.”

Until that changes, Gaza’s people will remain prisoners of Hamas’ hopeless, savage war on the Jewish state.

Tags

gaza, hamas, israel