By nature I’m sympathetic to the Palestinians simply because they’re an occupied state. On the other hand, I’m leery of Hamas especially because they launch attacks from civilian areas. Of course, it’s a tactic long employed by guerilla groups. The logic is two-fold:
1. The presence of civilians, aka human shields, will give an enemy, especially one that claims to be reluctant to cause civilian casualties, pause before striking and thus act as a deterrent.
2. Even if it doesn’t deter, civilians killed will turn world sentiment against your enemy.
The first is obviously not working because the IDF (Israel Defense Force) attacks everything from houses where Hamas commanders live with their families to mosques, a center for the disabled, and charities. The IDF may claim to call before attacks, but, clinging to the outdated notion that their presence is a deterrent, some families stay. Meanwhile, the second has been effective in increasing — especially with the mosque attacks — Muslim animosity toward Israel (if that’s possible).
The IDF’s point of view, via Lebanon’s Daily Star:
“Hamas terrorists systematically exploit and choose to put Palestinians in Gaza in harm’s way and continue to locate their positions among civilian areas and mosques, proving once more their disregard for human life and holy sites,” said Lt. Col. Peter Lerner, an Israeli military spokesman.
But the second rationale is not working to the extent that it hasn’t induced the United States to stay Israel’s hand. The tired refrain “We support Israel’s right to defend itself” has lodged itself itself in our minds like a bad top-40 song.
In fact, Gaza may be too densely populated to launch missiles from anywhere but civilian neighborhoods. (Not, of course, that launching missiles is they’re only redress to Israel’s occupation and attacks; arguably, it’s the approach with the least prospect of success.) Furthermore, if the Qassam Brigades (the military wing of Hamas) launched rockets from open areas, its soldiers would be sitting ducks. If its fighters used hit-and-run strikes from mobile platforms, such as pick-up trucks, they could escape before retaliation, but the IDF would still likely attack commanders’ homes.
In any event, it doesn’t bode well for Gazans. From Reuters:
Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri sounded a defiant note, when asked about Yaalon’s remarks. “Our backs are to the wall and we have nothing to lose,” he said. “We are ready to battle until the end.”
Of course, the Associated Press reports, “Some quietly criticize Hamas.”
Abu Ali, a driver for his family business who identified himself only by his first names to avoid Hamas retribution, insisted that at least in his immediate neighborhood, the movement was widely reviled.
Though “they’re too afraid to say so publicly,” he said, “Everybody here hates Hamas.” Presumably, in part, because of the retaliation it invokes, but also because of its lack of effectiveness.
“Our food comes from Israel but what we give them in return is rockets — rockets that don’t even make little holes in the ground.”