Hamas: A New Pretext to Attack Israel
By Khaled Abu Toameh
Originally Published by the Gatestone Institute.
The leaders of Hamas, the Palestinian Islamist group that has been controlling the Gaza Strip since 2007, say they are worried about the shortage of medical ventilators during the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic.
These Hamas leaders, who have done virtually nothing to provide basic healthcare in the Gaza Strip, are now trying to hold Israel responsible for the shortage of ventilators in Palestinian hospitals.
Hamas leaders are, in fact, threatening to use terrorism to force Israel to provide the Gaza Strip with ventilators.
These are the same leaders who until recently were authorizing rocket attacks from the Gaza Strip against Israeli communities. These are the same leaders who never miss an opportunity to remind everyone of their wish to destroy Israel. These are also the same leaders who never accept responsibility for the well-being of their people and constantly search for ways to blame Israel for the miseries of Palestinians.
The Hamas leaders who are now complaining about the lack of ventilators in their hospitals are the same as those who have invested tens of millions of dollars on manufacturing and smuggling weapons, including rockets, to attack Israel.
Since 2014, Hamas has invested about $120 million in the terror tunnels. According to various estimates, a terror tunnel costs anywhere from three to 10 million US dollars – depending on its length and depth.
Had Hamas invested a small amount of these funds to purchase medical equipment, the situation in the Gaza Strip hospitals today would be very different. Healthcare, however, has evidently been a rather low priority for the Hamas leadership.
Instead of offering to cooperate with Israel in the battle against coronavirus, Hamas is now seeking to divert attention from its failed policies by threatening to kill Jews for not helping the Palestinians in the Gaza Strip. Instead of asking for Israel’s help, Hamas leaders have informed the State of Israel: “Help us or we will kill six million Jews.”
That is what Hamas leader Yahya Sinwar said during an interview on April 2 with a Hamas-affiliated TV station: “If ventilators are not brought to Gaza [by Israel],” he warned, “we will take them by force from Israel and stop the breathing of six million settlers.”
Sinwar neglected to mention that in the past week, Israel dispatched hundreds of coronavirus test kits to medical personnel in the Gaza Strip.
He also forgot to mention that it was Israeli doctors who saved his life when he had brain surgery to remove a tumor while he was serving time in Israeli prison for murdering several Palestinians suspected of collaborating with Israel.
The brain surgery and the time he spent in Israeli prison has taught Sinwar that Israel has one of the best medical systems in the Middle East. That is probably why he now wants Israel to help the Palestinians in the Gaza Strip prevent the spread of the coronavirus pandemic.
One might ask: What have Sinwar and other Hamas leaders done to help their hospitals and people in the past 12 years?
Hamas has been serving as the de facto government in the Gaza Strip since its violent takeover of the coastal enclave in 2007. As such, Hamas is responsible for managing the affairs of the two million Palestinians living under its rule, including their medical services.
Sinwar and his friends in the Hamas leadership evidently had more urgent things on its their agenda than handling healthcare issues in the Gaza Strip.
They evidently did not have the time to deal with such issues. They were busy digging tunnels along the border with Israel to enable Hamas to infiltrate Israel and kill Israelis. They did not have the time to inquire about the needs of the Gaza Strip hospitals: they were manufacturing rockets, mortars and drones. They were also busy smuggling weapons through the border with Egypt would later be used to attack Israel.
For the past two years, Sinwar and his friends in the Hamas leadership were also busy sending thousands of Palestinians to clash with Israeli soldiers near the Gaza-Israel border as part of the so-called Hamas-sponsored Great March of Return.
For the Hamas leadership, the weekly confrontations along the Gaza-Israel border were apparently more important than purchasing ventilators and other medical equipment for the hospitals in the Gaza Strip.
According to various reports, Hamas paid protesters more than $100 per person to take part in the demonstrations near the border with Israel. In addition, Hamas hired buses and vans to transport Palestinians to the scenes of the confrontations.
Hamas has, as well, spent millions of dollars to pay families whose children were killed or wounded during clashes with the Israeli soldiers.
On April 21, 2019, Ahmed al-Kurd, member of the Hamas “Political Bureau,” estimated that just the past year, services and treatments have been provided to more than 10,000 injured Palestinians at a total cost of $5 million. In addition, Hamas covered the treatment for injured Palestinians who were sent abroad for medical attention, mainly to Turkey and Egypt.
Earlier that year, al-Kurd had announced the distribution of financial aid amounting to $100 to $150 to 4,000 families of Palestinians severely wounded during the weekly demonstrations.
Sinwar, notably, did not hold any Arab or Islamic government responsible for the possible spread of the virus among Palestinians in the Gaza Strip.
What about the responsibility of the Palestinian Authority government for the safety and health of the Palestinians in the Gaza Strip? What about the moral responsibility of Arab and Islamic countries towards their Palestinian brethren there?
Hamas officials and spokesmen have in recent days increased their threats against Israel by arguing that Israel would bear any responsibility for the spread of coronavirus in the Gaza Strip.
The Hamas leaders have added another threat: Israel must release Palestinian prisoners from its prisons, including those prisoners convicted of murdering Jews, as they could be infected with the virus.
Hamas wants the world to believe that Israel alone, which totally withdrew from the Gaza Strip in 2005, is responsible for the problems plaguing the Palestinians there.
The latest Hamas threats are aimed at paving the way for renewed terror attacks against Israel — this time on the pretext that Israel is not providing the Gaza Strip with ventilators or releasing prisoners from its jails. This is a classic Hamas move: refusing responsibility for the safety of its people while directing the heat against Israel.
Perhaps the Coronavirus crisis will finally arouse the international community to hold the Hamas rulers of the Gaza Strip to account for the millions of dollars they have dedicated to building — not hospitals and healthcare facilities — but terror tunnels and weapons manufacturing sites.
Khaled Abu Toameh, an award-winning journalist based in Jerusalem, is a Shillman Journalism Fellow at Gatestone Institute.