The following article was published in Online Opinion on November 18, 2008
By Reuben Brand
An Israeli think tank has publicised its concerns regarding the growth of Hamas both politically and militarily over the past three years.
Hamas, since its humble beginnings as an offshoot of the The Muslim Brotherhood, has grown from the Islamic Resistance Movement created in 1987 to the democratically elected majority of the Palestinian Parliament in 2006. It now has control over the bulk of the Gaza Strip, much to the discontent of political rivals Abu Mazen and Fatah who are unwilling to acknowledge and accept Hamas’s authority.
The report, issued by the Israeli Intelligence and Terrorism Information Centre, in early 2008, proposes that in order to displace Hamas’s infrastructure it would incur an Israeli Defence Force (IDF) operation not so dissimilar to the one with Hezbollah in 2006, when the IDF crossed the border and entered Lebanon.
Israel believes that the IDF operation with Hezbollah in 2006 was a strategic role model for Hamas in its use of asymmetric warfare and tactical military response to any IDF incursions within Gaza.
According to the report Hezbollah’s main source of infrastructure is located in the mountainous and forested areas of South Lebanon, which gives Hezbollah a lot more breathing space and time to recoup, regroup and receive arms with relative ease.
Whereas “the Gaza Strip is flat and exposed… has continuous, densely populated areas which are advantageous for a defending force and difficult for regular army forces to operate in.”
The report goes on to specify Hamas’s military capabilities, upgrades and support from neighbouring countries. It voices concern for the State of Israel over Hamas’s continued build up of arms and specialised weapons, now capable of reaching far into land occupied by Israeli settlers.
There are an alleged 20,000 armed Hamas operatives stationed in and around Gaza who, according to the glossy 51 paged document, not only possess locally made Qassam short range rockets, but, also have “several dozens of long range 122mm rockets, dozens of anti tank missiles, a few dozens of various anti aircraft machineguns, tens of thousands of rifles and millions of bullets.”
Most of these weapons must be smuggled into Gaza through an intricate and dangerous labyrinth of tunnels and across numerous borders and checkpoints from neighbouring allies in Egypt, Iran, Syria and the support of Hezbollah in Lebanon.
In a role reversal “David and Goliath” comparison, Israel and the IDF have an estimated 168,000 active armed personnel on the ground, and can mobilise many more thousands of reserve soldiers including paramilitary without hesitation or the slightest of effort.
According to a Congressional Research Service report, Israel has received a total of $81.3 billion in US aid over the past decade and remains to be one of the top beneficiaries of US military and economic assistance.
Israel has a commanding military arsenal as well as an intentionally undisclosed amount of nuclear weapons. The IDF also receive free weapons from the US as part of the Excess Defence Articles Program. An extensive inventory of these free US weapons was produced in 2002, a small snapshot of which is as follows: 64,744 M-16A1 rifles, 2,469 grenade launchers, 1500 M2 .05 calibre machine guns and numerous different types of ammunition.
Other documented US weapons in the IDF arsenal include: 385 fighter planes, 162 helicopters, and an unidentified amount of varied missiles.
The flagrant hypocrisy of this continued military and economic aid is articulated under section 4 of the US Arms Export Control Act, in which it categorically states that the use of US military equipment in the possession of ‘friendly countries’ is solely for “legitimate self defence… and internal security” and should not be used in any offensives or aggressions towards other Countries or States.
Israel is now, and continues to be, in clear violation of this act.
A US Department of State document reported Israel as having “used excessive force in contravention of their own rules of engagement.”
Hamas was predominantly set up as a resistance movement to fight for the rights of the Palestinian People in the face of an opposing Israeli force. The academic director of the International Institute for Counter Terrorism, Reuven Paz, said that “approximately 90 percent of the organization’s work is in social, welfare, cultural, and educational activities.”
The director of the Institute of Islamic Political Thought, Dr. Azzam Tamimi, writes in his critically acclaimed book Hamas: A history from within that the leaders of Hamas were recognised by the Palestinians for their “ascetism, altruism, dedication, and honesty.”
“No one joins Hamas to make money or has become rich by virtue of their position within it….Finally, donors were aware that only a small fraction of the money raised by Hamas would be used for military purposes,” said Dr Tamimi.
So Hamas continues to smuggle arms into Gaza from neighboring allies and Israel continues to openly receive them for free from the US. The problems in the region continue and increase in a vicious cycle of tit for tat and Israel continues to perpetrate crimes unchallenged by the rest of the world.