Understanding Hamas and Israel’s Gaza Intervention

by David Parsons, ICEJ Vice President

Understanding Hamas and Israel's Intervention in Gaza ICEJ 2023 Commentaries and Current Affairs David Parsons Who is Hamas

Hamas: Their Founding and Their Goals

Hamas is a radical Sunni terrorist organization which has been the de facto ruler of the Gaza Strip since 2007. It governs over 2.3 million Palestinians in Gaza, imposing a strict brand of fundamentalist Islam. Hamas was founded in 1987 as an offshoot of the Muslim Brotherhood, and as a political rival to the Fatah-led PLO. The Hamas charter is committed to the destruction of Israel and creating instead an Islamic state under sharia law in Palestine. The charter also promotes a dark Islamic eschatology that calls for perpetual jihad (holy war) by Muslims against the Jewish state and people, which it sees as a first step to regaining Jerusalem and then defeating the “Crusader West” to secure Islamic world domination.

After Israel completely withdrew from Gaza in the 2005 Disengagement, Hamas liquidated local Fatah officials and security forces in a bloody coup in 2007. Today, Hamas totally rejects any peace deals with Israel, including a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and spends most of its budget on its military buildup, including rockets and terror tunnels. Hamas has its main presence in Gaza and broad support in the West Bank, but its senior leadership has been hosted by Qatar for the past decade.

The Hamas Attack
Hamas called its mass terror operation of 7 October the “Al-Aqsa Storm,” launched in defence of the al-Aqsa mosque in Jerusalem, even though the site has been in no danger from Israel at any time. Over 2,500 armed terrorists infiltrated into Israel and killed more than 1,400 Israelis, mostly innocent men, women, children and the elderly, and took some 240 hostages. This was the worst massacre of Jews since the Holocaust. One week later, Hamas called for a “global day of jihad” to include attacks and “lynchings” against Jews and their supporters worldwide.

What About War Crimes?
The horrific acts against Israeli citizens on October 7 make Hamas and Islamic Jihad criminally liable for war crimes. They especially violated the “rule of distinction” requiring combatants to limit attacks to legitimate military targets, whereas Hamas willfully and deliberately attacked civilians, including at a music festival, motorists on roads, and families at home in their beds. They tortured, mutilated, raped, beheaded, kidnapped and burnt people alive. In addition, Hamas cynically uses the civilian population in Gaza as human shields, and uses mosques, hospitals, schools, and private homes as weapons storage facilities and firing platforms.

Who is responsible for civilian deaths in Gaza?
According to international human rights law, Hamas should be held responsible for the deaths of civilians in Gaza, including children, due to its instigation of the war and its deliberate placement of weapons and fighters among densely-populated civilian areas. Israel does not intentionally target civilians, and any incidental deaths of civilians due to Israeli strikes on legitimate military targets are legally attributable to Hamas. Also, Hamas is guilty of war crimes by intentionally shelling Israeli civilian areas, and murdering hundreds of innocent men, women, children and the elderly at point-blank range. It is to be noted that the laws of warfare do not require Israel to provide food, water or electricity to enemy combatants.

Does Israel have the legal right to respond?
Israel has both the right and duty to defend its citizens from Hamas attacks. Israel also has a valid case for dismantling Hamas rule in Gaza due to its long, gruesome record of war crimes, and its abuse, oppression and endangerment of the civilian population in Gaza. Hamas has indoctrinated the Gazan people to wage perpetual war with Israel, which has only brought death and destruction on Gaza. The only way to secure peace and stability for the entire region, is by dismantling Hamas, freeing Israel from its threat, and freeing Gazans from its rule.

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Image credit: ICEJ International

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