Opinion: Hamas is responsible for violence in Gaza

Palestinians have died in the violent riots instigated by Hamas every Friday since March 30 at the border between Israel and the Gaza Strip. Israel laments the deaths of these and all Palestinians and seeks to avoid all conflict, including this last confrontation.

However, to better understand these events, one needs to ask the who, what, where, when and why behind the riots.

Who? The riots are preplanned and run by the Hamas, a terrorist organization (recognized as such by the EU, the USA and many others) that took over the Gaza Strip in 2007. Hamas, a radical Islamic movement founded as an offshoot of the Muslim Brotherhood, rules the area with an iron fist, dealing brutally with any Gazans that defy its rule, often with torture and public executions.

Hamas’s declared aim is the annihilation of the State of Israel. For decades, Hamas has waged war against Israel, orchestrating devastating terror attacks against Israeli citizens, firing thousands of missiles on Israeli communities and cities and, in recent years, digging massive infiltration tunnels into Israel from the Gaza Strip.

What? These are not spontaneous demonstrations. Hamas is organizing, funding and rewarding the participants. Hamas uses civilians as human shields by paying them $200 when they get injured and $3,000 to the families of those who die while carrying out terror attacks. Appallingly, even a 7-year-old child was recently placed in front of Hamas activists. Dispersed amongst the protesters are Hamas gunmen and terrorists; they have shot at IDF soldiers across the border. If masses of Gaza protesters were to break through the fence and storm into Israel, Hamas militiamen among the crowd would most likely attempt to kill or abduct Israeli citizens in the towns nearest to the border and place explosives by the fence to kill or maim Israeli officers.

Israel has the right and the obligation to defend its border from those trying to harm Israeli citizens. During the riots, Hamas militants attempted to break into Israel, threw Molotov cocktails, and set off explosions at the border. These protests are violent and Israel has the right to defend its border, even with lethal force when necessary, if the life of its citizens is endangered.

Where? The violence was initiated from within the Gaza Strip. Israel has no presence in Gaza since it uprooted every remaining Israeli entity from this territory in 2005; nor does Israel have any territorial claims on Gaza. There is no occupation of Gaza. The riots are thus a premeditated and violent provocation, an aggressive attempt to break down the border fence and storm by the thousands into Israeli territory.

When? The timing of the riots is no coincidence; Hamas orchestrated the riots as a way to scapegoat Israel and to detract attention from its failures as it enters its 11th year of rule in Gaza. It comes after a period of severe shortages in Gaza, due first and foremost to Hamas mismanagement. The situation was worsened by the sanctions imposed on the Gaza Strip in recent months by the Palestinian Authority – suspension of payments for salaries and limits on supply of electricity. Meanwhile, Israel has continuously coordinated the transfer of civilian goods and materials into Gaza, and continues to supply Gaza with water and power, in coordination with international parties. There is no siege on Gaza.

Unfortunately, Hamas systematically diverts essential resources and humanitarian aid from the Palestinian people to further its terror and military infrastructure and activity, leaving Gazans destitute. This reality is unfortunate; Israel wishes Gaza were a peaceful neighbor with a prosperous economy.

Why? Palestinian leaders behind the march are attempting to present it as "peaceful resistance;" however, Hamas openly instigates violence at the border, aiming to fan the flames of the conflict and increase tension with Israel. These acts are all in line with Hamas's stated, genocidal mission to destroy Israel in its entirety, "from the river to the sea."

Hamas views the death of Israelis and the death of Palestinians equally as victories. There are two fronts to Hamas’s war: the military front and the public opinion front. If Hamas kills Israelis, it is a victory for them simply because they killed Israelis. And if an IDF soldier kills a Palestinian, no matter what the circumstances, Hamas frames the killing as unjust and shames Israel in the international arena. For Hamas, the death of Israelis and Palestinians alike is a win-win situation.

What to do now? If the international community is sincere in its desire to aid the Palestinians in the Gaza Strip, it must put pressure on the culprit behind the violence: Hamas.

Israel seeks a quiet border with Gaza and envisions a future of peace with its Palestinian neighbors. Unfortunately, as long as Hamas is not contained and continues to pour all its efforts into destroying Israel rather than serving its own people, peace will be overridden by violence.

Ambassador Judith Varnai-Shorer is Consul General of Israel to the Southeast.