Not One Air Raid Shelter in Gaza. Why?
About that “disproportionate” death toll
The international community is beside itself with sorrow and rage. Israel continues to attack locations in Gaza and the civilians have no safe place to go. Or do they?
Hamas has built a tunnel system extending an estimated 300 miles under the Gaza Strip. Photos and reports indicate that much of it is lined with concrete, fitted with electric lights, and tall and wide enough for troops to march through. If every civilian running from rocket attacks was allotted eight feet of tunnel space, about 198,000 of them could find shelter there. That’s 11 times the number of civilian deaths Hamas insists have taken place. Why is Hamas reserving the entire tunnel system for military purposes and keeping it off limits to desperate Gazan civilians?
If the tunnels are off limits, why in 17 years of ruling the Gaza Strip, hasn’t Hamas built a single air raid shelter? Hamas has not even installed air raid sirens. Compare that with conditions in Israel where the building code requires new homes and apartment buildings to have safe rooms and nearly every neighborhood has at least one shelter. And, yes, there is an air raid system. When the sirens sound, Israeli’s run for their lives and wait for the wail to wind down before coming out to see whether or not they still have a place to live. They may be traumatized, they may be trembling from a panic attack, they may have heart or breathing problems, but they’re alive. Does the fact that people in the path of relentless Hamas rocket attacks are not dead mean Hamas has a kinder and gentler military?
What if the international community asked how many attempts were made to kill civilians, rather than how many of them were actually killed? Hamas has been firing rockets into Israeli population centers from bases in Gaza at least as far back as 2001, hitting apartment buildings and kindergartens in small cities like Sderot, which has no military importance but is conveniently located within rocket range. By November 2007, Hamas had launched 6,311 Qassam rockets into Sderot, killing one two-year old and two four-year olds. But because of the placement and amount of Sderot’s air raid shelters, the total number of casualties – not one of them reported in US news media – was only 13. What would the toll have been without the shelters?
Shelters didn’t help when Hamas suicide bombers and gunmen, sometimes in tandem with Fatah and the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, managed to enter Israel and shoot or blow up 386 people between 1994 and 2004. Their targets, none of them military, included such places as buses, bus stops, train stations, restaurants, markets, hotels, discos, pool halls, and a soccer field.
What about attacks from the other side? I’ve read article after article insisting that Israel’s real objective in the current war is killing civilians. Some Americans, possibly well-intentioned but uninformed, are yelling Genocide! But if Israel’s intention is killing civilians – not eliminating Hamas and its military infrastructure – why send ground troop into a dangerous situation? Wouldn’t it be much safer and more effective to stay home and fire rockets into population centers, as Hamas has been doing for decades?
Is it possible that Hamas, which teaches school children to desire the honor of martyrdom and recruits and trains suicide bombers, welcomes the deaths of Gazan civilians? Consider what’s happening now. Because of the loudly proclaimed disproportionality of the death toll, much of the international community has upgraded Hamas’ identity from terrorist to resistance fighter. And many, including increasing numbers of university students, faculty members, and administrators, are condemning Israel, some to the point of concluding that she has no right to exist. For Yahya Sinwar, a quadruple murderer released in the 2011 hostage swap, and the head of Hamas in Gaza, that’s just the way things should be.