The war between Hamas and Israel, initiated by Hamas on October 7, remains a focal point in international headlines. Condemnation of Israel which emboldens Hamas, results in worsening of the suffering of the Gaza Palestinians. One cannot avoid suspecting that under the guise of Palestinian advocacy, these pro-Hamas supporters are more preoccupied with finding ways to harm Israel than seeking to benefit Gazans. While it may initially sound counter-intuitive, the most effective way to alleviate the plight of the Gaza civilians is to facilitate a decisive Israeli victory over Hamas as expediently as possible. Furthermore, well-intentioned calls from the US and others to ease Gaza’s hardships through further limiting their military campaign and expanding humanitarian aid without being coupled to the release of the hostages, and stopping the bombing of Israeli cities, run the risk of extending the conflict by delaying a decisive Israeli outcome. This, in turn, will worsen the suffering in Gaza by prolonging the conflict.
The images of the extensive destruction in Gaza are certainly disquieting. What can be done to minimize further damage?
On October 7, Hamas attacked the Israeli civilian communities adjacent to Gaza, murdering 1,400 people and committing horrific documented atrocities. In addition, they took an estimated 240 hostages. They have since fired thousands of missiles on Israeli cities. These actions each individually, all the more so together, are acts of war, justifying retaliation by international conventions. Furthermore, Hamas has declared that, if possible, it would repeat its attack again and again until Israel is destroyed. As to be expected of any sovereign state, Israel has taken action to protect itself. It has no choice. Despite the Israeli response, the ongoing attacks on Israeli cities and the continued holding of hostages underscore Hamas’s determination to persist in their aggression. Unlike Hamas, Israel’s response has been to target and destroy the Hamas military infrastructure, not civilian. Unfortunately, the Hamas military infrastructure is inordinately widespread. As one example, more than 800 military tunnels stretching hundreds of miles underground, have already been exposed. Hamas has deliberately enmeshed itself within all the Gaza civilian structures. By now there is voluminous evidence of military launchers, missiles and tunnels located in and under houses, schools, mosques, and hospitals.
The UN organization UNWRA has been complicit by allowing Hamas to use their buildings as a base for their military actions, by not reporting this abuse to the UN, by running schools teaching the children at a young age to hate Jews and strive to kill them, and by allowing Hamas to pilfer the humanitarian aid earmarked for civilians not Hamas.
In terms of taking direct actions to secure the additional release of hostages, Hamas failed to uphold its end of the agreement, resulting in the suspension of the release process.
Since the easiest and obvious way to prevent further destruction to Gaza is for Hamas to stop the bombing, release the hostages, and lay down their arms, calls for Israel’s unilateral ceasefire raise suspicions about the objectivity and motives of the Arab world and international groups, including the United Nations. Why should they be one sided in support of Hamas? Why make demands on the defender rather than the aggressor? Perhaps advocates for a unilateral Israeli ceasefire are really hoping to both bolster Hamas and seek Israel’s elimination rather than help the Gazans.
Hamas has plenty of friends: Qatar and Iran together have invested billions of dollars to support Hamas and build its military infrastructure. Turkish banks have been assisting Hamas in acquiring funds through money laundering. Russia has evaded American sanctions on Iran through involvement in an oil-for-terror deal. These, and other pro-Hamas regimes stand to incur significant losses if Hamas were to collapse. Their priority is to support Hamas against Israel while their concern for the welfare of the Gaza population is marginal at best.
Although the pictures of destruction in Gaza are disconcerting, and the loss of life of Gaza civilians is regrettable, surely Israel should not be held accountable for the collateral damage caused by the deliberate use by Hamas of their civilian infrastructure and abuse of Gaza civilians. Whereas Israel has tried to reduce the number of Gaza civilian casualties by only targeting military sites and by warning civilians of impending attack, Hamas has increased the Palestinian casualty rate by using civilians as human shields, hiding deliberately in civilian areas, preventing Gazans from evacuating targets that Israel has provided advanced warning about, and using the safety of the tunnels only for themselves.
Following the October 7 Hamas assault, the US Administration has consistently supported Israel’s objective to eliminate Hamas. Unfortunately, though, despite Israel’s massive military response, the IDF has yet to produce definitive results. Without more pressure by the Israeli military and by Gaza civilians, Hamas will not be sufficiently motivated to stop their aggression. Consequently, Israel should be allowed to optimize its military efforts, rather than scaling them back. Additionally, expanding humanitarian aid is fine only if it is contingent on the release of all hostages and cessation of bombing. Giora Eiland, IDF Maj-Gen (ret.) and former head of the Israeli National Security Council, contends that while humanitarian assistance should be provided to Gazans, it must align with Israel’s essential interests. Well-intentioned US recommendations leading to an overly restrained military operation may extend the conflict or even fail to crush Hamas. Access to more than minimal aid may reinforce the passive and docile response of the Gaza population to the Hamas actions.
The stark reality is that until they face capitulation, and /or until the Gazans become desperate enough to revolt against them, Hamas will refuse to release the remaining hostages. Until their capacity to fire missiles is eradicated, Hamas will continue bombing Israeli cities.
The primary brunt of Hamas’ actions falls on the civilian population of Gaza, which have made their lives miserable. Ironically, you could say that the Gaza population is also held hostage by Hamas. Thus far, Gazans have been too intimidated by Hamas to object. However, there is a growing sense of desperation among Gazans. As they become more desperate, their desperation will overcome their fear of Hamas, leading them to revolt. There are already first instances of daring and desperate Gazans publicly protesting their discontent, clamoring for the release of the Israeli hostages. Hopefully, increasing pressure from the Gaza population itself will cause Hamas to relent and change their ways.
As things stand now, Israelis are united in viewing the war with Hamas as a war of no choice. Hamas with its Qatari, Iranian, Turkish, and international support has created a lose-lose situation. The war is a detriment to Israel and even more so to the Gaza population. The Gazan population have had many of their houses destroyed, and hundreds of thousands have been displaced.
Governments and individuals who are really pro-Gazans and not anti-Israel, should be pressuring Hamas to stop the bombing, release the hostages and disarm. Qatar could be urged to cease hosting Hamas leaders in luxurious conditions. Iran and Qatar should be encouraged to halt financial and military support. Pressure can be put on Turkey to stop allowing Hamas to use their banks for money laundering in support of Hamas operations. Moderate Arab leaders, who are appalled at the Hamas tactics, can publicly call for release of the hostages. The U.S. should consider the potential consequences of demanding excessive restraint from Israel, as such insistence may carry the risk of prolonging the conflict. Expansion of humanitarian aid should be tied to renewed hostage release. The sooner Hamas desists from its actions, the sooner Gaza civilians will be able to get unrestricted help, cease facing the Israeli military and return to their homes.