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The tactics of Palestinian terrorism

The international community must stop being silent about the crimes and abuses inside the Palestinian territories.

It is very interesting that the Palestinian media in the West, continues to hide what is going on inside their territories. Let’s look at one of the little-exposed sides of the much-touted Arab-Palestinian cause and the tactics of terrorism in these territories.

I do not think there is a history as distorted as that of the Arab-Israeli conflict and its Palestinian-Israeli spinoff. It is generally a story told from a biased and tendentious point of view, but one that is slowly changing. However, the road is a long one.

When I say Palestinian territories, I mean those under the pure and exclusive administration of the Palestinian authorities: the Gaza Strip and Judea and Samaria (also called the West Bank). There are an estimated 6000 square kilometres of territories under their mandate and it is far from being unified because there is no way for them to coexist, so I am going to focus especially on the Palestinian National Authority (PNA) in the West Bank and Hamas, the terrorism that governs Gaza.

However, many of the Palestinian leaders have never abandoned the anti-Semitic and Holocaust-denying discourse, which they only moderate at will.

To summarise a little, we can say that this power and control of the territory is shared between Hamas, the PNA, Fatah and let’s add Islamic Jihad, which is on a different track. Since the Oslo Accords, signed in the 1990s, Israel and the PNA have understood each other as far as possible.

However, many of the Palestinian leaders have never abandoned the anti-Semitic and Holocaust-denying discourse, which they only moderate at will. Thus, before the Oslo accords and later also with the intifadas, the Palestinian authorities sold the world a deplorable message: violence, terror and death (including terrorism) was part of the resistance to what they called occupation.

This is why the Palestinian cause has, since its origins, flirted with the left-wing guerrillas, with whom it continues to converge in causes that range from Venezuela, Nicaragua and Cuba to the Gaza Strip and the Saharawi camps. At the same time, history also saw the coexistence of the different peace agreements that Israel was reaching in which it gave up territory in exchange for peace. This began after 1948 and continues to the present day with the Abraham Accords and other bilateral agreements such as with Bahrain and Lebanon.

Despite all this, Palestinian terrorism was far from disappearing and has also been built on the use of civilians. Let’s look at some developments in the West Bank over the last few days for a bit of context.

The use of mosques as weapons caches

A very common practice of Palestinian terrorism is to wait for Jewish holidays and, from Al Aqsa which is the third holiest place in Islam, to stone Jews entering the Temple Mount to pray. This is what happened after the last Passover. A few days before the holiday, Palestinian political and religious authorities call for barricading themselves in the mosque and attacking from there. The Israel Defense Forces, in a logical defensive attitude, disperse these armed Palestinian groups.

Who would go to a holy site armed, or who would think that holy sites have to be a storehouse of war? Especially in that place which is, as I said, the third holy site for Islam. This is madness. Of course, the Palestinian reaction to Israel’s defence is always the same: to go out and denounce the occupation of Al Aqsa. From there, a whole system of anti-Semitic propaganda begins to operate, selling the mailbox to all those who do not follow these issues. Just to give a case in point: until the first week of October there were 9 terrorist attacks in Judea and Samaria. Yes, 9 attacks.

As any counter-terrorism force in the world operates, these attacks must lead to the pursuit, arrest and often the death of the terrorists being sought. If there is one thing that is absolutely hostile to the Israeli force, it is the pursuit of terrorists in the Palestinian territories.

While Jews were being attacked from Al Aqsa, Mahmoud Abbas, leader of the PNA, gave a classic speech at the UN in which he claimed to want direct dialogue with the Jewish people and an end to violence. Within this narrative of the Palestinian cause there is a great first myth to debunk: none of this starts because of Israel. There is an argument that is very easy to understand, and that is that Israeli forces are framed within the institutional framework of the rule of law.

A legal use of force can never be the same as an illegal and illegitimate use of force such as the Palestinians or, to a much greater extent, Hamas, about whom we will talk later. A soldier’s force has the legality and legitimacy that a terrorist’s does not, and attacks from the mosque against Jews are expected to go unanswered? Israel does what any country on the globe would do if its population is attacked. But for some reason, which is left to the reader’s discretion, Israel is asked to do what others in the region are not asked to do.

Another great myth to be destroyed is that of Palestinians killed by Israeli forces. First, it should be made clear that any excesses and illegalities that may be committed by these forces are dealt with in accordance with the rule of law. They are not decorated. I say this because it is quite the opposite of what happens in the Palestinian territories: when a Palestinian is killed in an attack on Israeli civilians, he automatically becomes a martyr and his family is rewarded. Let’s put some numbers.

A few hours later, also in Jenin, the usual practices began: when an Israeli dies, even more so if he is a soldier and even more so if he is Jewish, the fireworks and the distribution of sweets to the cars begin.

In 2018 and 2019, the PNA spent more than $300 million on compensating the families of martyrs and prisoners in Israel. Not being public information, it is suspected that the individual figures increase if the person killed or convicted murdered a Jew. For those years, salaries were estimated for 5000 families of Palestinian prisoners, funds for 6000 prisoners, subsidies for another 1500 released prisoners. For Palestinian law, dead prisoners and terrorists are part of the fabric of the Palestinian Arab community.

These attacks are far, far from being condemned by the Palestinian authorities and the Arab populations themselves: one of the latest attacks in Jerusalem took the life of Noa Lazar, a female Israeli soldier. She was shot dead.

A few hours later, also in Jenin, the usual practices began: when an Israeli dies, even more so if he is a soldier and even more so if he is Jewish, the fireworks and the distribution of sweets to the cars begin. Death is celebrated there, something that Abbas does not mention in his UN speeches.

The Gaza Strip

Let us turn now to the Gaza Strip, the other Palestinian territory that shows the worst hidden face of the cause. Since 2006, Hamas has ruled the territory after winning the elections with almost 45% support, followed by Fatah.

If there is a particularity in Gaza, it is that it is a territory that receives an enormous amount of economic resources in humanitarian aid and where it is easier to see the tunnels that Hamas uses to attack Israel deployed than the basic infrastructure of any city.There may be no water or electricity in Gaza, but there are missiles. And plenty of them. The use of civilians in conflicts, for example between Israel and Hamas, will always fall under International Humanitarian Law (IHL), which is the law that operates in conflict zones.

IHL expressly prohibits the use of civilians for military purposes and transforms it into a crime against humanity if it is used systematically. This has to do with the cases of human shields, which are very frequent in Gaza, or the so-called child soldiers. Let’s start with the former: taking advantage of the fact that Israeli forces avoid attacking targets where civilians are present, Hamas calls on Palestinian civilians to climb onto the roofs of the homes of terrorists in order to avoid Israeli attacks.

Before each operation, Israeli forces report the targets to be attacked and try to give warning to avoid harming civilians. To avoid this, the Gaza Interior Ministry itself encouraged Palestinians “not to heed the call of the Israelis and stay in their homes”.

Just as the Al Aqsa Mosque is used as a weapons depot, Palestinian schools and gardens are also used as missile depots. This was confirmed by an organisation that is far from militarising Zionism: UNWRA, the UN organisation for Palestinian refugees.

Civilian structures used for terrorist operational purposes only guarantee more civilian deaths, more violation of international norms and, most deplorably, more input for the Palestinian campaign: to go out and accuse Israel for the murder of civilians.

Like that of the UN itself, an acknowledgement of Hamas’ use of civilians as a shield comes from Fatah and the PNA. Through various websites in 2021, Palestinian authorities criticised Hamas’s immoral war with cartoons.

In the last few hours there has been a new case that will help to illustrate very well the tactics of Palestinian terrorism: it started to rain headlines in the media and on social networks announcing that “Israel had killed a Palestinian doctor”. Let’s see what’s behind that. The doctor was Abdullah Abu Teen, reportedly killed by Israeli forces while treating his patients in Jenin. Without reading further and just being guided, the picture given by the headline is very clear, but Abu Teen was not a simple doctor who was treating and suddenly met his death.

At the same time that the West is making headlines focused solely on Israel, Arab groups are celebrating the martyrdom of Abu Teen as an Al Aqsa man killed in combat. For those who are not familiar with the subject, let’s look at what these brigades are.

The Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigade is the armed wing of Fatah, another Palestinian group. There are no reliable estimates of membership, but there is talk of considerable numbers scattered across the West Bank and Gaza. According to the official version, Abu Teen was armed and hooded when he was killed. He was in front of the government hospital in Jenin. With this death, another of the most recurrent characteristics when describing the tactics of Palestinian terrorism emerged.

The use of ambulances, as we have also seen of schools and homes, for terrorist purposes is commonplace for Hamas. The goal is always the same: to protect terrorist bases and, if unable to do so, to make Israel bear the brunt of civilian deaths.

The Wafa Hospital was converted in 2014 into a real Hamas operational base as a missile base, weapons depot and sniper position. Under this tactic, ambulances are the perfect means to move around hiding people or weapons. I say hiding because they are targets that, a priori, cannot be reached by Israeli forces. That’s why ambulances circulate all over Gaza when an attack on Israelis begins…after all, who could tell the difference between an ambulance with weapons and an injured civilian?

One way for Israel to minimise the impact of civilians (when in fact it would exceed them as Hamas is the one violating IHL) is to move medical supplies through the land crossings and even allow highly complex cases to be treated in Israel.

In 2014, in the midst of one of the latest Hamas attacks, Israeli forces set up hospitals and camps in the middle of the Erez border crossing, where immediate assistance could be given to wounded civilians. It is a substantial difference between a country whose institutions are governed by the rule of law and other territories where not only have there been no elections for years, but where the civilians themselves are hostage to harassment, use and the darker side of Palestinian terrorism.

This article is not just another way of looking at Middle East politics, but a fair share of truth in the face of so much sloppiness and bias in describing things. Hopefully at some point the international community will demand that the Palestinian authorities put an end to this. Put another way to make it clear: Hamas is not only targeting civilians in Israel but also Arab civilians. A resounding silence on this side of the world in the face of every massacre in the Palestinian-administered territories.

About the Author
Master's Degree in International Politics from the Complutense University of Madrid. Interested in transnational terrorism, organized crime, radicalism and the fight against anti-Semitism.
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