First there was the comment cited in today’s Post by Khaled Abu Toameh. One Ibrahim Abu Taha, a Palestinian from Gaza, had moved through the fence and gone into Egypt, where he was planning on buying rice and sugar, milk, wheat and cheese. The same food stuffs were available in Gaza, said Abu Taha, but at three times the cost.
Wait! Did he say food was available in Gaza? Uh huh.
Couple this with the observation by Calev Ben David that in September 2005, after Israel had pulled out of Gaza, Hamas had blown up the fence at the border with Egypt, at the Philadelphi Corridor. But "nobody was hungry then; nobody needed fuel or medicine."
Then there are other, political motivations for breaking through the fence that have nothing to do with the "humanitarian needs" of the people?
That does seem to be the case , does it not?
Beginning to get the picture?
Add to this the stunning revelation of The Times (UK) today: A Hamas border guard has revealed that Hamas has covertly been involved for months in slicing through the heavy metal wall using oxy-acetylene cutting torches. That’s why the fence collapsed so readily when explosives were used.
So what’s going on? This is viewed by Hamas as a huge PR victory. "We don’t play by your rules, and you can’t fence us in," is the message they want delivered.
When Israel pulled out of Gaza in September 2005 , a deal was brokered by Secretary of State Rice (coercing an agreement that worked against Israeli security) that gave responsibility on the Gaza side of the fence to the Palestinian Authority, with Egypt — which have police on its side of the fence — responsible for its part. There were EU observers, but all they did, literally, was observe. This deal was honored mostly in the breech as terrorists and their equipment went through the crossing.
Whatever minimal controls did exist were lost when Hamas took over Gaza in June and the PA left. After this the smuggling increased enormously and there have been charges leveled again and again regarding the way in which Egypt has turned a blind eye.
But now the people are flooding into Egypt from Gaza. And Hamas is making a great deal of noise about the new situation and its role in monitoring the border. They have suggested, alternatively, that the old time border isn’t needed any longer, and that they, Fatah and Egypt get together and work out a plan for monitoring that border. This, you see would give them not only increased control, but also increased legitimacy.
Egypt, as I reported yesterday, is not eager to have these people in their country permanently, although it seems pretty much a fait accompli that some will be staying as refugees, although its likely they’ll be stopped at El Arish and not get as far as Egypt proper beyond the Sinai. Egypt insists that the open border will remain such for only a short duration during this emergency, and that then things will go back to what they had been.
Egypt soundly rejects Israeli suggestions that Gaza is their problem now. Israel has made it clear that Egypt is expected to fix this situation, and, indeed, they may be forced now to deal with something they have refused to attend to properly until now.
In the meantime, Israel is putting the area adjacent to Gaza and the Sinai on higher alert. There is concern not only about terrorists moving into Gaza, but also terrorists in Gaza who were unable to get into Israel who may move into the Sinai and try to pass over the border from there.
As expected, the UN Human Rights Commission, without even mentioning Kassams, has condemned Israel’s military action in Gaza; because of the bias of the resolution, European members of the commission abstained (although they didn’t vote against, heaven forbid).
And the Security Council is still jockeying with regard to its forthcoming resolution, which, at this point doesn’t mention the Kassams either.
MK Yuval Steinitz (Likud), former chair of the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee, who I think has it exactly right, says the only sensible option open to us it to take Gaza.
Steinitz, who has been sounding warnings about Egypt for years, now says, "You will see, very soon Egypt will say they want to reopen the [1979 Camp David] peace treaty agreement with Israel about how many forces they are allowed to have in the Sinai, and they’ll say they need many more in order to monitor the crossing. Their goal is to have as many forces as they can close to Israel."
Senior Hamas official Ahmed Yusuf has now warned Israel that "next time, 500,000 people will break down the border with Israel at the Erez Crossing and stream through. They will be willing to give their lives to go back to their [purported] original homes [from before 1948]. This is not imaginary."
There is disagreement here in Israel as to how seriously to take this.