Hamas’s March of Return
Is all the violence in Gaza Israel’s fault?
JERUSALEM–Approximately 30,000 Palestinians marched on the border between the Gaza Strip and Israel last Friday, beginning what Hamas is calling the “Great March of Return.” This so-called peaceful march, scheduled to last six weeks, has already seen 18 people killed and 1,500 injured, according to Palestinian estimates.
Western media and politicians worldwide immediately blamed Israel. To the West, the Israelis are the perpetrators of crimes against innocent and defenseless Palestinian victims.
What is the truth?
The Israelis have no desire to conquer Gaza. In fact, they had control of it and gave it up. Israel exercised sovereignty over the Gaza Strip until the mid-2000s, when the government ordered the complete withdrawal of more than 8,000 Jews from the territory.
After Israel pulled out, the Palestinians had free reign. After vicious infighting between Palestinian factions, in which rivals threw each other to their deaths from the tops of buildings, Hamas came out on top. The terrorist organization won subsequent elections and has ruled Palestinians in Gaza ever since. Ten years later, many Gazans would be happy to come out from beneath the yoke of Hamas. But Hamas remains in control of the area and of this March of Return.
This background seldom features in the chorus of criticism against Israel.
During an Easter Sunday mass at St. Peter’s Basilica, Pope Francis called for “reconciliation for the Holy Land, also experiencing in these days the wounds of ongoing conflict that do not spare the defenseless” (emphasis added throughout).
According to the pope, many defenseless people have died in this conflict. Many innocent people have indeed been killed over the years of Israeli-Palestinian conflict. But how defenseless are the Palestinians involved in the Hamas-backed March of Return?
Israel Defense Forces (IDF) soldiers have been widely criticized for using live ammunition against protesters instead of rubber bullets. But the soldiers were not indiscriminately firing bullets into masses of unarmed protesters. They were targeting specific individuals.
The Israeli military is generally scrupulous about protecting civilians and upholding the rules of war. Its enemies often use this against them. Hamas orders women and children onto the rooftops of buildings where it has stored missiles, knowing that Israelis will spare their lives and therefore spare the missiles. Israel also repeatedly warns people ahead of time of where it is about to strike. Before targeting an area, Israeli forces call people on their phones and drops leaflets into areas warning civilians, We are about to bomb your location. Of course, Hamas receives these leaflets as well and is often able to relocate their terrorist weaponry before the strike. Yet Israel still goes through this process in order to save civilian lives.
Knowing all this, how likely is it that the people killed in the March of Return were defenseless civilians as some accuse? Many of the protesters aren’t terrorists but people who may agree with the end goals of Hamas or have been coerced by them to the front lines. Are these the people the Israelis shot at?
The IDF recently released information and pictures of 10 of the 18 individuals killed on Friday. All of them were Hamas operatives or involved in terrorist activities.
Were these people really as defenseless as Pope Francis indicated? It’s clear that the people targeted by the IDF are those who were charging the border to get over the fence, laying explosives and shooting.
This is not quite the peaceful protest it has been portrayed as. But none of that matters to the media–those people were apparently “defenseless.”
High representative for the European Union Federica Mogherini also defended the Palestinians in a statement last week. Her March 31 statement made not one mention of Hamas. Nowhere did she mention that the Palestinians who were killed were actually Hamas operatives. All she drew attention to was how Israel used “live ammunition” and in her opinion fought against innocent and defenseless civilians.
Mogherini wrote, “The EU reiterates its calls for an end to the closure of Gaza and a full opening of the crossing points, while addressing Israel’s legitimate security concerns.”
It would be great to open the border if Israel didn’t have to worry that the 1.8 million Gazans wouldn’t try to take over Israel or resort to terror tactics as they did in the first and second intifadas. All you have to do is examine the partially opened border to see how foolish this would be. Each day, hundreds of truckloads of foods and materials are sent into Gaza. And how are Palestinians using those materials? They are using them to pursue their terrorist activities.
Take concrete for example. Hamas uses it to reinforce miles of tunnels that go under the Gaza-Israeli border facilitating its attacks on Israeli citizens. If that’s how Hamas uses partially open borders, what would it do with wide-open borders? And what could be done to ensure Israel’s security once those borders were opened?
Friday was only day one of the Great March of Return. Where will it go from there? By allowing IDF soldiers to use live ammunition against those perpetrating terrorist attacks against Israeli sovereignty, Israel has made a strong statement. If provoked further, will we see an increased response from Israel over the next month and a half?
The danger is that this march could incorporate more than just Hamas. In refugee camps in Southern Lebanon, there are around 500,000 refugees including their descendants from the 1948 war. In Syria and Jordan, there are even more. What if they decide to join the march as well?
Hezbollah is a Shiite terrorist group in Southern Lebanon. Hamas and Hezbollah aren’t always in agreement, but over the past couple of months we have seen the two meet together with support from Iran.
Hezbollah has been fully funded by Iran for decades, while Hamas’s relationship with Iran comes and goes. Recently, Hamas and Iran have been rekindling their relationship, which was damaged during the Syrian civil war. Over the past year, Hamas has attended several meetings in Tehran.
Times of Israel published a piece on March 22 titled “Hamas Seeking Alliance With Iran, Hezbollah to Foil Trump Peace Plan.” The author, Abu Toameh, commented on an article that appeared in the London-based Al-Hayat newspaper saying:
“Regional changes have put Hamas, Iran, Hezbollah and the Palestinian cause in front of big dangers,” a source told the newspaper’s correspondent in the Gaza Strip. “This requires unifying all efforts to confront and thwart [Trump’s plan] and safeguard the Palestinian cause.”
It’s clear that these groups are trying to unite, and Iran is the glue binding them together.
The six-week Great March of Return will culminate on May 15, which is known by Palestinians and Arabs across the Middle East as Nakba Day, or catastrophe day. On May 14, 1948, Israel was made a state. Arabs across the Middle East saw this as a catastrophe. May 14 also marks the day that U.S. President Donald Trump will move the U.S. Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. Added to that, the Iranian deal might be terminated around the same time on May 12.
As Simon Tisdall of the Guardian brought out in his article from March 31, all of these factors culminate in “a spring season of looming flash points ….”
“World events from today to the end of this age are going to revolve around Jerusalem,” wrote Watch Jerusalem editor in chief Gerald Flurry in his article “No City Stirs Passions Like Jerusalem.” “This city is going to be the very epicenter of all major events in the future.”
Once again, Israel, with its capital Jerusalem, is poised to play a major role in world events. Keep watching Israel and Jerusalem, especially as this potential conflict builds in the weeks ahead.
Our free booklet Jerusalem in Prophecy will help give you the historical and biblical background you need to understand what is happening in this nation, as well as what will happen. “After half of Jerusalem falls to the Arabs, it will be like dominoes falling one after the other: one biblically prophesied event after another,” wrote Mr. Flurry in that Watch Jerusalem article. “This is all going to happen very fast and very violently, so you need to watch Jerusalem.”
With reporting by Kayla Taylor