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IDF Targets Hamas, Elected or Unelected

As Israel struck the empty Gaza City offices of the PA’s Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh, the IDF has reopened the Karni crossing to allow for food, medical and fuel supplies to enter Gaza. Israel, now the sole source of electrical power for the Gaza Strip, has also increased the power transfers into the area after having taken out Gaza’s sole electrical power plant.

gazapmofficesm070106.jpgWhile Israel has openly warned that Haniyeh is a legitimate target after holding him – along with Khaled Meshaal in Damascus - responsible for the kidnapping of Cpl. Gilad Shilat, the strike on his offices was clearly not an attempt on his life. It was, rather, a message indicating the sincerity of their words. The IDF follows movements in the Gaza zone very carefully and surely knew that the offices were clear, just as Haniyeh knew to stay away from them himself.

Also on Saturday, IDF soldiers on the ground engaged Hamas directly in what was described as “the first sustained encounter between the two sides since the incursion was launched on Tuesday night.” The significance of this is difficult to overstate, as the Israeli incursion that is loudly criticized as a humanitarian crisis and collective punishment has been, for nearly one full week, relatively bloodless.

The negotiations between Egypt and Hamas appear to be at an unproductive stand-still, as the Hamas captors, likely via Damascus direction, insist on the Israeli release of one thousand Palestinian prisoners in exchange for Cpl. Shalit, who is reported to be in stable condition and alive with multiple shrapnel wounds. What progress has been made appears to be in the form of non-specifics, such as asking the Israelis to merely promise to release an unstated number of prisoners by an unstated time in exchange for Shalit’s immediate release. Hamas appears disinclined to moderate to such terms and Israel, counter to past actions of exchanging prisoners for Israeli captives, has so far wisely publicly refused any such terms on the grounds that it will only encourage more kidnappings for prisoner exchanges

The debate rages on regarding the wisdom behind the Israeli threats to Haniyeh and the Israeli incursion itself which, by all accounts, appears intentionally stalled on the ground. The somewhat common theme of the debate often centers around the concept of Operation Summer Rains as collective punishment for the Palestinian people as much as it is to gain the release of Cpl. Shalit. There is much validity to this aspect.

However, it must be viewed in context with the fact that the Palestinian people collectively – whether at the time as a vote of support for Hamas’ tactics and leadership or as a punishment to the corrupt ruling Fatah – put the Hamas terrorist organization into political power. Hamas’ ascension into governance does not expunge their terrorist actions - past or present, elected or unelected.

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Collective punishment is against international law for good reason. Sure, the voting citizens of a country are responsible for electing the government. But not everyone is a voting citizen. Attacks on civilians and civilian facilities disproportionately affect the most vulnerable such as children. If you really believe Palestinian children should be accountable for what Hamas adults have done you are using the same rationale as that used by people who blow up buses in Jerusalem.