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Preferring Jail in Israel to Life under Hamas, Palestinians Increasingly Fleeing Gaza

Young Palestinians are increasingly fleeing Gaza for Israel, preferring to risk what they call the “comfort” of Israeli jails to life under Hamas, according to a report today written by journalist Khaled Abu Toameh and published by the Gatestone Institute.

Over the past two months, more than 20 Palestinians have been arrested while trying to cross from the Gaza Strip into Israel, according to Palestinian sources. A number of Palestinians have also been killed or wounded during their infiltration attempts.

The increase in the number of Palestinians who try to infiltrate Israel comes as Egypt continues to keep the Rafah border crossing closed. It also comes as the power struggle between Hamas and Fatah intensifies, hampering international efforts to rebuild the Gaza Strip and improve Palestinians’ living conditions in the aftermath of last summer’s military confrontation with Israel.

The situation has become so miserable in Gaza that some Palestinian youths are prepared to endanger their lives by approaching the border with Israel.

According to Palestinian sources, twelve Palestinians have managed to cross into Israel recently. Two youths who made the attempt were interviewed and said that “they prefer the ‘comfort’ of Israeli prisons to life in the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip.” Ahmed al-Rai, a 19-year-old who was shot while attempting to infiltrate into Israel, said, “I wanted to escape to Israel so that I would be imprisoned there. It would have been a relief for me and better than the problems in the Gaza Strip.” A 16 year-old named Rabi, who was detained for three months before being sent back to Gaza, recalled his stay in Israel as “happy times….I had food, calm and good work, although I did not receive a salary.” He added that the food was “delicious” and better than what he had in Gaza.

According to the report, Hamas claims that there is “no phenomenon of Palestinians fleeing to Israel.” But Abu Toameh adds that three months after Operation Protective Edge, “Hamas has failed to offer the Palestinians any hope.” He cites an Israeli military source who says that Hamas has “increased its rocket and mortar firing tests out to sea,” while doing nothing to “to improve the living conditions of its people.”

During Operation Protective Edge, Hamas put its own interests ahead of the residents of Gaza, using civilians as human shields. In How Hamas Destroys Its People, as Seen Through the Eyes of IDF Soldiers, which was published in the September 2014 of The Tower Magazine, Yardena Schwartz profiled five IDF soldiers who witnessed these instances of Hamas’ cruelty to civilians. In her conclusion, Schwartz wrote:

Surely none of these stories makes the overwhelming images of death and destruction in Gaza any less tragic. If anything, these accounts from the ground make the number of civilian casualties even more depressing.
Hearing how much these soldiers struggled to protect Palestinian civilians is astonishing; yet knowing how many civilians died despite those efforts is equally astonishing. None of them denied that the Israeli military, like any military in the world, does make mistakes, and they all expressed sadness for the loss of innocent life. Yet their anger and frustration at the reasons behind those casualties seemed to overpower their sadness or sympathy. They may have told different stories from different points of view, but their one unifying message was that they, Israeli soldiers, cared much more about the lives of Palestinian civilians than Hamas ever has and ever will. For every step they took to avoid civilian deaths, they said, Hamas took two steps in the other direction.

[Photo: Mary Madigan / Flickr ]