Israel

TIP Backgrounder: Hamas-led “March of Return” Is Not for Independence, but for End of Israel

Background

Hamas, the Islamist terrorist organization which exercises complete political and military control over the Gaza Strip, on March 30 launched a six week long “March of Return” riot along the Gaza-Israeli border. Large groups of rioters marched on the border with the intent to breach the security fence and infiltrate into the Jewish State – the “peaceful protesters” were carrying guns, knives, stones, explosives, Molotov cocktails, burned thousands of tires and sent kites over Israeli territory with burning objects, causing extensive damage.

In the chaos of events, and in response to blatant violations of Israel’s sovereignty, the Israeli army killed 45 Palestinians, 36 of whom were members of or affiliates of Gaza-based terrorist organizations, including Hamas, Palestinian Islamic Jihad, and the al-Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigades.

Motivation

The total rejection of a Jewish presence in all of Israel

Hamas, the masterminds behind the riots, claim the “March of Return” is a legitimate protest against the decision by the United States to relocate its embassy to Jerusalem on May 14 – a move which enjoys bipartisan political support in Congress.

However, the riots are just a smokescreen for Hamas’s true intention: the total rejection of a Jewish presence in all of Israel. The terror group uses the riots to try to attack and kidnap Israelis. Hamas has developed an extensive tunnel network and has been training naval commandos for such operations. They have been testing Israeli defenses for weeks, including with IEDs along the border, kites carrying burning fuel into Israel, and infiltrations.

•  Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh vowed after the first Friday demonstration: “Last Friday we stopped at the border. Next time we don’t know where the limit will be.”

•  Hamas leader Yahya Sinwar, speaking before rioters, warned the world should “wait for our great move when we breach the borders and pray at Al-Aqsa.” He was surrounded by hundreds of supporters who chanted, “We are going to Jerusalem, millions of martyrs.”

Distraction from negligence and crimes against their own population

Hamas wants to distract attention from its crushing failures. The group is running out of ways to attack Israel, faces intense financial strains, and popular dissent in Gaza. The terror group wants people to forget that the misery of its citizens is the direct result of its squandering of hundreds of millions in aid on tunnels and rockets to attack Israel, instead of on the homes and hospitals and the regular water and electricity supplies, which Gaza’s suffering population really need.

•  Hamas has been running military exercises in preparation for the riots and its aftermath. On Sunday, March 25, they held an unprecedented military exercise that involved 30,000 fighters, live-fire exercises, and missile tests.

•  On April 17, the IDF announced the discovery and destruction of the longest and deepest terror tunnel extending into Israeli territory. The tunnel passed under one of the locations where rioters had gathered.

•  The ongoing rivalry between Hamas and Fatah over internal Palestinian politics has exacerbated the dire humanitarian situation in the Gaza Strip and could lead to more violence.

Strategy

Hamas is sending civilians – many of them just children – to threaten Israel’s security and provoke the soldiers who defend it. All so that Hamas can get heart-rending images of Gazans suffering at Israeli hands, images that can discredit and weaken the Jewish state. Hamas has cynically deployed civilians in the past as human shields – a war crime under international law – to mask its terrorist operations.

• On April 19, the European Parliament voted, for the first time ever, to condemn Hamas for its acts of terrorism and use of human shields. Members “strongly condemn[ed] the continuous tactic of Hamas to use civilians for the purpose of shielding terrorist activities. … Hamas seems to aim at escalating tensions.”

• On April 4, a senior adviser to PA President Mahmoud Abbas charged that Hamas was deliberately “sending Gazans to their deaths for good headlines.”

• Ahead of the riots, U.S. envoy Jason Greenblatt said in a statement: “We condemn leaders and protestors who call for violence or who send protestors — including children — to the fence, knowing that they may be injured or killed.”

Outlook

Hamas will unleash the rioters at will throughout the next weeks. The climax is expected on May 15, when Palestinians mark the “Day of Catastrophe”, the day after secular anniversary of the Jewish state’s longed-for independence.

Timeline

• May 13: Jerusalem Day (Israel celebrates reunification)
• May 14: Proposed date for opening of the US Embassy in Jerusalem
• May 15: Palestinians mark Israeli independence (“Nakba”)
• May 15/16: Ramadan begins