An old friend and ally is being welcomed back. Tensions were high between Benjamin Netanyahu and Muslim friendly Barack Obama. It’s time to get our vital relationship back on track. Trump has pledged to move the U.S. embassy in Israel to Jerusalem.
David Friedman, Trump’s pick for U.S. Ambassador in Israel, said he looks forward to working in Jerusalem. Trump advisor Kellyanne Conway said the move is a very high priority for the President-elect. Most countries, including the United States, maintain their embassies in Tel Aviv. With President Trump now in office, a meeting with Prime Minister Netanyahu is a top priority for Israel, which is seeking to mend ties with the United States now that President Obama has left the White House. The threat to Israel increases every day.
A senior Israeli security official warned on Tuesday that Hamas has restored its capabilities to the level they were before Israel’s Operation Protective Edge. The terror group has regained its strength in ammunition, as well as its network of terror tunnels.
In response to continued rocket fire into Israel from Gaza, the Israeli Defense Force launched Operation Protective Edge in 2014. Hamas, the ruling entity of the Gaza Strip, is responsible for most of the attacks on Israeli population centers. Since Operation Pillar of Defense in 2012, the terrorist organization had increased the size and strength of its rocket arsenal. Terrorist organizations in the Gaza Strip possessed around 10,000 rockets including long-range missiles such as the M-302. Hamas is in control of 6,000 of these rockets. Hamas uses civilian infrastructure to store and hide weapons.
The terrorist group used the densely packed civilian areas of the Gaza Strip to embed its weapons arsenal and command centers. To target these terror sites and limit civilian casualties, the IDF used precision attacks and provides warnings of strikes in advance.
The Hamas terrorists aren’t so selective. They reign munitions indiscriminately down on heavily populated Israeli civilian areas. Suicide bombings target women and children. Hamas’ tunnel network is a vast underground city with dozens of access points located throughout Gaza. Hamas uses these tunnels as weapons caches, bunkers, command centers and a concealed transportation artery for terrorists and weapons, including rocket launchers.
Some of these tunnels lead directly from Gaza to Israeli communities near the border, enabling terrorists to infiltrate, kidnap and attack Israeli civilians. The residents of southern Israel live in constant fear knowing that, at any time, a terrorist could emerge from a tunnel near their house and abduct or murder their neighbors or children.
Hamas exploits the Palestinian population of Gaza by building tunnels beneath densely populated areas. Many times, the tunnels’ access points are hidden between schools, mosques, hospitals and other civilian buildings. The terrorist organization deliberately embeds its terrorist infrastructure inside civilian’s neighborhoods, knowing that the IDF is reluctant to strike civilian areas.
Hamas deliberately uses Palestinian civilians as human shields, and has a long history of doing so. Hamas hopes to achieve two goals by using human shields: to deter IDF attacks on legitimate military targets, and to exploit any incidental harm that is caused because of IDF military activity.
Hamas’ use of human shields is a clear and deliberate violation of international law. Under the law of armed conflict, the presence of the civilian population cannot be used to render certain points immune from military operations, or to shield one’s own military operations. International law also explicitly forbids directing the civilian population to shield military objectives from attack. Hamas’ use of human shields not only makes the IDF’s efforts to reduce civilian harm more difficult, but is also potentially lethal for civilians in Gaza. Despite the IDF’s best efforts to avoid incidental harm, the increased presence of civilians in areas of planned IDF activity raises the risk of harm to the civilian population.
Hamas knows very well that the IDF does everything that it can to avoid civilian casualties. That is why in recent days Hamas issued messages on its television, radio, and social media platforms to ignore the IDF’s warnings of impending strikes and to remain in their homes.
How does Hamas fund weapons and the building of tunnels? The answer was Barack Obama. The Trump administration is reviewing the release of millions of dollars for Palestinian projects made by the Obama administration in a last-minute transfer that flouted congressional objections. Former Secretary of State John Kerry cemented the $221 million transfer in the administration’s final hours and informed Congress of it early on January 20, triggering anger on Capitol Hill and a statement from the Trump administration that they would be examining all expenditures.
“The Department of State is currently reviewing last minute spending approved by the previous administration and will make adjustments if needed to ensure that it aligns with the priorities of the Trump-Pence administration,” Acting State Department spokesman Mark Toner said in a statement.
Other reports suggest that the administration told Congress the funds would go to both the West Bank and Gaza, and that some money would be allocated for good governance projects, among other reforms. There is no accountability for the money.
Much of the anger on Capitol Hill is being directed specifically at Kerry, according to a senior official at a pro-Israel organization who works with Congress on Middle East appropriations issues.
“Kerry bears personal responsibility for making it impossible for Congress to continue working with the Palestinians in any productive capacity,” the source said. “Offices on both sides of the aisle are openly talking about freezing almost all aid to the Palestinians, and they’re saying that he forced their hand.”
Thanks to pro-Muslim and anti-Israel Obama, Hamas is back up to strength, and threatening Israeli security. Israel can take care of itself, but now that Trump is president, they have a strong ally in the U.S. again.