On March 30, 2018, a new chapter of Hamas terrorism against Israel was opened. On that Friday, 30,000 Palestinian men, women, and children marched to the border fence that separates Israel from their homes in Gaza. Hamas billed the protest as a “peaceful demonstration”, declaring that the purpose of this march was to show support for the Palestinians’ so-called “right of return”. The crowd was a far cry from the 100,000 Gazans that Hamas had promised, but the threat that the crowd could still overwhelm the border fence and rush the Israeli soldiers guarding it was real enough. 

Not surprisingly, what Hamas promoted as a “peaceful” march turned into a riot of hate and violence. That included throwing rocks and Molotov cocktails, rolling burning tires toward the Israeli soldiers on the other side of the fence, hand grenades, and gunfire. The “peaceful” demonstrators quickly turned into a bloodthirsty mob that jeered and chanted endlessly, “Kill the Jews!”. And this was only the first of a long series of marches, every single Friday after that, continuing each week, well into the summer.

Kites of Fire   What followed was even more terrifying. Hamas began using a new – primitive but effective – weapon against the Jewish state. First kites and then balloons, attached by long strings to flaming rags, were released and, carried by the prevailing Mediterranean winds, sailed eastward to the fields and forests of southern Israel, where they set fire to the crops and wildlife sanctuaries that Israel had nurtured and protected for decades. To date, Palestinian terrorists have set more than 1,000 fires and scorched more than 9,000 acres. Nearly 15 square miles have been ravaged by the flames, thousands of animals have been burned to death, and priceless ecology has been destroyed. In a new low in depravity, Hamas tethered a rare falcon to a flaming rag, and released it at the border. The bird was later found in Israel caught in a tree and burned to death.

Even as mediators tried to organize a ceasefire and stop the launching of these weapons from hell, Hamas fighters promised that this war of flames will continue until all of Palestine – from the Mediterranean to the Jordan River – is theirs and the Jews are gone. 

On July 20th, when Israeli newspapers reported that a Gaza-style incendiary balloon was found in a Jerusalem courtyard, it became clear that not only was the war of fire balloons far from over, it was spreading.

Hamas Steals from Its Own People   There seems to be no end to the lengths that Hamas is willing to stretch its lack of humanity or concern for the land. It uses the people of Gaza as human shields and cannon fodder. It deprives them of electricity, clean water, sewage treatment, and the basics of human life. It poisons the land with its neglect. 

For years, Hamas has been receiving massive funding from the international community to help it rebuild its infrastructure and the homes that were destroyed in the two punishing wars it provoked with Israel. Millions of dollars, and an estimated 95% of the hundreds of truckloads of construction materials and massive shipments of humanitarian foods, water, and medicine driven into Gaza from Israel, has been stolen for Hamas projects (such as building terrorist tunnels, paying terrorists salaries, feeding the fighters, etc.). Instead of helping the people of Gaza recover and making their lives better, as Hamas promised it would before it took over Gaza in 2007, its leaders continue to ignore their needs, even as they feather their own nests. 

In Gaza, where the unemployment rate, approaching 50%, is the highest in the world, Hamas only takes care of its own. The people of Gaza have electricity only two or three hours a day and the waste management system has been allowed to collapse. There is no fresh, potable water. Food is scarce. The people are poor and hungry.

So when the steaming heat of summer beats down on Gaza, they go to the sea to cool off. But the waters they swim in are so highly contaminated with animal waste and the raw sewage that flows directly from the pipes into the waters of the Mediterranean, that swimming can be sickening and even lethal. At least one five–year-old child has died from swimming in sea and ingesting the toxic water. The danger of diseases such as typhoid and cholera becoming epidemic among the people of Gaza is real and getting more serious every day.

(Photo: Gulf News)

Five water treatment plants are necessary to handle Gaza’s sewage before it flows into the sea. But the massive diversion of funds, and the severe shortage of electricity and fuel, also stolen by Hamas, has crippled the treatment plants, allowing the raw sewage to flow directly into the sea. 

This has also impacted the groundwater under Gaza, which is slowly being replaced by polluted sea-water, leaching the contamination directly into the aquifer. It is a mass casualty disaster ready to happen, but it is very low on the list of priorities for Hamas. And soon it will impact the waters of neighboring Egypt and Israel, so it is also an international crisis in the making.

Hamas’ Single-Minded Mission   Hamas spends its efforts and money rebuilding its terrorist capabilities, while harassing Israel with rockets and fire balloons, and ignoring the critical needs of its citizens. Its leaders imply a willingness to talk about a ceasefire, but they don’t actually show up. Their mission is clear, as spelled out in their defining document – the Hamas Covenant: destroy Israel and drive the Jews into the sea, then claim the land for Palestine. That is their first priority. The people of Gaza don’t stand a chance to be a close second. Hamas has destroyed their economy, kept them in a cycle of ever-increasing poverty, and brutalized them in nearly every way possible.

The Future of Gaza   The prospects for the people of Gaza are grim. They are the losers in this power game in which Hamas builds itself up at their expense, while they scrabble just to stay alive. They nourish their souls with the misplaced hatred for the Israelis, who, ironically, are among the only ones actually providing them with food, medicine, fuel, and clean water.  But the message is lost on the leaders of Hamas, so consumed are they by their hatred of Israel. As a result, the continuing attacks of today are likely to lead to the next Israel-Gaza war tomorrow. Israel is fast losing it patience and there will be a limit to how many more of these fiery attacks and rockets launches into populated areas Israel will be willing to take. 

The Game Just Changed   On July 20, the first Israeli to die in this new conflict, was a young soldier, shot by a Hamas sniper. It may have been a game changer for Israel, where life is precious and every death is very personal. If Hamas escalates, or even if it just continues to sanction the fire-bombing, Israel will respond – not in kind, but with overwhelming force. 

This is not likely to end well, not for Hamas, not for the people of Gaza, and not for the Palestinians’ dream for a country of their own. Because they cannot have Israel. The State of Israel is firmly established as a vibrant member of the international community and it is here to stay.

Israel will not submit to the burning intifada (uprising) much longer and is about to make decisions that will dramatically change the nature of the conflict. Hamas has long declared that the creation of the State of Israel in 1948 was a nakba (catastrophe). But having achieved power, Hamas has created its own nakba, putting its resources into terror, and allowing Gaza to become an open sewer where its people are sinking into abject, spirit-breaking poverty. Gaza is a wound that is festering, and getting more dangerous every day. 

Israel will not stand by indefinitely. The situation is about to change.

Ilana Freedman is a veteran intelligence analyst and advisor in intelligence-led counter-terrorism solutions. Trained in Israel, where she lived and worked for sixteen years, she returned to the U.S., and served as CEO of Gerard Group International in Massachusetts until 2009. Since then, Ilana has been an independent consultant, working with major corporations and government agencies on security issues. Her global network of specialists and field assets provides an ongoing resource of critical, real-time intelligence and domain expertise. Ilana is the author of many articles on the terrorist threat to America and the West, and four books on Islamic terrorism.