Attacks on Israelis
During the 1990’s, Hamas infamously launched a wave of suicide bombings against Israeli civilians, in an effort to derail the Oslo Peace Process. These attacks continued into the 21st Century, killing hundreds of civilians. Israel’s construction of fences along its borders with Gaza and the West Bank proved effective in ending the suicide bombings.
Hamas has since turned to its current weapon of choice, the Qassam missile, which it easily manufactures and stockpiles throughout Gaza. Since Israel left Gaza in 2005, over ten thousand missiles and mortars have been fired on Israeli communities. Over one million Israelis now live within missile range of Gaza (approximately 1 in 8 Israelis). For many of these residents, an alarm warning of only 15 seconds in advance of a missile strike provides an opportunity to reach shelter.
In addition to missile fire on Israeli cities, Hamas has also conducted a number of attacks across the border fence, including bombings of Israeli patrols (on the Israeli side). Just this past April, Hamas targeted a school bus with a Kornet anti-tank missile – murdering an Israeli teenager.
Hamas has been very effective in smuggling weaponry into Gaza, largely through tunnels beneath its border with Egypt. Large caches have been discovered en route to Hamas. For example, 50 tons of weapons were seized aboard the ship Victoria this past March. The ship, which originated in Syria, carried:
- 6 C-704 anti-ship missiles (fired shore-to-sea, capable of sinking major civilian vessels from a distance of 35km)
- 230 mortar shells (120 mm)
- 2,270 mortar shells (60 mm)
- 2 radar systems manufactured in England
- 2 launchers
- 2 hydraulic mounting cranes for radar system
- 66,960 bullets for the AK-47
This represents only one such cache – intended for addition to Hamas’ already extensive stockpile.
Treatment of the People of Gaza
Inside Gaza, Hamas seized control of the territory in June of 2007 after a violent coup which killed more than 150 Palestinians – including political opponents who were thrown from rooftops.
Hamas has since imposed an authoritarian regime, enforcing its own constrictive view of Islam on Gazans. There are widespread reports of “modesty patrols” being deployed in an increasingly Taliban-like environment. A number of theatres and bars have been shut down, and clothing stores have been banned from displaying lingerie. Women have been prohibited from a number of basic freedoms, like riding in cars alone with unrelated men and smoking hookahs in public.
Several thousand Christians who live in Gaza have also found life more difficult under Hamas rule, and a number have fled. Those remaining have been subject to increased intimidation from extremist factions. In one high-profile case several months after the coup, the manager of Gaza’s only Christian bookstore, Rami Ayyad, was kidnapped, tortured, and murdered by unknown attackers.
For a number of years, Hamas media outlets have steadily encouraged Palestinian children to take up the cause of holy war – even to the point of using cartoon characters to promote suicide bombing and martyrdom.