Ambassador of Israel to Georgia - They who start a war and lose are not the victims

The rescue operation of the Israeli hostages Noa Argamani (26), Almog Meir Jan (22), Andrey Kozlov (27), and Shlomi Ziv (41), abducted by Hamas terrorists in their brutal attack launched against Israel from the Gaza Strip on October 7, is a source of hope for the relatives of the 120 other hostages, who have been sequestered for over 8 months in the Gaza Strip. It also reveals the inextricable links between Hamas and the civilian population of the Gaza Strip.

The hostages were held captive by civilians in two separate private homes in the heart of the Gaza Strip. Their liberation involved fierce fighting against hundreds of terrorists and armed civilians, reflecting the asymmetry of this urban warfare. While Israel makes utmost efforts to spare collateral damage and the lives of uninvolved people, Hamas conceals its gunmen, as well as the hostages, among the population while using the civilians as human shields. The deliberate prevention of any distinction between uninvolved civilians and terrorists is a blunt contradiction to both international law and the basic rules of war. The fact that three hostages were detained in the home of Al Jazeera journalist Abdallah Aljamal (36) is not less striking and tells a lot about the collusion of the State-owned Qatari news outlet with the Islamic fundamentalist terror organization.

The battle to liberate the hostages represents a small victory for Israel and a big blow to Hamas. The crocodile tears of Hamas supporters at the number of casualties cannot hide the obvious: All these losses could have been avoided if Hamas and its Gazan accomplices had not kidnapped the Israeli citizens in the first place, or if they had released them previously. He who starts a war and loses cannot claim to be a victim.

The civilian population in Gaza, much like in any other conflict zone, is a complex and multifaceted group. However, a grim aspect of this population is its active support for Hamas and its involvement in reprehensible acts such as hostage-taking, sexual assault, and murder of Israelis. The events on and since 7th October reveal that many civilians in Gaza are indeed backing Hamas, starting from educating their children to become Hamas activists and rejoicing at the murder of Jews. On top of that, thousands of Gazans participated in the carnage at Israeli villages, looting, raping and killing. Many enable Hamas to hide both hostages and terrorists in their homes, as well as use the homes to store weapons and to access the terror tunnels. The recording of the young killer from Gaza calling his parents on 7 October from the phone of one of his victims to boast he had killed 10 Jews with his own hands is an unmistakable example. Another instance beyond common understanding is the recent gruesome testimony of another young Gazan terrorist acknowledging that he, his father and cousin had raped an Israeli woman before murdering her. Both are stark evidence of the devastating dehumanization of Jews, an integral part of the death culture shared by too many Gazans.

A recent poll indicates that 71% of Gazans believe that Hamas’s decision to launch its offensive against Israel on 7 October was a correct one. This is not to suggest that every Gazan civilian is complicit in such acts, but it is critical to acknowledge the segments that are far from being entirely innocent.

Hamas is not an alien implant from abroad. It is first and foremost the local Gaza branch of the Muslim Brotherhood. The Hamas leaders and its militants were born and raised in the Gaza Strip and are deeply rooted in the social fabric of Gaza. The terror organization controls not just the military and political landscape, but also business and trade (by systematic extortion and racketeering of individuals and companies, combined with large-scale misappropriation of international humanitarian aid), the social services and the educational institutions.

Furthermore, support for Hamas and participation in violent acts go beyond mere dependence or coercion. There is a significant element of ideological alignment as well. The educational and propaganda systems in Gaza indoctrinate the youth with a narrative of hatred and violence against Israel. This indoctrination does not only encourage passive support, but often leads to active collaboration in terrorist activities. A disturbing component is that UNRWA lets this incitement penetrate its institutions, and in particular its school network, where teachers and principals are often Hamas militants or sympathizers, teaching significant portions of the Gazan population to view Hamas’s heinous acts as legitimate.

This enables Hamas to cultivate a base of support that extends beyond political allegiance into active participation in its violent agenda. The group's full control over the economy, the humanitarian aid and the social education network gains them loyalty, while at the same time, their propaganda fosters a culture of martyrdom and violent crimes against Israel, including hostage-taking, rape, and murder.

The international community must take a clear stance in addressing this issue. It is imperative to hold the Hamas network members accountable, from its leaders through its henchmen and murderers down to its militants in schools and governing institutions, who either are part of the terror infrastructure or support the education of Gazan children to hatred and violence.

Op Ed by the Ambassador of Israel to Georgia, Hadas Meitzad

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