THE POST’S William Booth witnessed a chilling event in the Gaza Strip on Thursday: thousands of youths lined up “in crisp military fashion” for a “graduation ceremony” after a week of training by the armed wing of the Hamas movement. Even as thousands of Gazan families struggle to survive amid the rubble of last summer’s war with Israel, and children are reported to be dying from exposure, Hamas is once again investing its resources in preparing for another unwinnable battle.
That this is happening is yet another indictment of this Islamic terrorist movement, which has started three wars with Israel in six years while depriving the 1.8 million people on its devastated territory any hope of peaceful development. But it is also shameful evidence of the failure by other parties — from the Palestinian Authority and Israel to Egypt and the United States — to take steps to lift Gaza out of its tragic cycle of bloodshed and blockade.
Last year’s war, which killed more than 2,000 Gazans and damaged or destroyed 124,000 homes, could have been a turning point. Israel pressed for Hamas’s disarmament as part of a cease-fire; though that proved impossible, the United States and Egypt pressed a formula under which the Palestinian Authority would take over responsibility for security on the territory’s border, allowing for an expansion of trade and humanitarian relief.
The deal never took hold. Hamas refused to give up its checkpoints on the border, while Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas chose to focus his energies on another empty diplomatic offensive at the United Nations rather than the more difficult work of restoring order in Gaza. The predictable result was that Egypt, ruled by a regime deeply hostile to Hamas, sealed its border and redoubled its effort to prevent smuggling, while Israel, worried about Hamas’s rearmament, allowed only a fraction of the imports the United Nations says are needed for reconstruction.
International donors — above all, the Arab states — have meanwhile held back the reconstruction funding they pledged. The result was that the U.N. refugee relief agency in Gaza was forced to suspend payments to families last week. Its director, Robert Turner, issued a statement saying that “people are desperate and the international community cannot even provide the bare minimum — for example a repaired home in winter — let alone a lifting of the blockade, access to markets or freedom of movement.”
U.N. officials, like much of the rest of the world, are quick to blame Israel for this horrific situation, even though Egypt’s border “blockade” is tighter. It’s certainly striking that while Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is said to consider the danger of Iran so serious that it justifies his violation of diplomatic protocol to address a joint meeting of Congress, he appears to have no policy for Gaza — the source of the most lethal attacks on Israelis in recent years.
Israel, however, can hardly be expected to facilitate Hamas’s relentless preparations for more war, to which concrete and other reconstruction materials have been diverted in the past. An Israeli official told Mr. Booth that Gazan workshops were “assembling new rockets as fast as they can” and that the strip’s militias would be fully rearmed and trained within months. Sadly, that is likely to be the next time the world pays heed to Gaza — when war with Israel again erupts.
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