From [MintPress] On Monday, October 30, Israel fired five missiles at a tunnel under construction in Gazan territory east of Khan Younis. Seven Palestinians were killed and nine wounded during the attack. Israel asserts that the tunnel had reached the Israeli side of the perimeter wall it has built around Gaza, but it attacked the tunnel on the Gaza side, thus resulting in the 16 casualties. Since Israel has provided no proof that the tunnel had actually reached Israeli territory, the analysis that follows looks at either possibility.
In the first case, if the tunnel did not reach Israel, the tunnel would then be a defensive battlement. While Israeli propaganda mislabeled these structures as “terror tunnels” during its assault on Gaza in 2014, the tunnels were actually a very valuable asset for a defensive response to the Israeli invasion. During Operation Protective Edge, Israel unloaded its full arsenal of airpower, tanks, artillery and naval batteries against a defenseless population. The Palestinians had no such heavy weaponry and no effective defenses against Israel’s firepower.
The military wing of Hamas, the al-Qassam brigades, were able to use a tunnel network to evade the massive bombing and then attack Israeli troops and mechanized armor using close-in fighting. This negated Israel’s ability to massively shell Palestinian fighters. As Max Blumenthal noted, the tunnels played a large part in the Palestinians’ ability to inflict military casualties, killing 67 Israeli soldiers during Operation Protective Edge.
This would explain Israel’s interest in destroying the tunnels. Such casualties, even if relatively light in comparison to the Palestinian loss of 2,251 lives, are not acceptable to the Israeli public. Further, even after the three murderous assaults on Gaza in 2008-9, 2012 and 2014, the Israeli leadership is expected to launch still another assault going forward.
Yet there is one rather significant problem with this week’s attack. It is an act of war during a supposed ceasefire. Again, assuming the tunnel did not reach Israeli territory, the Palestinians have every right to build defensive battlements on their territory. That the tunnel may cause future Israeli casualties should there be another assault on Gaza does not justify Israel’s attack during a cease-fire.
Israel’s attack on a defensive position in anticipation of a future conflict is actually the first strike of such a conflict. It is an offensive attack encompassing an unprovoked act of military aggression to reduce the Palestinians’ military preparedness. Therefore, Israel’s action is the launch of an offensive war, which is a war crime.
Zionist supporters will argue that Israel has a right to defend itself and point to the Israeli allegation that the tunnel had reached the Israeli side. Examining this possibility then begs the question, if the tunnel did reach Israeli territory as alleged, what is the correct response?
The Times of Israel reported, “The [Israeli] military said the tunnel had been under surveillance for an extended period of time and was under active construction at the time of the demolition.” So, according to its own account, the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) knew about the tunnel for some time and knew it was on the Israeli side of the perimeter wall. Therefore, the IDF must have known the location of the tunnel and could have taken a different approach to “self-defense.”
Clearly, with the knowledge of the tunnel’s general location, Israel could have used its own heavy equipment to dig into and expose the tunnel, thereby rendering it useless. Such an act of self-defense would not have required an act of aggression on foreign soil. At the same time, such exposure would have provided a PR bonanza for Israel, showing the world the definitive proof of Palestinian aggression.
It is further worth noting that Israel is currently working on a construction barrier to surround Gaza. Changing the location of their current work to the location of the tunnel would also have effectively countered the this alleged incursion. Another option would have been to follow the precedent set by Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi after he took over the Egyptian government. After taking power, Sisi flooded the tunnels providing a lifeline of goods to Gaza, thereby tightening the grip of Israel’s complete blockade. Israel could just as easily have flooded the tunnel from its side of the perimeter wall; a justifiable defense had the tunnel indeed reached Israel.
Therefore we can reach either one of two conclusions. First, that the unproven Israeli allegation of the tunnel reaching Israeli territory is false. Or second, Israel ignored a number defensive options that would not have required an attack on foreign soil and loss of life. In either case, this act of war in Gaza was unnecessary. Yet given the less belligerent options available to the Israelis, why would they choose to initiate another conflict? [MORE]