April 15 marked the 18th anniversary of the firing of the first Hamas rocket toward Israel. Pictured: Armed Hamas militiamen on parade with a vehicle-mounted rocket launcher in Gaza, in August 2016. (Image source: PressTV video screenshot)
April 15 marked the 18th anniversary of the firing of the first Hamas rocket toward Israel. On this day, 18 years ago, Hamas's military wing, Izaddin al-Qassam, launched its first rocket attack at Israeli population centers near their border with the Gaza Strip.
On the eve of this occasion, Yahya Sinwar, the Hamas leader of the Gaza Strip, threatened that his movement will continue to fire rockets at Israel. The rockets, he said, will be fired at Israeli "settlements" not only near the border with the Gaza Strip, but also at supposed "settlements" in the Israeli cities of Ashkelon, Ashdod and Tel Aviv.
Sinwar said that the recent Egyptian-sponsored ceasefire understandings between Hamas and Israel are not a peace agreement. The understandings, he explained, do not require Hamas to disarm or halt, near the border with Israel, the weekly demonstrations, also known as the "Great March of Return."
"The understandings do not have any political dimension," the Hamas leader said. "I promise that if a war is imposed on us, the occupation will have to evacuate its settlements, not only near the Gaza Strip, but also in Ashdod, Ashkelon, the Negev and even Tel Aviv. Remember this promise."
Sinwar's threats serve as a reminder that Hamas and other Palestinian terror group consider Israel one big settlement that needs to be annihilated. Hamas and the other terror groups do not see a difference between a Jew living in the West Bank and a Jew living in Tel Aviv or Ashkelon. To terror groups, all these Jews, regardless of whether they live in the West Bank or in Israel proper, are "settlers" and "colonists."
For them, Tel Aviv, Ashkelon, Ashdod and all Israeli cities are no different than Jewish communities and neighborhoods in east Jerusalem and the West Bank. That's why Hamas and the terror groups consider all "settlements" -- inside Israel and in the West Bank -- as legitimate targets for their rockets.
Contrary to claims by some Western political analysts and media outlets, Hamas has never recognized Israel's right to exist. Needless to say, Hamas has never renounced the "armed struggle" against Israel.
Above all, Hamas has never accepted the "two-state solution" or changed its charter, which explicitly states:
"When our enemies usurp some Islamic lands, Jihad [holy war] becomes a duty binding on all Muslims. In order to face the usurpation of Palestine by the Jews, we have no escape from raising the banner of Jihad. This would require the propagation of Islamic consciousness among the masses on all local, Arab and Islamic levels. WE must spread the spirit of Jihad among the [Islamic] Umma, clash with the enemies and join the ranks of the Jihad fighters."
Sinwar deserves credit for being honest about his movement's true goals. He also deserves credit for sticking to every word mentioned in the Hamas charter, which was published more than 30 years ago and remains as relevant as ever to this very day.
Jihad, according to the Hamas leader, should be waged not only against Jews living in West Bank settlements, but also against those residing in "settlements" in all of Israel, including Tel Aviv. He says he wants to see all Jews evacuated from their homes. He says he is hoping that the Hamas rockets will one day force Israel to "evacuate" all Jews from their homes.
In the past 18 years, Hamas, Islamic Jihad and other terror groups in the Gaza Strip have fired thousands of rockets and missiles at Israel.
A report by the IDF on Hamas's rocket arsenal notes that the terror group has about 6,000 rockets. They include more than 1,000 units of self-produced short-range rockets (15 km range), more than 2,500 units of smuggled short-range rockets (15 km range), approximately 200 units of self-produced Grad rockets (20 km range), approximately 200 units of smuggled Grad rockets (20 km range), approximately 200 units of self-produced improved Grad rockets (45 km range), approximately 1,000 units of smuggled improved Grad rockets (45 km range), more than 400 units of self-produced medium range rockets (up to 80 km range) and dozens of long-range rockets (100-200 km range).
The other terror groups in the Gaza Strip, the report says, have approximately another 5,500 short-range, medium-range and long-range rockets.
That is why Sinwar's threats to fire more rockets at Israel should be taken with deadly seriousness. He is also right when he says that the ceasefire understandings with Israel are not a political agreement with the "Zionist entity." Hamas cannot reach any political deal with Israel because it does not agree to Israel's right to exist. This is the message that Sinwar and leaders of all Palestinian terror groups want the world to hear. For the terrorist leaders, the only peace they will accept is one that results in the elimination of Israel and the evacuation of all Jews from their homes.
Hamas, of course, is strongly opposed to US President Donald Trump's upcoming plan for peace in the Middle East, also known as the "Deal of the Century." How can Hamas accept any peace plan that recognizes Israel's right to exist? Hamas is opposed to the Deal of the Century not because the plan doesn't offer the Palestinians enough land. It is opposed to the plan because it doesn't offer the Palestinians all the land, from the Mediterranean Sea to the Jordan River.
Consider another phrase from the Hamas charter, one that explains why it cannot recognize Israel's right to exist:
"The Islamic Resistance Movement [Hamas] believes that the land of Palestine has been an Islamic Waqf throughout the generations and until the Day of Resurrection; no one can renounce it or part of it, or abandon it or part of it."
Drafted more than three decades ago, the message the Hamas charter sends to the US, the Arab world, Palestinians and the rest of the international community sounds as if it was issued yesterday. It is a straightforward, unambiguous message that says:
"[Peace] initiatives, the so-called peaceful solutions, and the international conferences to resolve the Palestinian problem are all contrary to the beliefs of the Islamic Resistance Movement [Hamas]. For renouncing any part of Palestine means renouncing part of the religion. There is no solution to the Palestinian problem expect by Jihad."
Hamas is not a small group whose threats can be brushed aside as "irrelevant." It is a terror groups that possesses thousands of rockets and controls the entire Gaza Strip, where nearly two million Palestinian live. It is a terror group that won the Palestinian parliamentary election in 2006. It is a terror group whose supporters have won a number of university student council elections not only in the Gaza Strip, but also in the areas controlled by the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank.
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas has undoubtedly read the Hamas charter. He knows that, as a Muslim, if he accepts any peace plan that does not include the expulsion of all Jews from their homes, he will be denounced by his rivals in Hamas as a traitor. Abbas is also aware of Hamas's threats to shower Israel with rockets. He knows that at the same time as Hamas attacks Israel, it will seek to flatten him for "betraying" Arabs and Muslims in "allowing" Jews to continue living in "their" state. This is the Palestinian reality that the Deal of the Century is about to be dealt.
Khaled Abu Toameh, an award-winning journalist based in Jerusalem, is a Shillman Journalism Fellow at Gatestone Institute.