Rather than doing anything to secure COVID-19 vaccines for the two million Palestinians living under their rule in the Gaza Strip, the Palestinian terror groups Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad are continuing to do what they have proven themselves experts at doing: prepare for war against Israel and endanger the lives of innocent civilians, Israelis and Palestinians alike. Pictured: A spokesman for Gaza-based terrorist groups speaks at a press conference during joint military exercises led by Hamas, in Gaza City on December 29, 2020. (Photo by Mohammed Abed/AFP via Getty Images)
As many in the international community express more and more concern about the economic and humanitarian crisis in the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip, the Palestinian terror groups there seem less and less concerned about improving the living conditions of their people.
These groups, specifically Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ), are not doing anything to secure vaccines against COVID-19 for the two million Palestinians living under their rule in the Gaza Strip.
Instead, Hamas and PIJ are continuing to do what they have proven themselves experts at doing: prepare for war against Israel and endanger the lives of innocent civilians, Israelis and Palestinians alike.
In preparing for war, the two Iranian-backed groups are manufacturing and smuggling various types of weapons, including rockets and explosive devices, that they plan to use in their attacks on Israel. Instead of storing medicine and vaccines, Hamas and PIJ are busy storing rockets and explosive devices.
The weapons are stored in the homes of Palestinians and public institutions throughout the Gaza Strip, including schools, hospitals and mosques. Hamas and PIJ do not store weapons in their offices and installations because they are afraid of being targeted by Israel. By storing weapons among local civilians, Hamas and PIJ exhibit their total disregard for the lives of their people, who are being used as both cannon-fodder and human shields in a jihad (holy war) against Israel.
Significantly, international human rights organizations and "pro-Palestinian" advocacy groups around the world -- by ignoring the dangerous actions of Hamas and PIJ, not only against Israel, but against Palestinians as well -- are also showing disregard for the safety and lives of the Palestinians.
In the absence of international attention, Hamas and PIJ have turned the Gaza Strip into one big warehouse for stockpiling weapons of all kinds. The Palestinian terror groups that moan about a crippling economic crisis in the Gaza Strip somehow always seem to find enough money to purchase, smuggle or manufacture weapons.
The voices of the international human rights organizations and "pro-Palestinian" activists around the world are also not heard when Palestinians fall victim to the reckless practices of Palestinian terror groups.
Take, for example, the explosion that rocked Bet Hanoun, a Palestinian town in the northern Gaza Strip, the morning of January 23, 2021.
According to the Hamas-controlled Ministry of Public Works and Housing, the explosion that occurred inside a house completely destroyed two houses and damaged 100 others.
At least 47 Palestinians, including nine children and 15 women, were wounded in the explosion, according to the Al-Mezan Center for Human Rights, a Palestinian organization.
Such "accidents" are not uncommon in the Gaza Strip. In 2009, a rocket fired by Palestinian terror groups toward Israel hit a house in the town of Bet Lahiya in the Gaza Strip, killing two Palestinian girls, aged five and 12. In addition, Hamas and other Palestinian terror groups have frequently violated the laws of war by firing rockets from within populated areas.
On January 2, another three children and a woman were injured in another "accident" in the Shajjaiyeh neighborhood of Gaza City. The explosion was apparently caused by weapons stored by Palestinian terror groups in a house.
In April 2020, a Palestinian man was killed and three others injured in yet another "accident" in the Sheikh Radwan neighborhood of Gaza City. Again, the explosion was apparently caused by weapons belonging to Hamas and PIJ.
Four months later, four PIJ militiamen were killed when a rocket they were handling accidentally exploded east of Gaza City. The militiamen were apparently preparing to fire the rocket into Israel from a residential area in the Gaza Strip.
Most residents of the Gaza Strip are too terrified to criticize the Palestinian terror groups for storing weapons in residential areas. After the Bet Hanoun explosion, however, several Palestinians condemned Hamas and PIJ for endangering the lives of innocent civilians. according to the Egyptian newspaper Al-Masry Al-Youm:
"Social media users and citizens directed sharp criticisms against the Islamic Jihad for its reckless behavior and its lack of concern for the safety of innocent civilians, due to its concealment and storage of explosive materials in the homes of citizens, which caused many victims in the past."
The newspaper quoted an unidentified witness as saying that the Bet Hanoun explosion occurred inside a house belonging to a family known for its close relations with Hamas and PIJ.
Maysara Alkafarna, a Palestinian who lives in the area where the explosion occurred, took an unusual and brave step by attacking the Palestinian terror groups over their disregard for the safety of Palestinians in the Gaza Strip.
In a post on Facebook, Alkafarna wrote:
"Until when will this disregard for the lives of people continue? Why should the hearts of an entire neighborhood be killed out of fear and their shouting reach the sky? Isn't it enough that they are already living in hunger and poverty? To our leaders: enough of your carelessness. You have destroyed us. We are not a field for experiments."
The Al-Mezan Center for Human Rights, meanwhile, called for an investigation into the explosion. The organization revealed that a three-storey house was completely destroyed, while six adjacent houses were partially damaged, including a school, a youth club and a police station.
"The Al-Mezan Center for Human Rights views the explosion with concern," it said in a statement, adding that similar incidents have taken place in the past in residential areas in the Gaza Strip.
"These incidents violate human rights and international humanitarian law. Al-Mezan reiterates its call for a comprehensive and serious investigation into this incident, and for publishing the results of the investigation and taking the necessary measures to prevent their recurrence."
The explosion in the Gaza Strip occurred as leaders of Hamas, PIJ and other Palestinian factions are expected to meet in Egypt in the coming weeks to discuss preparations for holding new general elections. The Palestinian factions are not scheduled to discuss the consequences of the explosion, mainly because it is seen as an embarrassment for the terror groups that use the homes of civilians to store weapons.
Hamas has already expressed a readiness to participate in the upcoming elections. It is hoping to repeat its victory in the 2006 parliamentary election.
It is important to stress that Hamas is planning to participate in the election while continuing to store weapons in residential areas in the Gaza Strip.
Hamas can rest easy, knowing that the international community does not care if more Palestinians continue to pay the price for "accidents" caused by explosives and rockets stored inside the homes of Palestinians. Had the explosion in Bet Hanoun been caused by Israel, international media outlets would have been falling over themselves to shout about another Israeli "war crime." Perhaps it is time to heed the postings like those of the Alkafarna -- postings that call out the true enemy: Hamas, PIJ, and other Palestinian terrorist groups.
Khaled Abu Toameh, an award-winning journalist based in Jerusalem, is a Shillman Journalism Fellow at Gatestone Institute.