President Barack Obama Monday demanded that Israel stop its efforts to destroy the tunnels used by Hamas to launch rocket and jihad attacks against Israeli civilians, and called for a ceasefire on terms favorable to Hamas.
Hamas shields its tunnels from airstrikes by placing them in heavily populated civilian neighborhoods. The tunnels also extend under the border so Hamas jihadis can attack Israeli civilians and border patrols.
Israel has sent in ground units to find and destroy the tunnels, but Hamas’ forces are trying to repel the Israeli units in house-to-house fighting.
The resulting battles are killing some civilians, whose bodies are brought to a local hospital for display by international media.
Obama reacted Monday to Hamas’ strategy of showcasing civilian casualties.
“It now has to be our focus and the focus of the international community to bring about a ceasefire that ends the fighting,” Obama said in short statement from a podium behind the White House.
Obama’s Gaza intervention will likely be welcome by Hamas, partly because the Israeli military is battling its way through Hamas’ defenses. Also, Israeli officials are suggesting they will continue their offensive until Hamas is disarmed, and is no longer a threat to Israeli civilians.
Obama said he’s sent Secretary of State John Kerry to the region to win a quick ceasefire that will stop the Israeli advance and halt the rockets into Israel.
“We don’t want to see any more civilians getting killed,” Obama continued.
Israel’s military is accidentally killing civilians as it tried to destroy the tunnels under the Shejaiya neighborhood of Gaza. Israel had urged the local civilians to flee before the attack began.
In contrast, only a few Israeli civilians have been killed by Hamas’ barrage of rockets against Israel’s town and cities. That’s because Israel’s Iron Dome anti-missile defense destroys nearly all of the rockets that are on track to hit cities and towns.
Obama says he wants a ceasefire modeled on the 2012 deal that was brokered by Egypt’s Islamist government, and which temporarily ended a previous round of rocket attacks on Israel, and Israeli countermoves.
That Egyptian government was entwined with Hamas’ parent organization, the Cairo-based Muslim Brotherhood.
The 2012 peace deal opened Gaza’s border posts with Egypt once the fighting ended. Hamas used the open border to import more weapons and construction material for its tunnel network.
Since the 2012 deal was made, Egypt’s pro-Hamas government has been replaced by a new anti-Hamas government, which has drafted a new ceasefire deal.
The new deal would only open the border posts “once the security situation becomes stable on the ground,” according to the text.
Hamas recognizes that Egypt’s government will likely never conclude the security situation is stable enough to reopen the border. So the Egyptian deal that Hamas rejects — and that Obama is ignoring — would largely block a future military buildup by Hamas.
Israel accepted the new deal, but Hamas rejected it July 16, before Israel sent ground force into Gaza to destroy the tunnels.