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The Mideast

Hamas backers spend fortunes on rockets and tunnels while Gazans live in misery

HAIFA, Israel – The latest ceasefire between Israel and Hamas ended Friday morning when Hamas resumed its costly campaign of rocket attacks on Israel even as its 2 million constituents suffer from wrenching poverty.

Although the millions of Palestinians packed into the small strip suffer from chronic unemployment, and lack of electricity and running water, Hamas and its backers such as Qatar have spent hundreds of millions of dollars on tunnels and rockets with one goal in mind: killing Israelis.

“When you look at what Hamas did with all the cement and the materials that went into Gaza for ‘building’, and you now see that most went on the tunnels, you understand that from their point of view the civilian side is not important,” retired Maj. Gen. Yaakov Amidror, former national security advisor to the prime minister of Israel and director of the Intelligence Analysis Division in Israel’s Military Intelligence, told FoxNews.com.

So far, Israel has destroyed some 32 terror tunnels – each one requiring the equivalent of 350 truckloads of building supplies and costing up to $3 million to create, according to the IDF. And 3,360 short and medium-range rockets have been fired at Israel by Hamas and other militant Islamist groups, likely costing millions more.

Hamas’ arsenal- estimates suggest they still retain a significant number of missiles - includes home-made crude Qassam rockets,as well as longer-range more sophisticated weapons such as the Iranian Grad and Fajr5, and Syrian-made M302’s. Hamas had scores of rocket launching sites, many placed in or close to schools, mosques, and hospitals - including missiles hidden in UNRWA schools on three separate occasions.

Regional experts argue that Hamas’ terror infrastructure shows the terrorist group elected to power in 2006 shows its economic policies place war on Israel above the welfare of its own people. Gaza’s total gross domestic product is approximately $750 million, and although funding for attacks on Israel often comes from patrons like Iran, Turkey, and Qatar, true economic aid from Gaza’s allies should be spent to better the lives of Palestinians, experts say.

“Hamas is the same movement that runs both the civilian and the military [in Gaza],” said Amidror. “So when the money is going to Hamas, it is going both for civilian and military purposes. There is no question that Qatar is the biggest funder of Hamas. In the past it was more taxes from the tunnels that ran from the Sinai Peninsula [that funded Hamas], but today there is no question that it is Qatar more than anyone else.”

In 2012, the former Emir of Qatar visited Gaza and made a donation of $400 million to Hamas, a donation The New York Times reported would go towards “two housing complexes, rehabilitate three main roads, and create a prosthetic center, among other projects.”

Hamas appear to have diverted the funds to terror projects. The Qatari smoke screen of donating to ‘civilian projects’ fools few people, Israeli officials say.

In one of his final speeches last month before he stepped down as president of Israel, Shimon Peres also highlighted Qatar as the main financier of the Gaza regime.

The Jerusalem Post reported that Peres “charged Qatar, saying that Qatar had no right to spend millions of petrol dollars to enable Hamas to build rockets and tunnels instead of developing Gaza.”

Meanwhile, the Palestinians who suffer under Hamas’ governance can only watch as money that could have been spent to improve their lives is spent on rockets and tunnels now being systematically destroyed by the IDF.

“Most of Gaza’s civilians survive in substandard living conditions without the infrastructure to support basic sanitation, running water, and a sewer system,” said Itamar Gelbman, a former IDF special forces lieutenant and a U.S.-based security consultant. “The unemployment rate is over 40 percent and for the lucky ones who actually do work, they have to settle for an average salary of $16 per day.”

Gelbman said instead of building terror tunnels, Hamas could have used the same money, equipment, and engineering to construct sewage and water treatment facilities, improve old infrastructure, build schools, and even create beach front resorts

While its leaders live lavish lifestyles with luxurious villas on the Mediterranean shore, most Gazans sit and suffer as government workers go unpaid and money that could have been used to improve many lives continues to be squandered on Hamas’ pursuit of destroying Israel.

“Only judging by their deeds you understand that there is no way that [Qatari] money went to civilian programs” said Amidror. “The materials went for military purposes.”

 

Paul Alster is an Israel-based journalist. Follow him on Twitter @paul_alster and visit his website: www.paulalster.com.