Hamas, the terrorist group that Palestinians last year elected to govern their territories, is failing to govern at all.
March alone saw at least 46 kidnappings of civilians in the Gaza Strip, as well as over 25 killings of Palestinians by fellow Palestinians.
Internecine violence has gotten so bad that one human-rights activist says Gaza “has become worse than Somalia.” Yasser Abed Rabbo, an executive-committee member of the rival Palestine Liberation Organization, calls it “anarchy.”
The violence is just the tip of the iceberg in “Hamasistan.” Other troubling signs include:
International Exodus: Foreigners who came to help are starting to flee for their lives – even armed foreigners. One group of Egyptian military officers has reportedly been recalled to Cairo on account of the dangers, with the two generals who remain spending most of their time in Israel, for fear of violence.
The United Nations may even declare Gaza a “dangerous zone.” That would precipitate the evacuation of nearly all foreign nationals.
This would be disastrous for the general population: Nearly two-thirds of Gaza’s 1.4 million residents claim refugee status, and rely on the U.N. Relief and Works Agency (UNWRA) and other aid organizations.
Unsafe Streets: The Palestinian media reports that crimes, including car theft and abductions, are skyrocketing. Iranian-trained Hamas forces are battling Egyptian-trained Fatah forces, rather than policing the streets. National Security Adviser Muhammad Dahlan admits that “many young men prefer to work for clans and not the security forces.”
Last Sunday, a group calling itself the Islamic Swords of Truth, a self-appointed vice squad, claimed responsibility for bombing the Gaza Bible Society’s bookstore and two Internet cafes.
In response, Palestinians are taking the law into their own hands. In March, one of Gaza’s large clans gathered to blockade a main road in Northern Gaza to protest against the targeting of one of their shops by a vice squad. The family demanded that the government bring law and order back to the streets.
Dwindling Media Freedom: Last week, security guards broke up a peaceful media protest of the government’s inability to secure the release of Alan Johnston, the BBC journalist kidnapped more than a month ago – and injured three journalists.
A group calling itself the Tawhid and Jihad Brigades just issued a statement claiming to have executed Johnston. Foreign journalists now fear for their lives.
Health Risks: The collapse of a sewage-treatment pool in Umm al-Naser, a North Gaza village, killed three women and two toddlers and injured
25 others in March. The “sewage tsunami” submerged at least 25 homes and caused untold damages to the 3,000-person village.
Fadel Kawash, head of the Palestinian Water Authority, told the Associated Press that a number of sewage projects, including the one in Umm al-Naser, were halted when Hamas pulled funding after their electoral victory in January 2006. Said one U.N. official, “this has been a tragedy that was predicted and documented.”
Officials believe that another cesspool collapse is possible, unless prophylactic steps are soon taken.
Provocations: Hamas continues to permit provocations against Israel from Gaza – notably, the homemade Kassam missiles shot into Israel nearly every day.
Yuval Diskin, the chief of Shin Bet, Israel’s counterintelligence and internal-security service, recently warned that Israel must begin to think about thwarting a more dangerous situation in Gaza, should Hamas develop more dangerous capabilities.
Hamas is tempting Israel into a confrontation, with reckless disregard for the Palestinian population. Gaza is the most densely populated place on earth; any military incursion – like Israel’s response last year to similar Hamas provocations from Lebanon – would inflict utter devastation.
In short, Hamas has not made the transition from terrorist group to government. It is exposing Gazans to danger without providing key freedoms and services – and seems on track to produce wider internecine violence, deepening poverty and perhaps new rounds of violence with Israel.
In other words, Gaza’s suffering proves, once again, that terrorist groups, thanks to their utter indifference to human suffering, are unfit to govern.
Jonathan Schanzer, a former Treasury intelligence analyst, is policy director for the Jewish Policy Center, and author of “Al Qaeda’s Armies: Middle East Affiliate Groups and the Next Generation of Terror.”