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Now that Hamas's plan is foiled, Egypt must act to help Gaza

Jerusalem Post senior commentator Amotz Asa-El on what must happen after a tumultuous week

    Hamas's Ismail Haniyeh on Tuesday
    Hamas's Ismail Haniyeh on Tuesday (Photo: Getty Images)

    Despair, Gaza’s mindset, and tragedy, have produced a morally bankrupt leadership’s weapon of last resort.

    Having used suicides, rockets, tunnels and most recently fire-bearing kites along the years, after using schools as armories and children as human shields, Hamas has now weaponised the populace itself.

    Offering money to families whose youngsters would storm the Israeli border, and bussing there the very men it maneuvered to joblessness, Hamas has ushered thousands into confrontation with the IDF.

    Joined by squads tasked with planting explosives along the border fence, the multitude had to be treated by the IDF as invaders. That is why it ordered its snipers to prevent any crossing of the fence at any point.

    Yes, dozens were consequently killed, but a broad Israeli consensus applauds the IDF for foiling Hamas’s stated aim of pouring thousands into Israeli communities opposite Gaza.

    That the violence was organised became obvious by dusk on Monday, when the multitudes vanished, and then Tuesday morning, when they failed to return.

    Though it is too early to conclude that Hamas’s effort has been exhausted, there is reason to believe Gaza’s government does not want further escalation — either because its leaders fear they might be targeted next, or because of Egyptian pressure that Hamas cannot resist.

    As seen from Cairo, Hamas’s new weapon is bad for business.

    Up to their neck in a war with Islamist terrorists east of the Suez Canal and with the Muslim Brotherhood to its west, the last thing the Egyptians need is fresh excitement in its streets fanned by Gazan upheaval.

    As a gesture of goodwill, Egypt opened Gaza’s lone gateway into Sinai, the Rafah border crossing, on Tuesday morning. It also said it would admit Gazans into its hospitals.

    Israel, at the same time, reopened the Kerem Shalom crossing through which Gaza imports most of its goods and which a Gazan mob had torched.

    Whatever the depth and durability of this fledgling de-escalation, salvation can only come from a Gazan leadership that will welcome development — unlike Hamas, which has torpedoed progress since violently overthrowing the Palestinian Authority 11 years ago next month.

    The chances of such a transformation seemed good last October, when Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah visited Gaza. It generated hopes to extend water supply and power generation, build new sewage systems and create thousands of jobs where nearly one in two people are jobless.

    But these hopes were dashed after Mr Hamdallah survived an assassination attempt in Gaza.

    Cairo will now hopefully realise it is in its interest to help the Palestinians overhaul Gaza’s economy, so two million Gazans have enough work, income and dignity to stop courting death and begin believing in life.

    The writer is the Jerusalem Post’s senior commentator and former executive editor