Last weekend, as Jews in Israel began to mark Passover, Hamas decided to launch a violent terror campaign on the Gaza border.
It was reported that at least 16 Palestinians died in the ensuing violence, including senior commanders mostly from Hamas, who were killed during the riots.
Should any civilians have died that would have been a great tragedy, but an entirely predictable one where the sole responsibility lies squarely with the Hamas and Palestinian Authority.
So it is important to put a few things in context.
The so-called “Great Return March” was held under the pretext of justice and human rights, but nothing could be further from the truth.
The sole purpose of this well-orchestrated campaign was to incite violence and provoke conflict in what is already a very combustible situation on the Gaza–Israel border.
Despite the claims from Palestinian Authority — and, even more absurdly, Hamas — there was nothing remotely “peaceful” about this campaign.
We saw, for example, Palestinians seeking to storm Israel’s border, Molotov cocktails being thrown, IDF troops being fired upon and even, sickeningly, a seven-year old girl sent by Hamas to “infiltrate” Israel’s border.
This was not a peaceful protest. It was a premeditated, violent riot, planned and executed by Hamas.
Regrettably, many in the international community and media fell hook, line and sinker for the Hamas PR spin.
It is important to bear in mind that Hamas has been designated as a terrorist organisation by the United States, European Union and much of the West.
Contrary to the group’s deliberate misrepresentations, Israel has no territorial claims on Gaza, having left Gaza Strip completely in 2005. There is no occupation here. Instead of using this as a foundation for a Palestinian state, Hamas has created a terror base.
Over the past 15 years, Hamas has killed hundreds of Israelis and many European citizens in attacks including suicide bombings, rockets, kidnappings and stabbings, and has injured many more.
Imagine if Isis were amassing thousands of fighters on the border of the United Kingdom. How would the UK react? Hamas is no different. Both organisations come from the same radical, murderous roots, with a pervasive indifference to human life, freedom and democracy, the very values we in the West hold so sacrosanct.
In orchestrating this confrontation, Hamas sought to deflect attention and distract its own people, as well as the international community, from the colossal harm its rule in Gaza has caused Palestinian people.
Hamas has consistently and repeatedly chosen to invest in terror over civilian infrastructure. They reportedly spent more than $10 million (£7 million) on the “Great Return March” campaign alone, even paying Gazans to participate. Imagine if this money went instead to building hospitals and schools?
"Israel, like any sovereign nation, has the full right - and obligation - under international law to defend its borders, to protect its citizens and to prevent illegal infiltration into its territory."
The international community and all those who truly care about peace must — unequivocally — hold Hamas and the PA to account for the violence.
Arsen Ostrovsky is an international human rights lawyer & Middle East foreign policy analyst