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analysisIsrael-Palestinian Conflict

Gaza riots are part of Hamas’s cynical extortion racket

The Islamist regime is sending Palestinian civilians into harm's way in an apparent effort to pressure Qatar, via Israel, into restoring cut funding.

Six Gazans were killed when an explosive device meant to target IDF soldiers detonated prematurely during mass riots along the border with Israel, Sept. 13, 2023. Photo by Majdi Fathi/TPS.
Six Gazans were killed when an explosive device meant to target IDF soldiers detonated prematurely during mass riots along the border with Israel, Sept. 13, 2023. Photo by Majdi Fathi/TPS.
Yaakov Lappin
Yaakov Lappin
Yaakov Lappin is an Israel-based military affairs correspondent and analyst. He is the in-house analyst at the Miryam Institute; a research associate at the Alma Research and Education Center; and a research associate at the Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies at Bar-Ilan University. He is a frequent guest commentator on international television news networks, including Sky News and i24 News. Lappin is the author of Virtual Caliphate: Exposing the Islamist State on the Internet. Follow him at: www.patreon.com/yaakovlappin.

Despite claims that the recent attacks and disturbances along the Gaza-Israel border, orchestrated by Hamas, are motivated by supposed Israeli conspiracies against the Al Aqsa mosque in Jerusalem, they are in fact merely a violent negotiation tactic designed to secure more income for Gaza’s Islamist rulers.

Over the past two weeks, hundreds of Palestinians have taken part in a series of violent riots adjacent to the Gaza security fence, setting off a number of explosive devices along the barrier.

On Sept. 13, six Gazans were killed by a bomb hurled by one of the rioters.

On Friday, the situation escalated, with Gazans renewing the launch of incendiary balloons across the border, causing fires in southern Israel.

The IDF responded on Friday and Saturday with airstrikes targeting Hamas terrorist outposts in the Strip.

Taken together, the incidents are reminiscent of the 2018-2019 Gaza border disturbances, though smaller in scope so far.

The Israeli Defense Ministry’s coordinator for government activities in the territories, Maj. Gen. Ghassan Alian, announced last week that the Erez Border Crossing, through which some 20,000 Gazan Palestinians enter Israel for work every day, would remain closed, after being shut for Rosh Hashanah.

The decision to shut the crossing is more significant than it might seem, because it signals to Hamas that violence on the border will achieve the opposite of what it is trying to obtain—increased income.  

Since the end of the IDF’s “Operation Guardian of the Walls” in 2021, Gaza’s economy has overall seen improvements, with increasing numbers of Gazans working in Israel, rising exports, goods flowing in and Qatar providing monthly funding to the tune of $30 million.

But recently, a number of developments have rained on Hamas’s economic parade. Global inflation rose, and Qatar, dissatisfied with Hamas’s relations with rival states—particularly Syria—while also assessing that Gaza’s economy is on better footing, decreased its funding.

Under the Qatari funding mechanism, the Gulf state purchases Egyptian fuel for Gaza’s power plant, while also funding Hamas’s civilian administration in Gaza and providing funds for poor Gazan families.

The decrease in Qatari funding has left Hamas’s civilian government in financial distress. Inflation, meanwhile, has harmed the purchasing power of Gazan civilians, putting more pressure on Hamas.

The result is that Hamas has restarted its border riots, in an apparent effort to pressure Qatar via Israel to restore the funding to its previous levels.

Hamas’s tactics are brutal, sending Palestinian civilians into harm’s way for money. The Hamas regime, which continues to promote terrorism in Judea and Samaria while ruling over some 2 million people in the Strip, is banking on Israel to succumb to this extortion.

Palestinians are thus incited to approach the fence with IEDs, risking their lives as they attempt to sabotage Israel’s security barrier, which can no longer be torn apart with wire cutters as was the case in 2018-2019.

The taller barrier also makes it more difficult for IDF soldiers to fire across it accurately, but the military must still ensure that no terrorists infiltrate Israel and approach western Negev communities. Israel views every attack on the barrier as an assault on its sovereignty.

Unfortunately, Hamas has seen such extortion attempts pay off in the past, and it is hoping this one will as well.

Meanwhile, in parallel to this, Hamas uses its “West Bank Headquarters” in Gaza and Lebanon—terror command centers—to both orchestrate terrorist attacks and galvanize unorganized violence.

Israel’s defense establishment and intelligence community are, it is safe to assume, closely monitoring these developments and activating countermeasures against them. 

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