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March 25, 2020 Special Dispatch No. 8656

Hamas Supporters Debate: Should The Movement Maintain The Lull With Israel During The COVID-19 Outbreak, Or Fire Rockets And Thus Double The Number Of Cases In Israel?

March 25, 2020
Palestine | Special Dispatch No. 8656

The spread of the coronavirus in Israel and in the Palestinian territories is raising questions in Gaza regarding the relations with Israel on the healthcare, economic and political levels.

Fearing that a coronavirus outbreak in the Gaza Strip could cause a severe crisis there, Hamas threatened that, if the financial aid from Qatar is delayed,  it will exacerbate the conflict with Israel and "send half of Israeli society into the bomb shelters," thus increasing the spread of the virus in Israel. The spokesman of Hamas's military wing also demanded that Israel release the Hamas members incarcerated in its prisons, to keep them from contracting the disease.

Hamas supporters on social media debated what is the best way to handle the conflict with Israel in the current period. Some expressed support for Hamas's threats, calling to use the coronavirus outbreak to exacerbate the conflict with Israel by firing rockets or sending balloons carrying the virus into its territory. Others, such as the former mayor of Khan Younis Dr. Fayez Abu Shamala, rejected these ideas, arguing that this is a time to be humane, even towards the enemy, to maintain the ceasefire with Israel and to advance a prisoner exchange deal.

The following is a sampling of messages posted by Hamas supporters on social media and in the Hamas-affiliated press on this topic.

Hamas Threatens: Rockets Will Force Israelis To Congregate In Shelters, Thus Increasing The Spread Of The Coronavirus Among Them

According to the Lebanese Al-Akhbar daily, Hamas informed Israel, via Egypt and Qatar, that Gaza would not be able to handle the financial implications of a health crisis caused by the virus, and that, if Israel delays the monthly aid package from Qatar as part of the restrictions on movement through the border crossings, Hamas could "ratchet up [the conflict] on the ground, on the [Gaza-Israel] border." It cited Hamas sources as saying that "the resistance can send half of Israeli society into the bomb shelters, which will increase the number of coronavirus cases and cause Israel to lose control [over the spread of the epidemic]." Alongside these threats, Hamas also urged Egypt and Qatar to pressure Israel to provide Gaza with medical equipment for dealing with the coronavirus outbreak.[1] On March 22 it was reported that, due to the coronavirus outbreak, the Emir of Qatar, which has been providing financial aid to Gaza on a monthly basis, had ordered to deliver $150 million to Gaza over the next six months.[2]

The idea of attacking Israel at this time was also voiced by Hamas supporters on social media, who noted that rocket attacks from Gaza would force Israelis to congregate in shelters and thus increase the number of COVID-19 cases among them. A few rejected this idea, on the grounds that even in war one must not lose sight of moral values

Former Khan Younis Mayor: Our Moral Obligation Is To Maintain The Ceasefire And Be Merciful, Even Towards The Enemy

In a March 13, 2020 post on his personal Facebook page, Dr. Fayez Abu Shamala, formerly the mayor of Khan Younis in the Gaza Strip and currently a columnist for Hamas’s Filastin daily, called on the movement to declare a ceasefire with Israel for the duration of the coronavirus crisis, writing: "As long as our Israeli enemy is infected with the coronavirus, our Arab values compel us to maintain the ceasefire at this stage! Let’s be merciful, even towards our enemy."[3]   


Fayez Shamala's Facebook post

Shamala’s post elicited dozens of responses, a few of them supportive, but most of them by people who rejected his position. Some even questioned the authenticity of his post and wondered if his account had been hacked. 

Saladin Al-Ayyoubi Was Merciful Towards His Crusader Enemies; Even In War There Are Rules

Facebook user Abu Hussam Mousa, who supported Abu Shamala, wrote: "When Saladin Al-Ayyoubi fought the Crusaders under Richard the Lionheart, there was a six-month truce between the sides… [When] Richard fell ill… Saladin sent him a gift of apples and snow [to relieve his fever]. Some historians praised Saladin's action, which reflects the supreme Islamic values and morality, while others attacked him for it… Each side [in the controversy] has its arguments and evidence, but we must not forget that this was the heroic commander Saladin."

In another comment, Hossam Mousa wrote: "Even in war there are rules, laws and some moral and humane [considerations]. For instance, hostages must not be killed, but fed and cared for, and the wounded must be treated. It is forbidden to kill children, women and the elderly, or to cut down trees. Agreements and  treaties must be honored. True, some [behave] savagely and brutally in war, which reflects their lack of values, morals and humanity. But our Islamic faith commands us to be civilized and honor all the abovementioned [principles]."[4]  

We Must Not Be Merciful Towards The Jews, Whose Plots Are So Often Mentioned In The Quran; We Should Send Them Balloons Carrying The Virus

The many users who opposed Abu Shamala's post stated that the Arab and Islamic rules of warfare do not apply to the conflict with Israel. User Mousa Isma'il, for example, wrote: "Dear Dr. [Abu Shamala], these [statements of yours] are relevant to [warfare and] occupation among states, not to those who stole your home and land and murdered your family. I am not convinced."

User "Fatma D Journalist" wrote, referring to the Israelis: "Who are they, exactly, that we should be merciful towards them? Why? Were they merciful with us in the three [Gaza] wars [in 2008, 2012 and 2014], that we should be merciful towards them now?... Dr. [Abu Shamala], remove your post and Allah will be pleased with you. A third of the Quran is devoted to the ruses, plots and hostility of the Jews. Allah devoted a third of his exalted book to them. And you want to be merciful towards them?"

User Mohamed Jehad wrote: "Dr. [Abu Shamala], this is an opportunity [for us]. This is the time for us to [make them] congregate in shelters, so that the disease will spread more widely among them." User 'Abed Alkader Almobayed wrote: "If the virus enters [Gaza], God forbid, while we are under siege, we will send it to them using balloons." [5]

Debate On Hamas-Identified Forum: A Rocket Attack On The Zionist Entity Will Double The Number Of COVID-19 Cases

A similar debate took place on the paldf.net forum, identified with Hamas. In response to an Israeli media report which speculated that Hamas may violate the ceasefire with Israel during the coronavirus outbreak, user Qassem Al-Majd wrote: "A barrage of rockets on the [Zionist] entity will surely double and redouble the number of [COVID-19] cases." 

User Mounir Hamdi rejected Al-Majd's idea, writing: "Even the devil does not think like you. Know that we will suffer for this. It will not benefit us, unless the resistance decides to respond to [an incident in which Palestinian] prisoners in Israel contract the coronavirus. In that case, the resistance will be justified in responding and turning the tables on everyone."

User ISM2020 responded to Al-Majd's post, writing: "[These] are fine [ideas], but they have implications. Afterwards, nobody in the region will be able to tell Israel, 'stop targeting Gaza.' Nobody will be able to help Gaza if it finds itself under a brutal [Israeli] attack, God forbid. We must consider the costs and benefits, and assess the delicate situation."[6]


Mounir Al-Hamdi's response to Qassem Al-Majd's post

Pro-Hamas Journalists: The Coronavirus Outbreak Is A Historic Opportunity For A Prisoner Exchange Deal

Following the coronavirus outbreak, Hamas called on Israel to release Palestinians from its prisons. In a Telegram post, the spokesman of Hamas's 'Izz Al-Din Al-Qassam Brigades, Abu 'Obeida, wrote: "We stress that the lives and wellbeing of the prisoners are a red line, and that the Zionist enemy must release the members of our [Palestinian] people who are incarcerated, because it is unable to protect them and grant them dignified conditions that shield them from diseases and epidemics… The leadership of the resistance is holding consultations and conducting ongoing assessments in its joint war room on the appropriate measures to take in light of this serious development that is threatening the health of our prisoners." [7]

Hamas supporters likewise called to use the coronavirus epidemic as an opportunity to advance a prisoner exchange deal between Hamas and Israel. In another March 13 post on his Facebook page, journalist Fayez Abu Shamala noted that Israel was releasing non-political prisoners due to the epidemic, and that Hamas should take the opportunity to try to negotiate a prisoner exchange deal with it. In a March 14 post, he added: "I repeat my call to Hamas: The coronavirus [outbreak] has granted you a historic opportunity to make a prisoner exchange deal! Discuss this with Egypt and the other [mediators]!"[8]

Another Filastin columnist, 'Issam Shawer, wrote on March 14: "I believe that the best option for the occupying state of 'Israel' is to make a prisoner exchange deal with the Palestinian side [by] emptying the prisons and relieving itself of the responsibility [for the Palestinian prisoners] in exchange for its soldiers held in Gaza… We don’t know what point was reached in the talks towards a deal, but we do know that the occupation state is afraid of being held responsible if some catastrophe befalls our prisoners in its prisons, and is also afraid for its soldiers in Gaza, who may suffer some catastrophe amid the spread of the coronavirus. Hence, the enemy has no choice but to waive its conditions and accept what the resistance has suggested, so that [a deal] can be agreed on." [9] 

For a MEMRI TV Clip of a Friday sermon on Hamas TV stating that the coronavirus is a soldier of Allah and that Muslims are the least affected by the pandemic, click below:  

 

 


[1] Al-Akhbar (Lebanon), March 21, 2020.

[2] Twitter.com/QatarNews Agency, March 22, 2020. Qatar acts as a mediator between Hamas and Israel, and delivers aid to Gaza which greatly impacts its economy and gives Qatar leverage over Hamas. For more on this see MEMRI Special Dispatch No. 7776 - Palestinian Authority Furious At Qatar For Financing Hamas, Accuses It Of Perpetuating Palestinian Schism, Serving U.S. And Israeli Interests – November 27, 2018.

[3]  Facebook.com/hazem.aboshmalah.3, March 13, 2020.

[4] Facebook.com/hazem.aboshmalah.3, March 13, 2020.

[4] Facebook.com/hazem.aboshmalah.3, March 13, 2020.

[5] Paldf.net, March 21, 2020.

[6] T.me/spokesman2019, t.me/qassambrigades, March 19, 2020.

[7] Facebook.com/hazem.aboshmalah.3, March 13, 14, 2020.

[9] Filastin (Gaza), March 14, 2020.

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