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This is how Abu Rajah, a resident of Beit Hanoun in the Gaza Strip, described how Hamas gunmen take over apartment buildings when Israeli forces approach the area::
"Scores of masked men rushed to the area. Most of them carried large bags full of weapons. They invaded our apartment buildings and demanded that the resident leave. In response the women asked the gunmen to distance themselves from the buildings and children. The atmosphere became tense and some of the residents were beaten by the gunmen, who were mostly from Hamas. In the end most of the residents left the buildings. We left the buildings in their hands. They brought sandbags into our bedrooms and living room. They set up heavy machine guns in the windows and planted large explosive devices in the sidewalks." Fatah Web site as quoted by Ma'ariv correspondent Amit Cohen, 1 May 2008.
What is the operative message for Israeli policy makers from this report?
Clearly, from an operational standpoint, the message is that the gunmen in Gaza are transforming civilian locations into dangerous military positions whose elimination and/or neutralization is required in order to insure the safety and efficacy of the IDF forces operating in the area.
The Palestinian civilians certainly have every right to complain and protest that Palestinian gunmen commandeer their properties.
But this is not Israel's problem.
This is an internal Palestinian problem.
Israel's problem is dealing with the gunmen and the military positions they occupy. That these military positions were previously civilian apartment buildings makes them no less dangerous.
As Israel prepares plans for a massive operation in the Gaza Strip it is imperative that this be understood.
Unfortunately, there are indications that a distorted PC mentality may still have a heavy influence in the IDF.
Yesterday Jerusalem Post correspondent Yaakov Katz reported that Col. Shai Alkilai, who was appointed by OC Southern Command Maj.-Gen.Yoav Galant to investigate the cause of Monday's explosion in northern Gaza that killed a mother and her four children, is looking into whether IDF commanders took into account the possibility that the terrorist duo was carrying large bombs - that could cause damage to nearby homes - when the decision was made to target them from the air.
IDF forces were operating in the area at the time.
The terrorists intended to use those bombs to kill IDF soldiers at the very first opportunity.
Col. Alkilai's line of inquiry sends the wrong message to the commanders in the field and a disturbing message to the combat forces and their families regarding the apparent value placed on the lives of IDF soldiers.
This is no time for vague positions that only serve to embolden and strengthen the terrorists.