Hamas has appropriated seven tons of weaponry and ammunition stored in UN warehouses in Gaza and intended to be destroyed by sappers, Israeli officials said Tuesday. Senior UN officials demanded the ordnance stockpile be returned immediately. With the conclusion of Operation Cast Lead, Hamas and UN personnel amassed weapons and explosives – mainly unexploded tank shells – and moved them to a special warehouse guarded by Hamas security troops.
UN representatives examined the weaponry, and a delegation of UN-employed experts was due to arrive in Gaza in order to carry out a controlled detonation of the explosives. Over the course of the past two days, however, it was discovered that the weaponry had gone missing. The Hamas security officials charged with guarding the storage facility had also vanished.
Hamas' motive to appropriate the ordnance is unclear, although most estimate that the group believes the unexploded shells can be reused. Hamas has yet to officially comment on the allegations, though sources within the organization said it was highly likely that members of the military wing sought to reuse the weaponry.
Under Sharia law the punishment for theft is rather harsh, especially compared to western standards, but can anyone find an Imam to enforce it? And what on earth was the UN thinking by allowing ‘Hamas security forces’ to guard the weapons and explosives?
Of course, this begs the question – what will Hamas do with 7 tons of explosives? The easy answer is to use it against Israel. In the next conflict I expect there will be more instances of Hamas deliberately using the Israeli explosives to blow up controversial sites (like schools) and claim the Israelis did it, and of course, subsequent denials from the IDF will not be believed as the fragments found will all be of Israeli origin. Win-win for Hamas, lose-lose for Israel and the ordinary Palestinians caught in the crossfire.