Iran continues to use its seizure of US vessels three weeks ago for propaganda purposes. Iran’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei awarded highly prestigious medals to the generals who detained American sailors on January 12. According to CNN, the Fath (Farsi for “victory”) medals are one of the highest honors that Iran's supreme leader can bestow on a military leader and are rarely given out. Khamenei stated that the capture of the American sailors "was in fact an act of God, who brought the Americans into our waters so they would be arrested with their hands on their heads through your timely measure."
The commander of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) Navy, Rear Admiral Ali Fadavi, boasted on Monday that Iran had extracted a lot of information from the US sailors’ cell phones and laptops. Admiral Fadavi also stated that the IRGC has filmed the capture of the US sailors and threatened that in the event that the US seeks to humiliate Iran, the IRGC would publish the footage to further embarrass the US.
Several legal and military experts have asserted that Iran’s seizure of the US sailors and their boats violated international laws including the right to innocent passage and the principle of sovereign immunity. Furthermore, according to US Navy Captain Sean R. Liedman, a fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations, the broadcasting of photos and footage of US sailors kneeling with their hands behind their heads, as well as the video of an American sailor’s confession, violated the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which bans degrading treatment and mandates respect for the inherent dignity of detainees. The transmission of this footage may have also violated the Geneva Convention, which protects prisoners of war “against acts of violence or intimidation and against insults and public curiosity.”
Experts have warned that failing to respond to these violations could set a dangerous precedent that other countries hostile to the US could follow, while undermining the US commitment to uphold freedom of navigation. Chair of the Senate Armed Services Committee John McCain (R-AZ) criticized the administration for not responding to Iran’s violations, stating that “by failing to affirm basic principles of international law, it places our Navy and Coast Guard vessels and the men and women who sail them at increased risk in the future."
Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh proclaimed in his weekly sermon on Friday that his terror organization was preparing for future conflicts with Israel, as analysts continue to note the group’s buildup of infrastructure in anticipation of a possible war. In his speech, which eulogized seven terrorists who died when a tunnel collapsed on them earlier this week, Haniyeh proclaimed that the tunnels Hamas is currently building are “double the length” of those dug in the Vietnam War.Veteran Haaretz military correspondent Amos Harel noted Sunday that at least 12 members of Hamas have died in tunnel collapses in the past year. Four are still reported to be missing from last week’s tunnel collapse. Harel observed that the “large number of accidents and problems Hamas has run into underground could show that someone in Hamas is in a rush to prepare their offensive tools ahead of a possible decision on an attack.”Israeli efforts to locate tunnels that cross under the Gaza border have also intensified. “It would appear the two sides are in a race against time,” Harel summarized. “Hamas is in a hurry to finish its preparations, while Israel wants to locate the attack tunnels that Hamas may use in the not-so-distant future.”
Since the last war launched by Hamas against Israel in the summer of 2014, Hamas has increased its reliance on tunnels as offensive weapons. This is due to a number of factor, including a rift (now partially mended) with Iran, as well as Egypt’s successful efforts at destroying smuggling tunnels that cross its border. The inability to acquire rockets from outside Gaza has meant that Hamas is forced to use locally produced rockets that are not especially accurate.
“In east Gaza there are heroes digging tunnels under the ground and in the west there are those testing rockets,” Haniyeh said on Friday, according to Haaretz.
The Al-Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigades are digging tunnels to defend Gaza and turn it into a launch pad for all of Palestine…Thanks to the patience of the Strip’s residents and despite the siege and war and schemes against Gaza. I tell all those who are doubtful at our resilience: forgo this logic. We are prepared to go without bread and without water, but we will not live without respect.Numerous news reports indicate that Haniyeh has managed to become a millionaire living in luxury, while many in Gaza suffer in poverty.
Harel wrote two weeks ago that “it was reasonable to assume” that, given the expense and effort Hamas had put into rebuilding them, it now has at least the same number of attack tunnels that it had prior to the 2014 war. During the war, The Washington Post published an assessment that showed that each tunnel cost over $1 million to build, with the money coming, one analyst wrote, “at the expense of the people of Gaza.”
Only three months after the conclusion of the 50-day conflict in 2014, Egyptian authorities warned that Hamas was already spending $140 million annually to rebuild its tunnel infrastructure. In December 2014, sources inside Gaza reported to Ynet that “Hamas has been commandeering building materials from Israel transferred into the Gaza Strip for reconstruction for the purpose of rebuilding its offensive ‘terror tunnels.’” Similarreports surfaced again in last April, when Hamas was also said to be rearming with Iranian support. (via TheTower.org)