There were no signs whatsoever on Thursday that Hamas was interested in a
cease-fire with Israel at this stage.
In past rounds of fighting, Hamas
leaders used to appeal, both openly and discreetly, to the Egyptians to
intervene in order to achieve another truce with Israel.
But the assassination of Ahmed Jabari, overall commander of
Hamas’s armed wing, the Izzadin Kassam Brigades, has hurt the Islamist movement
so badly that it feels the strong and urgent need to restore not only its lost
dignity, but also the shattered morale of its members and supporters in the
aftermath of the elimination of Jabari.
Unconfirmed reports that Hamas
has “begged” the Egyptians to broker another cease-fire with Israel have been
strongly denied by the movement’s leaders and spokesmen in the Gaza
Hamas feels that with the killing of such a senior figure it has
lost its balance of power vis-a-vis Israel, and will agree to a cease-fire only
after it feels that it has extracted a heavy price from Israel for the death of
its military commander.
Failure to extract such a price from Israel will
undermine Hamas’s credibility not only among its Palestinian supporters, but
also in the eyes of many Arabs and Muslims.
Immediately after the
assassination of Jabari, Hamas leaders and spokesmen threatened to “open the
gates of hell” before Israel and to trigger an “earthquake under the feet of the
Now Hamas is seeking to live up to its promise to avenge his
death by killing as many Israelis as possible.
On Thursday, shortly after
Jabari was brought to burial, Hamas announced the beginning of “Operation Stones
of Shale” by firing dozens of rockets and missiles at Israel.
The name of
the offensive is derived from the Koran, where it is mentioned that Allah sent
swarms of birds to smite the “people of the elephants with stones of baked clay
and made them like straw eaten up [by cattle].”
The “people of the
elephants” is a reference to the army of the powerful military commander King
Abraha, who led an expedition to destroy the Ka’bah, the cuboid-shaped building
in Mecca that is the most sacred site in Islam.
Hamas believes that
Israel is not interested in dragging on the confrontation for a lengthy period.
The movement is also convinced that Israel will not send ground troops into the
Nevertheless, Hamas officials acknowledged Thursday that they
are aware of the fact that it’s only a matter of time before the Egyptians
manage to reach another cease-fire deal with Israel.
But before Hamas
agrees to a ceasefire, it wants to show that it is capable of making Israel pay
a heavy price for killing one of its most prominent commanders.