Hailing the latest Egyptian-brokered truce as an “achievement,” Islamic Jihad and
the Popular Resistance Committees, the two groups who were behind the rocket and
mortar attacks on Israel, have proven that Hamas is no longer the major player
in the Gaza Strip.
As of this week, Hamas will have to live with the fact
that these two groups pose a challenge to the Islamist movement’s control over
the Gaza Strip.
Until recently, Hamas had shown zero tolerance toward
armed groups that defied its policies and rule. On a number of occasions, Hamas
security forces did not hesitate to detain members of Islamic Jihad and the PRC
who violated previous truces with Israel.
But now the rules of the game
in the Gaza Strip appear to have changed. For the first time, Hamas refrained
from taking action against the armed groups, instead seeking the help of the
Egyptians in persuading Islamic Jihad and PRC to agree to halt their
By turning to the Egyptians, Hamas is in fact admitting that it
no longer has influence over small armed groups operating in the Gaza
The latest round of violence has put Hamas in the same position
that the Palestinian Authority found itself in when it controlled the Gaza Strip
Back then, Hamas openly challenged the PA by launching
terror attacks against Israel. PA leaders Yasser Arafat and Mahmoud Abbas also
had to turn to the Egyptians to restrain Hamas.
Today, Hamas is facing
the same kind of criticism that was directed back then at the PA: That it is
sitting on the fence while Israel is launching military strikes against the Gaza
Representatives of Islamic Jihad and PRC and some Palestinians did
not hide their discontent with Hamas for failing to participate in the fighting
over the past four days.
Hamas’s exodus from Syria and divisions within
the top brass of the movement over reconciliation with Fatah have played into
the hands of Islamic Jihad and PRC.
Hamas’s refusal to support Syrian
President Bashar Assad’s brutal crackdown on his opponents has also led to a
deterioration in its relations with Iran, which used to provide the movement
with financial and military aid.
Unlike Hamas, Islamic Jihad continues to
sit in Syria, where it enjoys the full backing not only of Assad, but also the
Iranians. Both Damascus and Tehran now have an interest in strengthening
Islamic Jihad as a way of punishing Hamas for its refusal to side with
Hamas’s rapprochement with Mahmoud Abbas and his Fatah faction has
drawn sharp criticism not only from some of the movement’s leaders, but also
from Islamic Jihad and PRC.
The two armed groups are now accusing Hamas
of “deviating from the path of jihad” in favor of reconciliation with Fatah.
They have even gone as far as claiming that Hamas was on its way to recognizing
a two-state solution and possibly joining the peace process with
Islamic Jihad and PRC leaders boasted Monday that they have
succeeded in securing a truce that for the first time includes an Israeli
commitment to stop targeted killings of terrorist leaders in the Gaza Strip –
something that Hamas failed to achieve in the past. Israel has denied
that it made such a commitment.
Whether Israel made such a pledge or not
is irrelevant because the two groups know that it is only a matter of time
before the next round of fighting erupts with Israel. But what is clear today is
that Islamic Jihad and PRC, whose members fired dozens of rockets and mortars at
Israel over four days, are posing a serious challenge to Hamas’s rule in the