Hamas’s involvement in the current rocket and mortar attacks on Israel is a sign of the Islamic movement’s growing sense of confidence, especially in the wake of the visit to the Gaza Strip of the emir of Qatar, Sheikh Hamad al- Thani.

Tuesday’s high-profile visit, the first of its kind by the leader of an Arab country, is seen as a huge political and moral victory for Hamas. The emir’s visit marks the beginning of the end of years of isolation for Hamas, particularly in the international arena.

But now that Hamas has the backing – and financial support – of a wealthy and influential country like Qatar, it can afford to do almost anything it wants.

Hamas knows that in addition to the backing of Qatar, it also enjoys the support of many Arabs and Muslims thanks to the Arab Spring, which has resulted in the rise to power of Islamist groups, most significantly in Egypt.

Today, Hamas leaders enjoy the full backing of Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood President Mohamed Morsi who, unlike his predecessor Hosni Mubarak, considers the Islamist movement in the Gaza Strip a legitimate and acceptable player in the region.

Hamas feels confident that Morsi would not remain idle if Israel retaliated against the rocket fire with a massive military operation in the Gaza Strip. The least that Hamas expects from Morsi in response to such an operation would be to sever Egypt’s diplomatic ties with Israel.

Some Hamas officials are convinced that Israel’s response to the attacks would not be too strong because the Israeli government wants to avoid a further deterioration in its relations with Cairo.

The Islamist group also believes that Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu is not interested in another Operation Cast Lead three months before a general election in Israel.

But Hamas may also be motivated by criticism it has been facing from other Palestinian groups.

In recent years, Hamas has refrained from direct involvement in attacks on Israel, most of which had been carried out by Islamic Jihad and other terror groups in the Gaza Strip. In some cases, Hamas even worked hard to prevent these groups from launching rocket and mortar attacks, mainly to avoid giving Israel an “excuse” to invade the Strip, since it fears another massive IDF operation could put an end to its rule over the area.

Still, Hamas has to prove to its critics and political rivals that, contrary to their claims, it has not abandoned the “armed resistance against the Zionist enemy.”

Even Fatah has often criticized Hamas for cracking down on those who carry out attacks against Israel.

That’s why Hamas is prepared, whenever the circumstances permit, to show Palestinians and the rest of the world that its presence in government should not be interpreted as a change in its ideology.

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