Light streak trail is seen as a rocket is launched from the northern Gaza Strip towards Israel July 29, 2014.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Hamas does not appear to be behind the latest increase in rocket fire on southern Israel, and is in fact attempting to quell the attacks by repressing the Gaza-based Salafi jihadis who targeting Israeli communities.
The defense establishment has received indications from Gaza that Hamas has no interest in the recent attacks, and that it is making arrests to try and put a stop to the rockets, driven purely, of course, by its own interests.
A radical jihadi-Salafi group calling itself the Omar Hadid Brigades, named after a key figure who helped Abu Musab al-Zarqawi set up and run al-Qaida in Iraq nearly a decade ago, is challenging Hamas’s rule in the Strip. The Omar Brigades group is responsible for a growing number of rocket attacks, and hopes to spark a new conflict that will weaken Gaza’s rulers and enable it to fill the resulting power vacuum.
The Omar Brigades released statements demanding that Hamas free its members who are incarcerated in Gazan prisons, and protested the killing of a Salafi jihadi who was shot dead in a standoff with Hamas security forces in his home last week.
There is good reason to believe that Hamas’s attempt to distance itself from the latest rocket attacks is credible. It stands the most to lose from a renewal of hostilities with Israel at this juncture. The Gazan regime has chosen not to reengage Israel now, when it is still in the early phases of replenishing its rocket stockpiles and reconstructing its tunnel network.
Hamas’s military wing needs more time to recover from last summer’s Operation Protective Edge, and its political wing is preoccupied with the poor state of Gaza’s economy and civil reconstruction efforts.
This is not the first time elements in Gaza aligned with the global jihad have posed a challenge.
These are elements that reject Hamas’s brand of Muslim Brotherhood Islamism and its fusion with Palestinian nationalism, and who wish to see Gaza become another front in the worldwide caliphate jihad movement, led by the Islamic State across the Middle East.
Although their numbers in Gaza are few, such elements seem determined to undermine the yearlong truce, and they could destabilize the south if their actions do not immediately cease.
A failure by Hamas to rein in the pro-Islamic State rocket cells will mean that its grip on Gaza is slipping, and that Israel will have to rethink its approach of counting on Hamas to keep – and enforce – the truce.
In the meantime, although there is no concrete information about additional, imminent rocket attacks, the IDF’s Southern Command is preparing itself for all scenarios.