Militants of the Al-Nasser Saladin Brigades stand guard outside a hospital morgue before the funeral of Palestinians who were killed by Israeli fire, in Khan Younis in the southern Gaza Strip, November 12, 2018.
(photo credit: SUHAIB SALEM / REUTERS)
Although Hamas threatened on Monday that Israel will pay a “heavy price” for Sunday night’s IDF operation in the southern Gaza Strip, the movement has stopped short of saying that the incident will affect efforts to reach a truce agreement with Israel.
At this stage, Hamas seems keen on avoiding a situation where the incident, which resulted in the death of seven Palestinians, would obstruct efforts by Egypt, Qatar and the United Nations to reach a truce agreement with Israel.
Hamas leaders have not accused Israel of sabotaging the ongoing efforts to achieve a truce in the Gaza Strip. Nor have they indicated that Hamas views the incident, which took place near Khan Yunis, as a trigger for another war with Israel.
Immediately after the incident, Hamas responded by firing 17 projectiles at Israeli communities near the border with the Gaza Strip, three of which were intercepted by Iron Dome Missile Defense system. On Monday afternoon, following the funeral of the seven Palestinians killed by the IDF, Hamas and other terrorist groups fired several more projectiles at Israeli communities adjacent to the border with the Gaza Strip.
Despite the attacks, Palestinians in the Gaza Strip believe that Hamas is still not interested in a major military confrontation with Israel.
Hamas’s main objective now is to cash in on the elite IDF unit’s operation by depicting it as a huge success for its military wing, Ezaddin al-Qassam.
Statements issued by the Qassam and Hamas officials in the past few hours talk about how their members managed to “thwart” and “defeat” the IDF unit that was operating inside the Gaza Strip. The statements specifically note how the IDF soldiers were forced to flee - under heavy aircraft bombings - after being spotted by Hamas terrorists.
“The resistance last night taught the enemy a harsh lesson and turned its intelligence system into the laughing stock of the world,” said a statement issued by the Hamas military wing.
For now, Hamas has chosen to celebrate its “victory” over the IDF instead of engaging in another military confrontation with Israel.
The leaders of Hamas feel they have more more to lose from such a confrontation, especially in wake of recent moves to ease restrictions on the Gaza Strip.
The Khan Yunis incident came hours after Qatari envoy Mohamed El-Amadi left the Gaza Strip after a four-day visit.
For Hamas, this visit was extremely successful because the Qatari envoy brought with him $15 million in cash, which enabled the movement to pay salaries to thousands of its employees and other Palestinians in the Gaza Strip. The delivery of the cash was part of understandings reached between Qatar and Israel to reach a long-term truce in the Gaza Strip and prevent another war.The $15 million Qatar grant
was the first in $90 million that the emirate has pledged to send to the Gaza Strip in the next six months. Hamas does not want to risk losing the remainder of the Qatari funds by engaging in an all-out war with Israel.
The delivery of the Qatari funds to the Gaza Strip is already being celebrated by Hamas as another “victory.” Hamas sees this move as the direct result of the weekly protests along the border with the Gaza Strip ,which began last March in the context of the so-called March of Return.
In recent days, Hamas officials have been boasting that, with the delivery of the Qatari funds, Palestinians are finally reaping the fruits of the weekly protests, which have led - according to Palestinian sources - to the death of more than 170 Palestinians and the wounding of thousands of others.
The death of its top military commander, Sheikh Nur Baraka and six other Palestinians in the clash with the elite IDF unit on Sunday night also allows Hamas to refute charges that it has caved in pressure to reach a truce with Israel. Some Palestinians, including Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas’s Fatah faction, have been ridiculing Hamas for reportedly seeking a truce with Israel. They have also been accusing Hamas of being part of a US-Israeli “conspiracy” to separate the Gaza Strip from the West Bank and create a Palestinian state in the Hamas-ruled coastal enclave.
Sunday night’s clash with the IDF has now enabled Hamas to tell Palestinians that despite its readiness to reach a truce with Israel, the Islamist movement and its military wing remain on alert and are ready to “repel any Israeli aggression” on the Gaza Strip.
For now, it appears that Hamas does not want to give Israel an excuse to launch a major military operation in the Gaza Strip.
Hamas is also well aware that Abbas and Fatah are eager to see current efforts to achieve a truce in the Gaza Strip fail. However, Hamas also knows that other terrorist groups in the Gaza Strip will not be satisfied with a limited response to Sunday night’s incident, and could drag it into another war by launching more rocket attacks on Israel.
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