Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad officials see the ceasefire agreement that was reached with Israel early on Monday as a “big achievement.”
In their view, the latest round of fighting – during which the two groups fired some 700 missiles toward Israel – has “deterred” Israel and forced it to commit to the implementation of previous Egyptian-sponsored understandings, which include easing restrictions imposed on the Hamas-ruled coastal enclave.
According to Hamas and PIJ, this time they received assurances from Egypt, Qatar and the United Nations that Israel will fulfill its obligations under the understandings reached earlier this year.
The two groups claimed that Monday’s ceasefire agreement requires Israel to stop shooting at Palestinians during the weekly protests near the border with Israel, also known as the Great March of Return; the implementation of the previous understandings, especially with regards to easing the blockade on the Gaza Strip; allowing international relief organizations to assist families whose houses were destroyed in the last round of fighting; and an end to Israeli targeted assassinations and expanding the fishing zone for Palestinian fishermen.
Hamas and Islamic Jihad feel that the price they paid for launching hundreds of missiles toward Israel during the two days of fighting was relatively small compared to the losses and damage inflicted on Israel.
As far as they are concerned, the fact that none of their senior leaders was killed is sufficient to celebrate victory. Also, the fact that Israel did not launch a ground offensive in the Gaza Strip is seen by the two groups as proof that Israel is afraid of an all-out war with the Gaza-based groups. Each round of fighting that ends with Hamas and PIJ remaining the two dominant forces in the Gaza Strip is also seen by the two groups as a type of victory.
“The Palestinian resistance groups succeeded in deterring Israel and forcing it to implement the Egyptian-brokered understandings,” said Musab al-Braim, a PIJ spokesman in the Gaza Strip. The Palestinian groups, he said, are now expecting Israel to step up the pace of implementing the understandings, especially in light of the “assurances” reportedly provided by Egypt, Qatar and the UN.
He and several Hamas and Islamic Jihad officials said they are convinced that their threats to expand the range of the rocket attacks to include Tel Aviv and other major Israeli cities served as a “deterrence” for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his government. They pointed out that criticism in Israel of the Netanyahu government’s handling of the flareup of violence shows that the Palestinian groups’ attacks on Israel managed to send a powerful message to the Israeli public.
Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri scoffed at Netanyahu’s statement on Monday in which he said: “Over the last two days, we struck Hamas and Islamic Jihad with great force. We hit over 350 targets. We struck at terrorist leaders and operatives and we destroyed terrorist buildings.”
Abu Zuhri also said the Palestinian groups succeeded in “deterring” Netanyahu and “rubbed his nose with dirt.” Netanyahu’s statement about striking the terrorists, the Hamas spokesman added, is “laughable.” According to Abu Zuhri, “this round has ended, but the confrontation will not end unless we restore our rights.”
Commenting on the last round of fighting, Palestinian political analyst Fayez Abu Shamaleh said that Israel was “keen at this stage to calm the situation, not only because of the Eurovision Song Contest or Independence Day, but because it knows it can’t score any achievements on the ground, mainly because it’s impossible to reoccupy the Gaza Strip.
“If the Palestinian resistance groups have succeeded in imposing their terms on Israel, Israel has succeeded in keeping them busy with rounds of escalation,” he said.
Another Palestinian analyst, Talal Okal, said that Netanyahu “chose the wrong timing” to launch military strikes against the Gaza Strip. “Israel needs the calm as it prepares to host the Eurovision and receive hundreds of thousands of tourists,” he said. “That’s why the resistance groups saw an opportunity to pressure Israel. They were hoping to force Netanyahu to return to the previous understandings – something he doesn’t want to do so as to avoid appearing as if he surrendered to the demands of the Palestinian factions. This means that the two sides are stuck, because Israel does not want to return to the previous understandings. This is a cat and mouse game.”