Hamas prefers to preserve 'achievements' over all-out war

On the one hand, Hamas wants to show the Palestinian public that it is capable of making Israel pay for its “aggression.’

November 13, 2018 16:01
4 minute read.
Palestinians gather near the remains of a building that was completely destroyed by an Israeli air s

Palestinians gather near the remains of a building that was completely destroyed by an Israeli air strike, in Gaza City November 13, 2018. . (photo credit: REUTERS/SUHAIB SALEM)


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Hamas indicated on Tuesday that it was not interested in another major war with Israel. Hamas officials are reported to have told Egyptian and UN mediators that if Israel halts its attacks on the Gaza Strip, they too would respond in kind.

Since Sunday night’s clash between an elite IDF unit and Hamas terrorists near Khan Yunis in the southern Gaza Strip, Hamas now feels that it has extracted a “heavy price” in return for the death of its top commander, Sheikh Nur Baraka, and six other Palestinians, having fired a continual barrage of rockets at southern Israel.

On the one hand, Hamas wants to show the Palestinian public that it is capable of making Israel pay for its “aggression.” On the other hand, Hamas also seems keen to avoid a situation where this would obstruct efforts by Egypt, Qatar and the UN to reach a truce with Israel.

Judging from the statements made by senior officials, Hamas does not believe that the incident near Khan Yunis, and the subsequent Israeli response, is sufficient reason for another major war.

Hamas can now boast that its military wing has fulfilled its promise of avenging the death of the seven Palestinians killed by the IDF elite unit. It has already boasted that it achieved a major victory by uncovering the covert IDF cell and killing a senior Israeli officer, depicting this clash as a huge success for its military wing, Izaddin al-Qassam.

Statements issued by its officials in the past few hours gloat about how the group managed to “thwart” and “defeat” the IDF unit that was operating inside the 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 prefers to continue reaping the fruits of its “achievements” rather than engage in another major military confrontation with Israel.

These “achievements” include the delivery of the $15 million Qatari grant to the Strip last week. Hamas has been celebrating the Qatari move – which was approved by Israel – as a major win. It also sees the Qatari cash as a direct result of its weekly protests along the border with Israel, which began last March. Hamas leaders feel they have more to lose from a war with Israel, especially in the wake of ongoing efforts to ease the many restrictions in Gaza.

The Khan Yunis incident came hours after Qatari envoy Mohamed Al-Amadi left the Gaza Strip after a four-day visit. The monetary delivery was due to an agreement between Qatar and Israel to reach a long-term truce in the Strip and prevent another war. It was the first installment of $90 million that the emirate has pledged to send in the next six months. Hamas does not want to risk losing the remainder of these funds.

In recent days, Hamas officials have been boasting that Palestinians are finally reaping the fruits of the weekly protests, which have led to the death of more than 170 of them, and have wounded thousands of others.

The death of Baraka, its top military commander, also allows Hamas to refute charges that it has caved in to pressure to reach a truce with Israel. Some Palestinians, including PA President Mahmoud Abbas’s Fatah faction, have been ridiculing Hamas for preferring a truce over the continuation of its “armed struggle” against Israel. They also have accused the group of being part of a US-Israeli “conspiracy” to separate the Gaza Strip from the West Bank and create a Palestinian state in the coastal enclave.

Sunday night’s clash with the IDF had Hamas telling 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” in Gaza.

“We haven’t abandoned the armed struggle option despite our willingness to accept a temporary cease-fire with Israel,” a Hamas message said.

As of Tuesday afternoon, the assessment among several Palestinian political analysts was that the group was still trying to avoid a major clash with Israel because it wants to preserve its “achievements.” That’s why, analysts have said, Hamas is hoping that Egypt and the UN would intervene to prevent further deterioration in the Strip.

Hamas is well aware that Abbas and Fatah are eager to see efforts to achieve a truce in Gaza fail. However, Hamas also knows that other terrorist groups may not accept a renewed effort to end the current cycle of violence and may continue to attack Israel.

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