On the first anniversary of Operation Protective Edge in the Gaza Strip, Hamas leaders remain as defiant as ever, insisting that their movement would continue to pursue the fight against Israel.The fiery rhetoric of the Hamas officials stands in sharp contrast to assessments that the movement, which emerged badly bruised from the military conflict, is not too keen on engaging in another war with Israel, at least not in the foreseeable future.
Meanwhile, the main challenge Hamas is facing these days is not coming from Israel, but from other extremist Islamist groups, such as Islamic State.Despite the severe blow Hamas suffered during the conflict, its leaders continue to talk about “victory” over Israel.Saleh Arouri, a senior Hamas operative based in Turkey, said in a statement marking the first anniversary of the war that the “victory of the Palestinian people was a real step toward paving the way for independence and freedom.”
Operation Protective Edge
Acknowledging the heavy price Hamas paid during the conflict, Arouri, who according to Israeli security sources is responsible for the recent spate of terrorist attacks against Israelis, also predicted that the “victory” would accelerate the release of Palestinian prisoners held by Israel.“True, our people made huge sacrifices during the 52-day war, but we have made strategic achievements in the long term – ones that will pave the way for liberation and freedom for Palestinian prisoners,” Arouri said.“This victory will also deter the occupier from launching another aggression on our people,” he added. “Any renewed aggression on our people won’t go unanswered.”Khalil al-Haya, another top Hamas official, also issued defiant statements marking the anniversary of the war.“The occupation, which waged war against our defenseless people and continued the siege of the Gaza Strip, won’t succeed in breaking our will and resolve,” Haya stressed.Hamas also insists that its armed wing, Izzadin Kassam, remains as strong as ever despite the heavy casualties it suffered during the war. Its commanders said in the past few days that they have been able to replace the rockets and missiles that were destroyed during the war. They also claimed that Hamas has been able to rebuild scores of tunnels along the border with Israel that were targeted by the IDF.One year after the confrontation with Israel, Hamas is now facing huge challenges both inside the Gaza Strip and elsewhere. And for the first time in many years, Israel is not the source of these threats and challenges.At home, Hamas is being openly challenged by Islamic State and some radical Salafi-jihadi groups. In the West Bank, the Palestinian Authority security forces are continuing to crack down on Hamas supporters. Nearly 200 Hamas men have been rounded up by the PA security forces over the past five days.The ongoing power struggle between Hamas and the Palestinian Authority has obstructed efforts to rebuild the Gaza Strip. International donors who promised billions of dollars to rebuild the Gaza Strip following the war obviously have no intention to fulfill their pledges.The Egyptians, on the other hand, are increasingly viewing Hamas as a major threat to their national security, especially in the aftermath of recent terrorist attacks on Egyptian soldiers in Sinai.All these challenges and threats increase the prospects of reaching a long-term truce between Hamas and Israel. There is good reason to believe that Hamas is interested in such a deal.
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