Analysis: Hamas desperate for lull

But group also eager to score some kind of "military victory."

January 6, 2009 00:52
3 minute read.
Analysis: Hamas desperate for lull

gaza mosque rubble 248.88. (photo credit: AP)


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As the IDF operation in the Gaza Strip entered its 10th day, Hamas has begun sending conflicting messages regarding its intentions. These contradictory messages, Palestinian political analysts said, reflected the state of confusion in Hamas and raised questions as to who was calling the shots in the Gaza Strip. While some Hamas leaders have been openly signaling their readiness to accept a new cease-fire, others are still calling for pursuing the fight against Israel "until victory." What is clear is that Hamas is now desperate for a lull in the fighting. But it is also eager to score some kind of a "military victory" before a cease-fire is reached. Hamas can't accept a new cease-fire without having proved to the Arab and Muslim masses that it was capable of making Israel pay a heavy price for its military offensive. Hamas is fighting for its survival and its leaders know that their collapse would constitute a severe blow not only to the movement, but also to its patrons in Teheran and Damascus. "It's hard to tell who's in charge in the Gaza Strip these days," said a Ramallah-based analyst. "Hamas's political leaders have disappeared after throwing away their mobile phones. No one knows exactly what Hamas wants." The analyst said that according to his sources, the embattled Hamas leaders in the Gaza Strip were no longer in direct contact with their colleagues in Syria. "The political leaderships of Hamas in the Gaza Strip and Damascus have been disconnected from each other," he added. "I doubt if there's any coordination between them." He pointed out that the decision to dispatch two senior Hamas envoys to Cairo for talks about a cease-fire came as a surprise to the Hamas leadership in the Gaza Strip. The two envoys are based in Damascus and report directly to Khaled Mashaal, he said. Another Ramallah-based political analyst said that the political leadership of Hamas has given the movement's armed wing, Izaddin al-Kassam, full freedom to take any measures it deems necessary to prevent the collapse of the Hamas regime. "The gunmen on the streets are now in charge," he noted. "This is a dangerous situation, because they don't report to anyone at the top. This has created a state of anarchy and confusion." Palestinian journalists in the Gaza Strip said on Monday that the general feeling was that Hamas does not exist any longer as a governing body. "All their government institutions have been destroyed," said a Gaza City reporter. "The Hamas leaders are now behaving like al-Qaida's Osama bin Laden and [his deputy] Ayman Zawahiri. Their only public appearances are through recorded messages aired on Arab TV stations." On Monday, senior Hamas official Mahmoud Zahar made his first public appearance in a previously recorded message broadcast on a Hamas TV station. Zahar's appearance was reminiscent of similar appearances made by al-Qaida terror leaders. Until two weeks ago, Zahar, Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh and Interior Minister Said Siam - the three top Hamas leaders - were still sleeping in their homes and moving around freely and fearlessly. Until then, they were also frequent guests on various talk shows in the Arab media - especially Al-Jazeera, which is being accused by some Palestinians as serving as a mouthpiece for Hamas. Sources close to Hamas said that in light of the new reality, where the Hamas leaders in the Gaza Strip have virtually vanished, the armed wing was receiving its instructions from the movement's leadership in Syria. The sources said that Mashaal, the Damascus-based leader of Hamas, was in direct contact with commanders of Izzadin Kassam in different parts of the Gaza Strip. "There's a vacuum in the Hamas leadership in the Gaza Strip," they said. "The Hamas leaders in Damascus are now in charge. There's no one to talk to in the Gaza Strip."

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