Why didn’t Hamas fire rockets at the Jerusalem flag march? - intel report

The Meir Amit Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center said there was a multi-pronged decision behind their move.

 Palestinian Hamas terrorists attend an anti-Israel rally in Khan Younis, in the southern Gaza Strip May 27, 2021 (photo credit: REUTERS/IBRAHEEM ABU MUSTAFA)
Palestinian Hamas terrorists attend an anti-Israel rally in Khan Younis, in the southern Gaza Strip May 27, 2021
(photo credit: REUTERS/IBRAHEEM ABU MUSTAFA)

The Meir Amit Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center on Monday published a report explaining why Hamas did not fire rockets in response to the Jerusalem flag march last month, despite threatening to do so.

The decision to back off its threat was multipronged, according to the intelligence center’s report, which was prepared by former senior Israeli intelligence people who have ongoing contacts with current Israeli intelligence officials.

The reasons

First, Hamas said it had succeeded in getting Israel to change the path of the march to a less provocative one as far as al-Aqsa Mosque was concerned. Even though Israel never intended that the flag march route would go near the mosque, Hamas made the statement for propaganda purposes, the report said.

Second, Hamas said Israel was extraordinarily well prepared both because it was carrying out a major national IDF training exercise and was on heightened security alert following the Hamas threats. This meant that Hamas would be unable to achieve a surprise as it did in May 2021.

 People hold up Israeli flags at the annual Jerusalem Day flag march. (credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM) People hold up Israeli flags at the annual Jerusalem Day flag march. (credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)

Third, Hamas said many countries had begged it not to fire rockets. Although the Gaza Strip’s rulers said they had not been influenced by these appeals, their spin doctors put forth the communications as evidence of the increased stature of the organization in the region.

As time went on, Hamas became more defensive as it endured more verbal attacks from various groups in Gaza for having failed to follow through on its threat.

Hamas restated some of its original defenses for not having attacked in a more apologetic manner, but it also said it was not the right time to put the Gaza Strip through an entire wide round of conflict with Israel following the May 2021 war.

Hamas officials said the terrorist group did fire eight rockets on May 28, the day before the flag march, into the sea, demonstrating that it still had rocket-firing capabilities.

Israel responded to that demonstration by sending messages to Hamas that it had no intention of escalating the flag march issue, but if Hamas actually fired on Israel, it would face extreme repercussions.

Part of Hamas’s problem was that its leader in the Gaza Strip, Yahya Sinwar, made a very strong speech on April 30 that appeared to directly commit it to conflict with Israel.

Ultimately, Hamas’s true intentions were not to get Gaza drawn into another conflict, but rather to try to incite east Jerusalem residents, Arab-Israelis and West Bank Palestinians into a conflict with Israel over the flag march, the Meir Amit Center said.

In addition, though it is still too early to say, the spring spike in terrorist attacks seemed to wane in mid- and late May, and this may have influenced any Hamas plans to inflame the situation, the report said.