Analysis: Egypt, Iran in power struggle over Gaza

While Tehran is dissatisfied with the cease-fire between Hamas and Israel, Cairo is doing its utmost to reinforce the calm.

IDF soldier sits atop a tank just outside northern Gaza 370 (photo credit: REUTERS/Amir Cohen)
IDF soldier sits atop a tank just outside northern Gaza 370
(photo credit: REUTERS/Amir Cohen)
Egypt and Iran are locked in a power struggle over their influence and conflicting aims in the Gaza Strip, and Egypt appears to have the upper hand.
While Tehran is dissatisfied with the relative durability of the cease-fire between Hamas and Israel, and is pushing Palestinian armed factions to violate the truce, Cairo is doing its utmost to reinforce the calm, which it views as serving Egypt’s national interest.
Egypt is actively neutralizing attempts by Iran to send representatives and arms to Gaza.
Meanwhile, Qatar has invested massively in the Gaza Strip, donating $452 million for construction works. The Gulf state’s investment is having a moderating yet growing influence on Gaza as it helps the Hamas regime consolidate its sovereignty and economy.
As a result, tensions between Shi’ite Iran and Sunni Egypt, Qatar and Turkey – which is also seeking an influence in the Strip – are on the rise.
It’s safe to assume that Hamas will do everything it can to maintain the truce, so that it can continue its efforts to deepen its foundations as the rulers of an Islamist enclave, wedged between Egypt and Israel.
Hamas is enjoying its new-found legitimacy in the Arab world and would like to avoid an Israeli air campaign or ground offensive. Its efforts are not always successful, but they are ongoing.
Hamas’s armed wing, Izzadin Kassam, is disciplined and obeying the cease-fire orders.
Proof can be found in the lack of response to Israel’s targeted air strike this week on a Salafi-jihadi weapons manufacturer who was linked to a rocket attack on Eilat from Sinai last month.
Hamas is seeking economic independence in Gaza, while dealing with acute energy and water crises and inflation in the housing market.
Gaza now buys all of its fuel from Egypt – some 30 million liters a month. Its sole power plant has priority as a recipient of the fuel, a product of Hamas’s efforts to reduce cuts in the electricity supply.
Qatar donated 30 million liters of fuel to Gaza last year.
But complications in its delivery from Egypt means that only 10 million liters have arrived in Gaza.
The regime is also levying taxes across the Strip to raise funds for itself.
Meanwhile, Hamas is moving forward tentatively with an Islamization program.
Changes include police shaving the heads of youths with Western hairstyles, and passing into law the segregation of boys and girls in schools.
But Hamas is afraid of moving too fast or drastically and upsetting its population.
It appears as if Hamas’s ambitions to solidify itself as a regime will act as a restraining force on its jihadi ideology, although unexpected incidents could remove that restraint at any time.