Expect limited calm with Gaza in 2020: Israeli intel assessment

Hamas doesn't want to lose legitimacy as a resistance movement, but wants to ensure its survival

BRING OUR citizens back from Gaza (photo credit: REUTERS)
BRING OUR citizens back from Gaza
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Israel should expect limited calm with the Hamas-run Gaza Strip in 2020 as long as it serves the interests of the terrorist group, according to IDF intelligence estimates.
The Intelligence Directorate noted in its assessment that Hamas is wary of a fourth war with Israel and instead prefers to focus on the situation on the street in order to maintain its grip on the blockaded coastal enclave.
While the group is not interested in a full military confrontation against the IDF, Hamas will not hesitate to fire rockets at Israel during short rounds of violence lasting no more than several days, similar to the 12 rounds in 2019. On Wednesday four rockets were fired from Gaza towards communities in southern Israel. Two were intercepted by the Iron Dome missile defense system and the other two are believed to have landed in open territory causing no damage.
Hamas, which sees itself as a resistance movement, does not want to lose its legitimacy in the eyes of the public and the assessment stated that as long as the calm serves the group’s interest, especially when it will ensure its continued survival, Hamas will continue to negotiate with Israel.
While significant progress has been made towards reaching a long-term ceasefire arrangement, according to the assessment, in contrast to Israel, Hamas does not include the return the remains of IDF soldiers Lt. Hadar Goldin and St.-Sgt. Oron Shaul and the two missing Israeli civilians, Abera Mengistu and Hisham al-Sayed as part of the arrangement.
Therefore it is estimated that the chances are poor for the Egyptian-brokered arrangement to succeed.
Nevertheless, in a speech at the IDC Herzliya in December, Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. Aviv Kochavi said that he recognized a “unique opportunity” in Gaza and that one of the IDF’s roles is to ensure periods without war.
“I recognize a unique opportunity in Gaza. There is a strong will not to bring about an escalation of tensions on the part of Hamas and it was Islamic Jihad under the leadership of its now-dead commander Baha Abu al-Ata that was responsible for the vast majority of attacks on Israel in the past year.”
Hamas, he said, wants to improve the welfare of its citizens, and Israel is “in the process of assisting the Egyptians within which we will facilitate civilian relief. This is the policy of the Israeli government and I support it.”
“Winning wars isn’t enough,” he said. “We have to manage security in a way that doesn’t test the public every two or three years. We have to make sure that we reach a decisive result that ensures that there will be an interval of deterrence.”
The past year saw the most serious peak of violence between Israel and terrorist groups in the Gaza Strip since the end of Operation Protective Edge in 2014, with 1,295 rockets and missiles fired in 2019 - 93% of which were fired during the violent rounds.
During those rounds of violence, seven Israeli civilians were killed by rocket fire and a Kornet anti-tank missile, the highest number of civilian casualties since Operation Protective Edge in 2014.
While weapons smuggling into the blockaded enclave from Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula has decreased over the years, groups in the Strip have invested in manufacturing their own rockets.
The assessment noted that even as Hamas continues to work towards an arrangement of calm with Israel, the group continues to increase its aerial defense systems, ground-to-ground missile and rocket arsenal, and its underground tunnel infrastructure.
Hamas and PIJ carry out tests on a regular basis, firing rockets towards the sea in an attempt to increase their range and destructive power.
Hamas began producing Qassam rockets in 2001 with a range of four km. Nearly two decades later, rocket crews can strike as far away as Nahariya. Hamas, which has a fighting force of close to 40,000 men, is also estimated to have thousands of mortars.
But following several rounds of fighting between Israel and Hamas over the past year and hundreds of airstrikes against Hamas weapons warehouses and other military targets, it is estimated that the number of rockets have been reduced to 5,000-6,000.