Analysis: Trumpets of victory strike false note

Hamas's claims aren't being taken seriously by many Gazans.

Gaza rubble 248.88 (photo credit: AP)
Gaza rubble 248.88
(photo credit: AP)
Hamas's claim that it has emerged victorious from Operation Cast Lead is reminiscent of the fiery statements of Ahmed Said, the famous Egyptian radio announcer who, during the Six Day War, continued to report the fictional downing of dozens of Israeli warplanes after Israel destroyed the Arab air forces. Listening to the commanders of Hamas's armed wing, Izzadin Kassam, who held a press conference in Gaza City on Monday, one is left with the impression that it was the Israelis, and not the Palestinians, who suffered thousands of casualties and lost nearly half of their weapons during the war. Hamas's claim that the movement lost only 48 of its gunmen and that the IAF had used half of its ammunition in air strikes on the Gaza Strip is not being taken seriously by many Palestinians in the Gaza Strip. Nor are many Palestinians taking seriously Hamas's claims that its men destroyed 47 tanks and armored vehicles, killed 80 IDF soldiers and wounded hundreds of others. A veteran Palestinian journalist in the Gaza Strip said that he does not believe that anyone would ever be able to find out exactly how many gunmen Hamas lost during the fighting. Moreover, he noted, "We will never be able to find out how much of Hamas's military capability was destroyed." The journalist quoted a top Hamas operative as saying that Hamas lost less than 10 percent of its weapons and ammunition in the past three weeks. "Despite the severe blows, Hamas remains as defiant as ever and it's believed that they still have a lot of weapons," the journalist said. Various sources in the Gaza Strip, including medics, journalists and a few Hamas supporters are convinced that the movement is not telling the truth about its human losses and the damage done to its security and civilian infrastructure. One medic said he believes at least 250 Hamas militiamen died in the fighting, while a journalist put the figure at over 400. The sources agreed, nevertheless, that it was difficult to come up with accurate figures because it was difficult to distinguish between a civilian and a Hamas militiaman. According to Palestinians in the Gaza Strip, on the first day of the war Hamas ordered its gunmen to take off their uniforms to avoid being detected by the IDF. The Hamas gunmen who participated in the fighting against the IDF were all dressed as civilians and the majority arrived at hospitals without their weapons or any other signs revealing their status as gunmen. Fatah representatives in the West Bank claim that the majority of Hamas's fighters were actually hiding during the IDF operation and had not taken part in the fighting. They pointed out that only a few hundred gunmen belonging to Hamas and other armed factions, including Fatah's armed wing, the Aksa Martyrs Brigades, and Islamic Jihad's Al-Quds Brigades, took part in the fighting after the IDF sent ground forces into the Gaza Strip. Hamas alone has about 25,000 gunmen and policemen in the Gaza Strip who are well-trained, highly-motivated and strictly-disciplined. About half of the gunmen belong to Izzadin Kassam, while the rest serve in different security branches, including the much-feared Internal Security Service. If the Hamas commanders are to be believed, their men fired 980 rockets and mortars at Israel and another 98 anti-tank missiles and rockets at IDF troops in the past three weeks. The Hamas leaders did not say anything about the weapons storehouses that the IDF claims to have destroyed during the fighting. Nor was there any mention of the vast network of underground tunnels that the IDF said were discovered in various parts of the Gaza Strip. They also strongly denied allegations that Hamas had stored weapons inside and beneath mosques. Hamas believes that it won the war not only because its men "defeated" the IDF and forced the tanks to retreat under fire, but also because the movement is still in power despite the massive military operation and the heavy damages and losses it incurred. As far as Hamas is concerned, the primary objective of the war was to overthrow the Hamas regime and hand the Gaza Strip back to forces loyal to Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas. But because these two goals were not achieved - and are unlikely to be achieved in the foreseeable future - Hamas will continue to celebrate its purported victory until the next round of fighting.