The intelligence picture: Hamas searching for a 'victory picture'

As Hamas watches two years of war preparations be destroyed, it may attempt its largest-scale rocket attack on Israel to date as the terror group searches for an image of achievement it can present to the people of Gaza.

Hamas members are seen close up during a press conference in the Gaza Strip last week. (photo credit: REUTERS)
Hamas members are seen close up during a press conference in the Gaza Strip last week.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
According to Israeli intelligence evaluations, Hamas was surprised by the timing and scope of Israel's ground offensive
Hamas also remains frustrated by the fact that after two years of preparations, and enormous resources poured into the armament and tunnels programs, it hardly has any visible achievements to show for its efforts. 
Hence, Hamas continues to search for a "victory picture" it can present to the people of Gaza, while preparing for a drawn-out conflict. Rocket fire has dropped from an average of 130 attacks a day to 70, as Hamas paces itself, and saves what remains of its rocket arsenal for the remainder of its clash with Israel. 
Hamas’s goal is to terrorize millions of Israelis and wage a war of attrition against the country’s home front so it can present this as an achievement to Palestinians at the end of the war.
One possibility is that Hamas may seek a victory image by launching a massive wave of rockets, targeting nearly all of Israel simultaneously in the coming days.
Despite the seemingly united front being presented by Hamas’s military and political wings, deep tensions continue to exist between the two.
They are in close communication, and senior Hamas member Marwan Issa acts as a bridge between them.
Nevertheless, Hamas’s military wing, known as the Izzadin Kassam, has been progressively losing power to the political wing, which is the sovereign government in Gaza.
Izzadin Kassam, which once called the shots, remains intent on continuing the current conflict with Israel for as long as it can.
Due to its decentralized operational structure, it will be difficult to identify a clear point in time when the Izzadin Kassam breaks under Israel’s pressure, despite sustaining a series of heavy blows from the IDF.
According to evaluations in Israel, Hamas did not wish to meet the IDF’s ground forces, and never planned on such a development.
Additionally, the clashes with Hamas have shed light on the degree to which it has reached self-reliance in Gaza.
It fires projectiles manufactured by a domestic arms industry. Hamas understands it cannot count on access to the outside world for weapons imports. It has even self-produced around 10 drones.
Hamas invested in a naval commando unit, and spent years training it for raids on the coastline.
Yet, all of these capabilities have been blocked by Israel this month.
Meanwhile, on the ground, Hamas maintains six territorial brigades and 26 battalions.
Many of these elements – over 300 field commanders – are cut off from command and control sites that have been destroyed by the IDF. With tunnels also being destroyed, Hamas’s terrorists are increasingly isolated and exposed.
Over the past year, Hamas created specialized brigades and battalions for tunnel warfare.
They are tasked with using cross-border underground passages to send murder squads into Israel. Their missions include kidnapping soldiers, disrupting a ground offensive and going on killing sprees in villages near the border.
These cells are seen by Hamas as elite forces. Each company is responsible for the tunnels in its area, and Hamas’s military wing-chief, Muhammad Deif, is the senior “tunnels officer.”
When it comes to defense, Hamas has built dynamic lines of protection around its tunnel network inside Gaza. It also recently set up a field-intelligence division that closely tracks the IDF’s activities.
These measures have failed to stop the IDF from systematically destroying the tunnel network, but they have exacted a painful number of Israeli casualties.
Israeli intelligence believes the morale of Hamas battalions on the front line is currently low, as a result of the IDF’s tactical successes. The IDF is witnessing a decrease in attempts by Hamas to engage its units.
The army expects the end of the conflict – whenever it may come – to mark the beginning of a prolonged period of calm.
Hamas will need time to rebuild itself, after sustaining large-scale damage, particularly to its weapons industry, and Israeli deterrence will be replenished, according to these evaluations.
The result will be that Hamas will think long and hard before choosing to go to war against Israel anytime soon.