Another Gaza Conflict, But With One Difference: Hamas Said It Out.


Abbreviation Weekend Struggle There was a grimly familiar result on Gaza: dozens of Palestinians were killed, including terrorist leaders as well as children, and many homes were damaged or destroyed, most by Israeli airstrikes, but some The Palestinians were from the misfire.

But one thing was different from the usual fighting: Hamas, the de facto civilian government in Gaza, remained on the sidelines. A small Islamist group, the Palestinian Islamic Jihad, took the lead in firing the rockets – more than 1,000 of them – and bore the brunt of the Israeli airstrikes in what Israel called an imminent Islamic Jihad attack, which began on Friday. .

While not unprecedented, Hamas’ decision reaffirms the complex and changing role the movement has played in the Gaza Strip since it gained control in 2007. It also demonstrated among Palestinian Islamist militants how to best fight Israel, and highlighted both the influence of Iran. – who supports both Hamas and Islamic Jihad – and the extent of that support.

Hamas is still a military force that opposes the existence of Israel, and is considered a terrorist group by Israel and the United States. But unlike Islamic Jihad, it is also a ruling administration and a social movement. Although authoritarian, Hamas is sensitive to public opinion in the enclave and, if only indirectly, must make a deal with Israel to assimilate the most restrictive aspects of the 15-year Israeli-Egyptian blockade, which would have resulted in the group’s rise to power. After was enforced and life is destroyed. Situations in Gaza.

By setting fire over the weekend, Hamas showed sensitivity to Palestinian fatigue over the prospect of another confrontation with Israel, at least the sixth during Hamas’s tenure. It also suggested that Hamas was wary of missing out on many of the small but important economic measures that Israel had to offer Gaza. Last major clash in May 2021Including 14,000 Israeli work permits, which boosted the economy of the strip.

At a briefing for journalists on Monday, a senior Israeli official, speaking anonymously to discuss the issue more freely, said Israel’s policy of granting more work permits over the past year has helped Hamas during this period. played an important role in keeping away To fight The official said this would encourage Israel to pursue this approach in the future.

While no one expects to change the fundamental dynamics in Gaza, let alone the wider Israeli-Palestinian conflict, some analysts, diplomats and officials are hopeful that the perceived success of this trade-off will allow Israel to lift more sanctions in the future. Will encourage to reduce, and reduce the likelihood of violence.

“Hamas does not want war at this time,” said Hugh Lovett, an expert on Palestinian politics at the European Council on Foreign Relations, a research group. “A more pragmatic relationship has developed between Hamas and Israel. To some extent, it may be mutual.”

Publicly, Hamas and Islamic Jihad have expressed solidarity with each other during and after the weekend’s conflict, and have promised to join forces again in the future, as they did in 2008, 2014 and 2021. Did during the first round of the fight.

Basically, both the groups have a common goal and ideology. They have their roots in the Muslim Brotherhood, the global Islamist movement, and they seek to end Israel and be replaced by an Islamic Palestinian state.

Muhammad al-Hindi, an Islamic Jihad official, told a Turkish broadcaster on Sunday that there was no rift between the two groups. “Our relationship with Hamas has grown stronger and stronger,” Mr. Al-Hindi said. “We entered the fight together and we will enter the fight together, shoulder to shoulder.”

In a statement posted on its website on Saturday, Hamas said it was “united” with Islamic Jihad, adding that “fighters from all factions are facing this aggression as one.”

But the different behavior of the two groups during the conflict reflects their current priorities as well as historical past stories.

Established more than four decades ago, Islamic Jihad is old, short and mainly concerned with violent opposition to Israel. It also has no interest in participating in Palestinian political formations.

Hamas, created in 1987, is comparatively more pragmatic – a social and political movement as well as a militant one.

It opposed efforts in the 1990s led by the Palestine Liberation Organisation, the internationally recognized representative of the Palestinians, to seek a peace deal with Israel, launching a deadly terrorism campaign to derail that process. Gone.

But Hamas participates in Palestinian elections, winning the last legislative election in 2006. It worked within unity governments in the Palestinian Authority, even after Gaza was stripped of control. And in recent years, it has signaled a willingness to negotiate a longer-term deal with Israel, while preventing its legitimacy from being recognized.

“Ideologically they are not really much different – ​​they both believe that Israel has no right to exist in Palestine,” said Azzam Tamimi, an expert in political Islam and an academic associated with the Muslim Brotherhood. “But Hamas sees itself as the leader of society, and not just as a resistance movement.”

Both Hamas and Islamic Jihad receive financial and logistical support from Iran. But their differing perspectives in recent days highlight that Islamic Jihad – whose leader, Ziad al-Nakhla, was visiting Tehran during the conflict – is more vulnerable to Iranian influence than Hamas.

During the Syrian Civil War, Islamic Jihad never broke with Iran’s close ally, Syria, despite the Syrian government’s war against rebels such as Islamic Jihad and Hamas, Sunni Islamists. However, Hamas broke ties with Damascus a decade ago in solidarity with the Syrian Muslim Brotherhood and recently reinstated them.

“Islamic jihad determined from the very beginning that the Iranian revolution was a model, a beacon of some kind,” Mr Tamimi said. “Hamas has always insisted that relations with Iran should be based on cooperation and not on any bond,” he said.

Islamic Jihad’s fight with Israel may fuel its popularity among some Palestinians, but past polls suggest it could have the opposite effect in Gaza – especially as some of the group’s rockets appeared engine not running And in the strip fell on civilian areas, the video seemed to show. after similar rounds fighting in 2019In which Hamas was also off the field, about half a gallon felt that Hamas was right to do so, and only a third disagreed.

Some Israelis hope that Hamas, which is trying to maintain a side in Gaza, will continue to shy away from future conflicts if it is given more economic incentives to do so.

“I want to speak directly to the residents of the Gaza Strip and tell them: there is another way,” Israeli Prime Minister Yair Lapid said in a speech Monday evening. “We know how to protect ourselves from anyone who threatens us, but we also know how to provide jobs, livelihoods and a life of honor to those who want to live in peace with us.”

Jonathan Touval, an analyst at Mitvim, an Israeli research group, said the situation “also presented an opportunity to advance the far-reaching arrangements between the two sides – first and foremost those linked to the reconstruction of Gaza.”

But some expect small economic gestures to radically change the broader view of Hamas, especially while the blockade remains in place. The granting of 14,000 work permits by Israel has increased the income of thousands of families, but has not changed the lives of the majority. In a congested area of ​​two million, nearly half of working-age adults are unemployed and only one in 10 gajans have access to clean water.

“In the absence of a more sustainable long-term political vision for Gaza,” said Mr. Lovett, the analyst, “the ceasefire arrangement with Israel will eventually affect the borders it provides to Gaza and Hamas at some point.”

isabelle kershner And Hiba Yazbeki Contributed to reporting.


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