What is the role of Hamas – the ruling terror group in the Gaza Strip – in the current flare-up between Israel and Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) and its military wing, Al-Quds Brigades? According to a Jerusalem Post analysis by its Arab affairs correspondent, Hamas is wary of an escalation with Israel and in fact, the IDF stated on Tuesday that Hamas has not been involved in the rocket fire into Israel. Additionally, all the terrorists – 12 in all – killed by the IDF during the current tensions are members of PIJ.
Hamas fears that an all-out war with Israel would spell the end of their rule over the Gaza Strip. Palestinian sources say that Hamas has tried to urge PIJ to restrain from attacks on Israel that could result in an IDF operation in the Strip. Thousands of Palestinian homes were turned into rubble during Operation Protective Edge in 2014 and Hamas did not adequately provide for those rendered homeless by the war. Furthermore, the Gaza Strip is currently suffering from an economic crisis – the cost of living is high and unemployment is spiraling. Another war in the Gaza Strip is likely to push Hamas out of power.
On the other hand, PIJ – the only terror group in the Strip capable of standing up to Hamas – is not prepared to refrain from terror attacks against Israel and has been pursuing a strategy of mushaghalet al adu (engaging the enemy) – perpetrating intermittent terror attacks to please its sponsor Iran and highlight its opposition to a ceasefire with Israel.
Hamas fears that the elimination of al-Ata and PIJ’s vengeful launch of hundreds of rockets into Israel will lead to an all-out war but they’re not willing to openly oppose PIJ’s reprisal against Israel for eliminating its top commander. However, according to the Jerusalem Post analysis, the Palestinians on the street say that Hamas won’t permit PIJ to escalate the current tensions into an all-out IDF operation in the Gaza Strip.
Egypt, which negotiates ceasefires between Israel and Gaza terror groups, has realized lately that it must do more to appease PIJ, which is not interested in maintaining a ceasefire with Israel. Al-Ata and other PIJ leaders have met with officials of Cairo’s General Intelligence Service several times in past months. The current dilemma is whether Cairo can negotiate a ceasefire between Israel and Gaza which would please both Hamas – which is desperately struggling to maintain control of the coastal enclave – and PIJ, which believes it has nothing to lose and everything to gain by escalating tensions with Israel.
(YWN Israel Desk – Jerusalem)