Ha­mas fight on with no endgame and noth­ing left to lose


The Jewish Chronicle - - NEWS - BY ANSHEL PFEFFER

IT IS un­clear who is cur­rently call­ing the shots in Ha­mas. Is it the po­lit­i­cal or mil­i­tary lead­er­ship in Gaza, both cur­rently un­der­ground, or the “ex­ter­nal” lead­ers shut­tling be­tween Ankara, Doha and Cairo?

What is clear is that the only man who can ul­ti­mately sign off on a cease­fire is the Izz ad-Din al-Qas­sam Bri­gades chief of staff, Mo­hammed Deif.

Deif, a for­mer bomb-maker and sur­vivor of nu­mer­ous Is­raeli as­sas­si­na­tion at­tempts, re­sumed the po­si­tion of chief of staff after Is­rael killed Ahmed Jaabari 20 months ago in a strike that sparked off the pre­vi­ous round of vi­o­lence in Gaza.

Deif, who mas­ter­minded Ha­mas’s sui­cide at­tack cam­paign dur­ing the Sec­ond In­tifada, played a key role in build­ing the or­gan­i­sa­tion’s rocket-launch­ing in­fra­struc­ture and directed the ex­ca­va­tion of at least 30 tun­nels lead­ing from Gaza un­der Is­raeli ter­ri­tory.

Now that the IDF op­er­a­tion has un­cov­ered these tun­nels and is busy de­stroy­ing them, his next step is to pro­long the war­fare for as long as pos­si­ble in an ef­fort to ex­tri­cate some tan­gi­ble achievements be­fore a cease­fire.

Three weeks ago, Ha­mas was at one of its weak­est points since its vi­o­lent takeover of Gaza seven years ago.

The unity agree­ment with Fatah failed to de­liver any gains, it has no funds left to pay 40,000 civil ser­vants and po­lice of­fi­cers in Gaza, and it has lost the sup­port of Egypt and most of the Gulf states with the ex­cep­tion of Qatar.

The as­cen­dancy of the hard­lin­ers within the frac­tured lead­er­ship and the re­peated re­jec­tion of the Egyp­tian cease­fire pro­pos­als is a re­flec­tion of the feel­ing Ha­mas no longer has much to lose. Its main achieve­ment so far has been its suc­cess in con­tin­u­ing to launch rock­ets against Is­rael, al­beit at slightly lower rates in re­cent days, and the fierce fight Al-Qas­sam mem­bers are putting up on the bat­tle­field against the IDF. And still, a clear “vic­tory pic­ture” eludes them. For now, Ha­mas has no endgame. Egypt, the only re­al­is­tic me­di­a­tor, is re­fus­ing to add any sig­nif­i­cant con­ces­sions to its cease­fire pro­posal, leav­ing for fu­ture talks Ha­mas de­mands for an open­ing of the cross­ings to Gaza, and a re­lease of its mem­bers ar­rested by Is­rael.

Its most de­sired war aim is to cap­ture a live IDF soldier (it claims to have done so but the IDF is cer­tain miss­ing soldier Oron Shaul was killed when his ar­moured ve­hi­cle ex­ploded) or shoot down a he­li­copter.

Un­til it does, or Egypt and Is­rael im­prove the cease­fire terms, it in­tends to keep on fight­ing.


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