By Dr. Aqel Salah*
This study discusses the siege imposed on the Gaza Strip and the continuing Israeli war by all means against Hamas. The study is based on a fundamental question: Is the war on Gaza aimed at rocket warheads or the head of Hamas?
In order to answer this question, it is necessary to analyze the stages of the movement before its military capabilities and formation of the organized army battalions, which was able to raise the movement’s shares popularly through its military operations against the occupation.
The Islamic Resistance Movement (Hamas) is a branch of the Muslim Brotherhood. It started as a social advocacy movement aimed at spreading the Islamic identity among the younger generations through religious seminars and seminars in mosques. During this period, the movement did not carry out any resistance against the Israeli occupation, while it focused on building its institutions. Thus, the movement’s work with the outbreak of the first Intifada began to engage in military action, like the rest of the Palestinian factions and the Islamic Jihad movement, through a new name, Hamas.
Hamas’s involvement in the resistance
Thus, Hamas became a key force in the arena of Palestinian resistance against other Palestinian organizations. Its leaders were subjected to arrest and deportation as a response to the guerrilla operations carried out by the movement, which raised the balance of the popular movement and the view of the Palestinian society against the occupation.
After the launch of the movement, it issued its Charter, which is its main reference, which clearly explained the reasons for its existence, its origins, its objectives, its ideology, its relationship with others, and its position on the land of Palestine and the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.
The outbreak of the Intifada was a new opportunity for the Brotherhood to take part in armed action and to respond to the pressure of the young leadership. The young leadership has played a role in influencing the Brotherhood movement and changing its strategy based on the change that has taken place on the structure of political opportunities in the Palestinian arena. The decision to form Hamas was in response to the internal opportunities of demanding the young leadership to engage in military action, and the external threat of the outbreak of the intifada.
The qualitative shift in Hamas’ military activity was the establishment of the Izz al-Din al-Qassam Brigades in 1992, when the group at the beginning of its establishment kidnapped an Israeli soldier and killed him in December 1992 after Israel refused to exchange him with Palestinian prisoners. Hamas, however, posed no threat to Israel, which it considered a nonviolent movement until 1994, the year that marked a major shift in Hamas’ military policies. Before that, it had attacked military targets, but after the massacre at the Ibrahimi Mosque in Hebron (Al-khalil), Hamas changed its military tactics and resorted to martyrdom operations.
“The movement has suffered from building up the resistance by focusing on building a person who is resistant to faith, educational, psychological and intellectual, taking into account the organizational and behavioral discipline, and the adherence to the legal and moral control of the resistance,” said Khaled Mashaal, head of the movement’s political bureau at that time. “The self-construction of the armed resistance at home has been adopted – training, arming, maneuvering – and making every effort to collect financial and technical support and weapons from abroad as much as possible,” he said.
The Rise of Hamas
Hamas launched a propaganda movement, which has a view of the national project and raised the slogan of liberating Palestine from the sea to the river, where it increased its popularity through its resistance and relief work, which allowed it to enter the political arena in order to form a lever for resistance and stop concessions made by the Authority. One of Hamas leaders, Osama Hamdan, stressed that the resistance was the main factor in winning the election, saying “there is no doubt that the choice of resistance is the key factor in our access to power.”
As is well known, Hamas has gained its popularity and superiority over Fatah through its military operations and its prominent role in resisting the occupation. If Hamas abandons resistance and its weapons, it will become similar to Fatah and its program. It is impossible for Hamas to hand over weapons. This was confirmed by one of Hamas leaders, Musa Abu Marzouk, in a statement on September 22, 2018 that the weapon of the resistance is not on the table.
The military wing of Hamas
Hamas will not be able to execute its own hand by abandoning the resistance and its weapons. In the event that Hamas surrenders its weapons, the second Israeli objective after the weapon will be the Israeli soldiers detaineed by the Al-Qassam Brigades. The world and some Arabs and Israel will demand that the soldiers be handed over alive or dead. In order to revive a breakthrough in the siege of Gaza. And this file for Hamas is fateful and can not compromise on it. It is the main factor that relies on it to raise its popularity and increase its chances to prevail over Fatah and win any upcoming elections.
The third Israeli objective, no less important than its predecessors, is the tunnels that may hurt the Israeli military in any future war. Israel is planning day and night to escape the tunnel nightmare. Israel, backed by America and some Arabs, will demand that Hamas hands over the map of tunnels that reach the Israeli settlements adjacent to the Strip. This means betraying the resistance and the bloodletting that has come to make Hamas’ tunnel network reliable. It is the most important military strategy to excel and to decide the outcome of any future war.
The fourth goal of Israel is to dismantle the Izz al-Din al-Qassam Brigades and liquidate its prominent leaders, which will destroy Hamas and the resistance project, and kill the Lebanese Hezbollah model in the Gaza Strip.
The Israeli claim will not stand in the way of Hamas’ co-ordination with Israel, and Israel will create pressure and demand to remove Hamas from its resistance content and dismantle its military structure. Hamas will become the second Palestinian authority, and in return Israel will receive the zero-cubic meter of power in the West Bank.
But Hamas and its current leaders, most of them from were founders of the al-Qassam Brigades, will not accept abandoning the battalions because they realize that the strength of Hamas depends on the battalions and their weapons. Hamas would otherwise become a center of occupation and power and revert to its historical and ‘Muslim Brotherhood’ origins, which were not influential, strong and popular. Its popularity derived from its resistance work and now through rockets that can reach all of historic Palestine (Israel today). Hamas leaders are aware of this and the model of authority. Therefore, Hamas won’t commit suicide.
What is Israel requiring today is not Hamas as a group or ideology, but its weapons. If Hamas surrenders its weapons, this is unlikely, it will turn into a Dervish party, and it will lose everything it has built with blood and fire. Qatar and Turkey are dealing with it in a carrot style to adapt their strategies and policies, which were the issuance of the policy document in May 2017, and the aftermath of the war. They wanted that Hamas makes changes in its political practices and acceptance of negotiations with Israel on its policies.
The scenario imposed on Hamas today is the same scenario imposed by the occupation and the United States of America and some Arabs and Palestinians on the martyr Yasser Arafat when he refused to carry to sign the waiver of Palestinian constants. Today, the model of resistance and the elimination of weapons in the Gaza Strip is needed to ensure that Israel will live in security and peace, while continuing to Judaize Jerusalem, settle the settlements and kill the prisoners and the Palestinian cause.
Israel targets Hamas military force
This is confirmed by the Israeli warning to Hamas through a message via the Egyptian mediator, in which the New Arab newspaper published on May 9, 2019, that Israel asked the officials of the Egyptian General Intelligence Service to warn Hamas to not pursue the development of the missiles, stressing that “Tel Aviv will not allow the passage of that step, because it represents a sharp change in the balance of power in the conflict.”
The warnings also included the Islamic Jihad Movement after its development of the “Badr 3” missile, which has a range of 140 kilometers, and used by the “Al-Quds Brigades”, the military wing of the movement, in bombing the city of Ashkelon during the latest round of escalation, according to the Hebrew intelligence site, Dibka, on May 9 2019. Dibka added that the Palestinians succeeded in dropping the prestige of the Israeli defense system “Iron Dome”, and in a serious blow to Israel, after the drop of the strong deterrent force represented in the “dome” and they were successful in the face of firing dozens of rockets on a single target in one minute.
Hamas develops its missile capability
On May 10, 2019, the Israeli military analyst Yossi Melman points out that the recent round of fighting in the border area with the Gaza Strip was the deadliest in the fighting since Operation Summer Shelf in the summer of 2014, during which Hamas used new combat tools. According to estimates by the Israeli security services, Hamas has about 15,000 rockets, mostly self-produced. The warheads of these missiles also appear to be larger and their range is widening. It also has marching aircraft and rocket-propelled grenades.
On May 11, 2019, the Israeli newspaper Ma’ariv revealed a qualitative and substantial development of the missile capabilities of the Palestinian factions in the Gaza Strip during the last round.
Islamic Jihad a stumbling block in the face of Israel
If Hamas abandons the weapons of the resistance, and this, as we have said, is not possible, there is a much bigger obstacle than Hamas, which is the Islamic Jihad movement which did not engage in official Palestinian political life like Hamas. This movement is today considered as a large and insignificant force, with weapons capabilities, which lead to escalation and direct response to the Israeli attacks on the Gaza Strip. It is the movement that does not believe in compromise, and then has a basic rule that Palestine can only be liberated by force. Therefore, the Islamic Jihad can not agree to hand over its weapons and dissolve the rockets under any pressure. I firmly believe that “The Islamic Jihad movement” is ready to go on the path of suicide and surrender. Also, The Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), which is armed with a clear set of principles similar to the Islamic Jihad movement, can not agree to hand over weapons under any pressure.
Israel did not want the Palestinians to own arms. The weapons ship (Karen A) intercepted by Israel in January 2002 in the Red Sea, and then Brig. Fuad al-Shobaki, the financial officer of the Palestinian security services, was arrested. Israel accused the Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat of planning to own medium weapons, which was the beginning of his siege by Israel. Israel does not want Hamas or anyone else to own arms, and wants to attack Gaza and take over the West Bank and Jerusalem without paying any price.
All of the above does not negate the fact that Israel is a war state and seeks war even if the Palestinians do not have a weapon, in order to kill the Palestinians and control the land. This is confirmed by the war on the West Bank where there is no weapon.
The current phase requires the completion of the Palestinian reconciliation and the embodiment of national unity in all aspects of political life based on the principle of partnership, not exclusivity, and the existence of an independent Palestinian leadership, the defense of the resistance and its weapons and protection, and consider the formations of resistance, At present, this is not available in the current Palestinian leadership, which can not decide to blow up the situation until a third intifada.
* Palestinian writer and researcher specialized in ideological movements.
Views expressed in this article do not necessarly reflect The Levant.