Monday 27 December 2010

Hamas Trying to Confuse

Hamas military wing spokesman Abu Obeida gave an interview on Friday to the press pack who were all hungry to listen to his "words of wisdom". Rather than clarifying the direction in which Hamas is planning to move in the future, Obeida seems to have caused confusion about the organisation's intentions and created the impression that there is some confusion amongst its ranks. But is Hamas really as disorganised about its future tactics as his statements suggest?

Two years have now passed since the Gaza War, "Operation Cast Lead", which saw Hamas and Israel pit their forces against one another. Although Hamas was not completely routed by the IDF, it would be fair to say that the movement suffered a substantial setback to their military infrastructure and capabilities. Two years is, however, a long time in Middle Eastern politics and things appear to have changed dramatically since then.

Hamas has followed a strategy of not confronting Israel in a direct way over the past two years. The missiles that have been launched from the Gaza Strip during the intervening period, have come from so-called renegade organisations that are not associated with Hamas. Hamas has ensured that the Israeli authorities are aware of this fact in order to prevent any retaliation strikes being aimed at them. The two year "ceasefire" has allowed Hamas to substantively rebuild its political and military position. Its ceasefire has served to allow it to recreate its infrastructure that was destroyed during the war. There are those who say that Hamas has more sophisticated weaponry, and in greater quantities than before the Gaza War.

Hamas' adherence to its ceasefire has, however, changed over the past few weeks with the organisation's militants having launched a number of missile attacks towards Israel. One attack late last week saw a Qassam missile explode a few hundred metres from a kindergarten, injuring a number of civilians. Israel has already struck back at Hamas by hitting some of its supply tunnels and a training base used by its militants.

In his press conference on Friday, Obeida stated that Hamas is hoping to maintain the unofficial ceasefire with Israel. He also went on to accept responsibility for terror attacks carried out by Hamas on Israeli targets over the past couple of years. These attacks saw 15 Israelis killed and many others injured. The commander of the military wing, Ahmed al-Ja'abari was more belligerent in his tone when he said that Hamas will not rest until Israel is removed from Palestinian lands. He said that Israel faces one of two choices - death or departing the lands. This does not sound like the same organisation that hopes to maintain a ceasefire with Israel. How can we make sense of the mixed messages that are being sent?

The reason for the mixed statements is the fact that Hamas is seeking to address its comments to different constituencies with differing agendas. The organisation's wish to rebuild its military capabilities gives rise to its desire to continue to keep in force its unofficial ceasefire with Israel. At the same time, however, Hamas has been coming under a great deal of internal pressure from residents of Gaza who don't see visible signs of Hamas resisting the Israeli blockade. This has forced Hamas to launch a few missile attacks, and hold the press conference to publicise the actions that it has taken, even though they were some time ago. Along with this, the belligerent tone taken by al-Ja'abari is clearly directed at the internal Gaza audience.

Despite the fact that Israeli intelligence will surely be tuned in to the nuances of "Hamas speak", and the fact that many of their threats are an attempt to placate their internal population, they will not be ignoring these threats. Hamas clearly does not wish to enter into a further direct conflict with Israel at this time, and is sending clear ceasefire messages to try to avoid such a situation. Behind the scenes, arms are flowing into the Gaza Strip in large quantities despite attempts by Israel and Egypt to restrict this. The next military confrontation is inevitable. Hamas' statement of not resting until all "Palestinian lands" are reclaimed from Israel is not an empty threat and is probably the truest of al the statements made. Hamas will be attacking Israel and Israeli targets again in the near future, and Israel knows and understands this only too well.

A ceasefire for Hamas is equally a ceasefire for Israel. The "quieter" period has allowed Israel to take steps to reinforce civilian buildings, schools, kindergartens and private homes in the areas close to Gaza that were previously subject to unrelenting rocket attacks. They are now far more secure against rocket fire than before. It has allowed Israel to devote efforts to build the "Iron Dome" anti-rocket defence system that is designed to counter short-range rocket fire from Gaza. The tanks that have been deployed on the Gaza border have undergone training and changes to cope with the different circumstances created with the new anti-tank missiles that have come into Hamas' possession. This is a period of rebuilding for Israel as much as it is for Hamas. All the time, Israel continues its intelligence observation of the actions taken by Hamas in its efforts to become stronger. It is Israel's view that she has a better ability to counter this - we certainly hope so.

The mixed messages sent by Hamas are an attempt to "have your cake and eat it". On the one hand, they wish not to enter into direct conflict with Israel to facilitate their process of internal rebuilding. On the other hand, the organisation wishes its supporters to feel that it is continuing to oppose Israel at every opportunity. Ultimately, the rebuilding exercise will mean only one thing - a further direct conflict with the IDF, perhaps more bloody and intense than before.

The most meaningful statements coming out of the press conference are undoubtedly those stating that Hamas will not rest until Israel is does not exist any more. This is always going to be Hamas' ultimate intention, and they are not ashamed to say so openly. The mixed signals are not really mixed at all. They are all clear and consistent Hamas' stated objectives - to do all that it can to destroy Israel. With an organisation like this, a temporary ceasefire is possible. Any hopes of a lasting peace, however, are completely out of the question.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

The only thing Hamas and it,s criminal entity of Haniyeh,Meshal and Zahar wants is more cheap Muslim labour in Hamastan to build and maintain it,s more than 8oo smuggling tunnels and the rentals of 2500 dollars per month that are charged for any would be criminal,warlord
,drugs peddlar etc. to get rich quick on the backs of illiterate diggers and maintenance men plus the traditional Islamic baksheesh that comes with this huge criminal empire paid by Hamastan car dealers who need stock for their burgeoning business and others,nice bank balances are the order of the day in Hamastan that,s why Hamas pleas for Hudnas from other Islamofascist proxies in the Sinai Peninsula and their crude rocket attacks down south are so filled with hypocrisy,it,s the tunnels that are the mainstay of the Islamofascist economy,can,t afford to have them closed for any length of time,no sirree ?