Hamas gets ready for war during peace

After the truce between Israel and Hamas group, a relative calm ensued on the border of the Gaza Strip. Yet, Hamas is not wasting any time, and during peace and quiet the group is restoring its missile capabilities. Interestingly enough, this does not conflict with the reached agreement on cease-fire.

Both sides (Israel and Hamas) have reaffirmed their commitment to the principle of "silence in exchange for silence," which is fundamental for the cease-fire achieved through the mediation of the United States and Egypt.

Military operation Pillar of Cloud began with the elimination of Hamas military wing leader Ahmed Jabari in the Gaza Strip. Back in October, when the number of rocket attacks on Israeli territory significantly increased, it became clear that the new IDF operation in the Palestinian enclave was almost inevitable.

However, the Netanyahu government at the last moment decided not to introduce ground troops into Gaza. During Operation Pillar of Cloud, IDF Air Force inflicted massive air strikes on the Gaza Strip, destroying a thousand rockets and 140 smugglers' tunnels. On November 23, the Israeli army announced the demobilization of reservists, which indicated the abandonment of the IDF's plans to conduct ground operations in the Palestinian enclave in the next few days.  

However, the situation on the border of Israel and the Gaza Strip is still volatile. Palestinians organize massive street demonstrations and declare their victory over Israel. Last Friday, nearly 300 people approached the barrage fence ignoring warnings of IDF soldiers who fired into the air. The border guards started firing at their legs, one Palestinian was killed and 19 were injured.

On Sunday, another man who came too close to the border was wounded. Recently the local media reported that the Israelis and the Palestinians were still unable to agree on the conditions of continued compliance with the cease-fire. Hamas claimed that the continued supply of weapons into the Gaza Strip was not contrary to the agreement on cease-fire.

Israel will not tolerate the attempts to restore Hamas missile potential, as evidenced, in particular, by a recent statement by the Chief of Staff Benny Gantz. He was quoted by Zman.com saying that his staff was closely watching how Hamas was replenishing its missile arsenal, and would take all measures to prevent it.

One way or another, both sides are refraining from any hostile activity on the border of Israel and the Gaza Strip. However, most Israelis do not believe that the current ceasefire will be long-lived. At best, the calm will last two to three years, until Hamas and "Islamic Jihad" fills up their arsenals. Against this background, a statement from Hamas leader Mahmoud al-Zahar that the Islamic Resistance Movement will continue to bring in arms to Gaza "in every possible way" is significant.

On Thursday, Egyptian border guards seized the first batch of arms smuggled into Gaza. According to Egyptian sources, the batch contained 108 warheads and almost 20,000 rounds for small arms. Egyptians also observed an increased activity in militant-Salafis in Sinai, trying to restore their core business - smuggling of weapons into Gaza. On November 25th there was an explosion at the headquarters of the security services in the city of Rafah.

Observers noted that the resumption of systematic attacks on Israeli cities was quite possible, if not in the next few days, then in a month or a year. Now the Israeli government will have to make a difficult choice. They will either have to fully rely on Egypt and the U.S. that have already taken a number of steps to prevent smuggling of weapons into the Gaza Strip, or act on their own, inflicting targeted strikes on caravans with arms and munitions plants. After one of such plants was destroyed in Khartoum on the night of October 24th, the Sudanese government said it reserved the right to respond to a sudden Israeli airstrike.

Analysts believe that the attack of IDF Air Force could have been undertaken in order to stop production of missiles intended for Palestinian militants. This scenario could be repeated in the future. It is clear that Hamas is going to use the current breather to bring a new party of short-and medium-range missiles that can reach not only the southern cities of Israel, but also Tel Aviv.  

At the same time, head of the Israeli Foreign Ministry Avigdor Lieberman explained the tactical pause in the war with the need for early elections to the Knesset. Their outcome will largely depend on whether the country will be able to prevent the resumption of rocket attacks from the Gaza Strip. After the elections to the Knesset a new cabinet of ministers will again have to deal with the Hamas group that would only strengthen its position in the Gaza Strip, using imaginary victory in this war.

Yuri Sosinsky-Semikhat 


Read the original in Russian

Author`s name Dmitry Sudakov