Top figures from the U.S.-backed Palestinian Authority (PA) on Thursday lashed out against Hamas, criticizing the Palestinian terror organization for what now appears to have been a deliberate series of escalatory gambits in the Gaza Strip and West Bank, which ultimately triggered, respectively, Israel’s Operation Protective Edge and Operation Brother’s Keeper.
Though reporting on the two Israeli campaigns has at times been tangled – with analysts and journalists sometimes linking Israeli military calculations in the Gaza Strip to the West Bank kidnappings – regional leaders have tracked the two operations as distinct campaigns, conducted in separate theaters and aimed at securing differing strategic goals.
Operation Brother’s Keeper was initiated in the West Bank after Hamas terrorists kidnapped and murdered three Israeli teenagers, and had as its goal the erosion of Hamas’s West Bank terror infrastructure. Almost 100 Hamas operatives were eventually detained in some form, and a massive plot to generate political instability via mass violence was disrupted.
Operation Protective Edge was separately initiated in response to an uptick in rocket fire from the Gaza Strip, and expanded into a ground conflict after Hamas activated its offensive tunnel network. It had as its goal the destruction of Hamas’s projectile arsenal and underground infrastructure.
The 50 days of active fighting saw Hamas’s arsenal depleted by 80% and its attack tunnel network destroyed, before ceasefire was secured earlier this week on terms broadly considered to be favorable to the Israelis.
PA President Mahmoud Abbas took to television on Thursday to blast Hamas for its role in both campaigns.
Discussing the West Bank kidnappings, Abbas revealed that Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal had personally denied to him that the group had been involved, just days before Hamas’s Turkey-based West Bank leader Saleh al-Arouri boasted that the organization had indeed carried out the operation:
Arouri made the remarks during an Islamic religious conference in Turkey this week.
“The three settlers were kidnapped by the Izzedine al-Qassam Brigades in the West Bank in a heroic act,” he said.
His comments came in response to a question from a participant at the conference, who asked whether the kidnapping was a local initiative or whether Hamas was responsible for it.
Abbas also criticized Hamas for intransigence in the context of the Gaza conflict, declaring that the PA had worked with the Egyptians to develop ceasefire language just days into the war. Hamas had rejected those terms in the middle of July, and Abbas emphasized that the group ended up accepting functionally the same terms at the end of August.
Senior Abbas advisor Mahmoud al-Habbash went even further, calling on Hamas to admit it had lost and recalibrate accordingly. Alluding to a battle described as having involved Muhammad’s forces in 625, where “history has registered that the Muslims were defeated because of the heavy casualties they suffered,” Habbash reprimanded Hamas for refusing to acknowledge its losses.
[Photo: The Telegraph / YouTube]