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Hamas Struggling to Maintain Control Over Gaza Strip

Hamas scrambled Tuesday to arrest a terror cell responsible for launching a rocket into Israel, the latest in what has become a string of incidents indicating that the terror group may be struggling to maintain control over the Gaza Strip in the aftermath of this summer’s war with Jerusalem.The group put out a hasty statement denying any knowledge of the launch and re-committing itself to preventing a resumption of hostilities with Jerusalem.

Veteran Arab affairs reporter Avi Issacharoff reported last week that Hamas had still not managed to fill the power vacuum created by a series of Israeli targeted strikes launched toward the end of Operation Protective Edge, amid what was characterized at the time by the Israelis as an “extraordinary escalation” aimed at finally forcing Hamas to concede to ceasefire terms.

The Israeli Air Force eliminated Rafah area commander Raed Al-Attar and Muhammad Abu Shamala, the head of Hamas’s southern command. A different strike may have killed – and almost certainly badly injured – Hamas’s military chief Muhammed Deif. Their liquidation had been broadly assessed as devastating for the Palestinian terror group, with analysts noting immediately that Hamas’s warfighting and rebuilding capabilities would be significantly eroded.

Meanwhile Hamas has still not secured any of the core demands – the opening of the Egypt-Gaza border, the removal of Israel’s import restrictions, the payment of Hamas worker salaries – over which it had fought and extended the conflict. The failure has not been lost on Gaza residents:

Gazans who endured 50 days of devastating Israeli bombardment are now eager to enjoy some life. Far from a celebration, however, Gazans themselves acknowledge the revelry is only to thinly mask trauma and widespread despair.

Many complain that none of the gains they hoped for from the war have been realized. Almost none express any optimism for change in the misery in the tiny, densely populated Mediterranean coastal strip, which is suffocating under seven years of blockade by Israel and Egypt and is under the iron rule of the Hamas militant group.

Hamas had claimed victory in the conflict, and had been blasted for doing so by among others Palestinian Authority (PA) President Mahmoud Abbas.

Top Hamas officials have even begun openly complaining that landlords are refusing to rent apartments to members of the terror group. The owners reportedly fear that the structures will be used for military purposes by Hamas and subsequently destroyed by Israel.