The Times of Israel on Wednesday cited a range of developments indicating that Hamas was at risk of a downward popularity spiral after having failed to secure any substantial gains from this summer’s war with Israel. Veteran journalist Arab affairs journalist Avi Issacharoff assessed that the terror group had emerged from Operation Protective Edge “in a significantly inferior position than it was before, due to the worsening humanitarian crisis in Gaza.” Issacharoff noted most generally that Hamas had failed to secure any of the conditions – cash for its workers, a change in Israeli import restrictions, an opening of the Gaza Strip’s border with Egypt – that the group had repeatedly cited as basic prerequisites to a halt in the fighting:
Gaza’s fishermen are now allowed to venture six nautical miles from the Strip instead of just three, but beyond that, Hamas finds itself at almost the exact same point it had been prior to the abduction and killing of teenagers Eyal Yifrach, Gil-ad Shaar and Naftali Fraenkel on June 12. The blockade has not been lifted, a release of its prisoners seems out of the question, and the Strip remains without a seaport and without an airport.
More specifically, he noted that Hamas’s leaders had declined to respond forcefully to an Israeli operation that had seen Israeli security forces in Hebron kill the two Hamas-linked terrorists who had kidnapped and murdered three Israeli teenagers earlier this summer.
Hamas officials have instead seemingly gone out of their way to signal that they are seeking to avoid renewed confrontation with the Jewish State over the immediate term, up to and including very visibly scrambling to find and arrest Palestinians who in recent days launched a rocket at Israel out of the Gaza Strip. Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon had more broadly suggested to reporters that “there are no signs (rocket) fire from the Strip will resume at the end of the month, with or without the renewal of the ceasefire talks in Cairo.”
Post-conflict talks between the Israelis and Palestinians were subsequently put off until after the Jewish holidays. Hamas leaders have in the meantime publicly recommitted to avoid provoking Jerusalem:
“The ceasefire continues and is not one month long,” Mahmoud al-Zahar, a Hamas hardliner and former foreign minister in the government of Ismail Haniyeh, told Lebanese daily Al-Akhbar. “But if the occupation attacks, we will retaliate.”
The dynamics are likely to reinforce a growing consensus that – per the insidery NightWatch security bulletin – Operation Protective Edge constituted the literal definition of a military victory for Israel. Issacharoff for his part suggested Wednesday that certain Hamas elements may lash out in order to halt a likely “decline in support for the group, with the popularity Hamas gained after the war evaporating.”
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