Palestinian Authority (PA) President Mahmoud Abbas on Wednesday openly mocked boasts still being floated by top figures from the Palestinian Hamas faction – the most significant rival to his own Fatah faction – to the effect that the terror group had emerged victorious from its confrontations with Israel over the summer. Hamas had through a range of gambits drawn Israeli security forces into both the Gaza Strip and the West Bank, with Jerusalem launching Operation Protective Edge and Operation Brother’s Keeper respectively.
Abbas blasted Hamas on Egyptian television – with the comments being conveyed by various Israeli media outlets:
“What did we get out of it?” Abbas asked rhetorically, speaking about the Israel-Hamas conflict in July-August, in a section of the interview shown on Channel 2.
“For what did we suffer through those 50 days? We had 2,200 fatalities, 10,000 injured, 40,000 homes and facilities and factories destroyed. Tell me, what did we achieve?”
Jerusalem’s Gaza campaign was initiated due to an escalation in months-long Palestinian rocket barrages, and escalated further into a ground conflict after Hamas commandos began launching attacks inside Israeli territory via underground attack tunnels. Hamas broke 11 ceasefires over the 50 days of fighting, before finally capitulating and accepting long-offered terms in the face of heightened Israeli moves to decapitate its command and control infrastructure.
The summer West Bank campaign, Operation Brother’s Keeper, was triggered by the kidnapping and murder of three Israeli teenagers by Hamas terrorists. Israel eventually captured and killed the terror cell responsible for the attack, in the process exposing and uprooting a massive terror plot aimed at seizing control of the West Bank. Hamas leaders nonetheless responded to the immediate cessation of active violence by claiming victory, triggering sometimes arch responses from observers.
Responding more specifically to Hamas’s positive assessment of the conflict, Abbas emphasized “I don’t want to delude myself by saying: It was a victory… [w]hat victory?”
The stakes in the debate are not academic. Regional and even global actors are engaged in ongoing diplomatic and geostrategic jockeying in the area, and Hamas is seeking to position itself as both willing and able to reignite a war should its post-conflict demands not be met. Top analysts in the American intelligence community have been explicit in assessing that the Gaza war constituted the literal definition of military defeat for Hamas, and losing a war of choice constitutes a particularly weak position from which to be making demands.
[Photo: CCTV Africa / YouTube]