Thursday, May 31, 2018

War or Peace? The Choice Rests With Hamas

Yoav Limor,

Image from article, with caption: Members of Hamas security forces carry a coffin containing the body of Palestinian engineering lecturer Fadi al-Batsh in the southern Gaza Strip on April 26, 2018.

This week’s mortar fire on southern Israel is the ‎gravest security escalation on the Israel-Gaza ‎border since “Operation Protective Edge” in ‎the summer of 2014, though Israeli defense officials ‎believe that Israel and Hamas, which rules Gaza, can still avoid a ‎full-fledged ‎military conflict. They say that the choice of ‎what happens next is in the hands of Hamas. ...

Hamas gambled that Israel would ‎mount the obligatory measured response, and this would end the current round. But Israel mounted a large response instead, striking ‎dozens of terror hubs and destroying a Hamas ‎tunnel in southern Gaza. ...

Israeli defense officials debated the intensity of ‎Israel’s response, but it was widely believed that ‎decisive action was needed to make it clear to Hamas ‎that a red line had been crossed. ‎

From a public diplomacy standpoint, Israel placed ‎responsibility for the escalation in the south on ‎Hamas and Iran, ‎which sponsors the terror organization and spurs it to action. ‎Islamic Jihad was also condemned to a lesser ‎degree, despite its direct involvement. Israel was careful and sought to avoid Palestinian ‎casualties as much as possible. ...

Even if an escalation is avoided, this ‎is hardly the end of the story. Gaza is on the ‎brink of eruption for a variety of reasons, most ‎notably the dire economic and humanitarian ‎situation coupled with growing political frustration. Given Hamas’ failure to ‎provide Gazans with any solutions, it can go on one ‎of two paths: a ceasefire or war. Both options are still on the table.‎

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