Hamas’s decision to end a 20-month-long ceasefire with Israel last week was a result of the movement’s gradual decline over the past year, accelerated by the unity deal with Fatah which has left it teetering on the verge of collapse.
Isolated by Israel, shunned by Egypt and battered by Mahmoud Abbas’s Palestinian Authority in the West Bank, Hamas has decided to go for broke. True, it had used its massive missile arsenal with relative restraint as of Tuesday afternoon, but it nevertheless hopes that a new round of violence can reshuffle the deck and leave it with a better hand.
The Islamic movement’s distress calls — directed mostly at Ramallah — have intensified over the past week. With 44,000 Hamas civil servants out of work and without salaries as Ramadan began, Hamas foreign ministry official Ghazi Hamad convened a press conference on July 3 to warn that “the Gaza Strip is in grave danger and the unity government doesn’t care what’s happening here.”
Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah never called to ask about the situation in Gaza as it faced Israeli air strikes, Hamad charged, nor did the PA government allocate any budgets for the four ministries run from Gaza.
Politicians, Hamad was quoted by London-based Al-Quds Al-Arabi as saying, must find urgent solutions for a situation which is growing increasingly untenable. “The reconciliation is in danger,” he said.
But Hamas’s call was not heeded.
On Tuesday afternoon, as operation Protective Edge was in full force, Hamas deputy political bureau chief Moussa Abu Marzouk said he was hoping that the conflagration in Gaza would inspire West Bankers to launch a third intifada.
“Today, we are all called upon for a popular intifada, an intifada for prisoner Jerusalem. Today, more than ever before, we are demanded to express our rejection of the occupation … we are sick of talk of resolutions and peace,” he wrote on his Facebook page.
Attempting to capitalize on the murder of Palestinian teenager Muhammed Abu Khdeir last week, allegedly by Jewish terrorists, Hamas political bureau member Izzat al-Rishq wrote that “such battles and intifadas are always sparked by the blood of heroic youth, and then adopted by the people.”
Meanwhile, on the Egyptian front, Hamas’s pleas have also fallen on deaf ears. The Rafah border crossing has remained largely shut for months, and Egypt continues to operate against smuggling tunnels unabated.
In a speech Monday marking the anniversary of the Yom Kippur War according to the Muslim calendar, Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi made no reference to Gaza; a fact that spoke volumes for the new regime’s attitude toward the Palestinian branch of the Muslim Brotherhood, which is classified as illegal under Egyptian law.
“No previous Egyptian president from the military has ever dared to ignore Israeli aggression against the Palestinians, neither before the Camp David [peace accords with Israel] nor after it,” claimed a TV report in Al-Jazeera, a staunch supporter of the Muslim Brotherhood and Hamas.
Israel, for its part, remains reluctant to provide Hamas with the satisfaction of a new intifada. It is bracing itself for a gradual escalation to match that of Hamas, but nothing more, for now. Nuclear talks with Iran reach their deadline in 12 days, and Israel would not want to see the world distracted from what it defines as its greatest existential threat — a nuclear Iran.