Hamas on Saturday deployed troops to the border separating the Gaza Strip and Israel, Palestinian sources in the Gaza Strip said, but this time they were members of its armed wing, the al-Qassam Brigades, not the force it had previously dispatched to prevent rocket fire at Israel.
The move, which came shortly after a rocket was fired at Israel for the fourth time this week, seemed aimed to deliver a clear message to the smaller armed groups in the Gaza Strip that Hamas will not tolerate rocket fire at Israel. It may have also served as a message to Israel that Hamas seeks calm rather than conflict.
The Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades are considered Hamas’s elite force operating in the Gaza Strip, and Hamas’s decision to deploy them to prevent rocket fire against Israel may signify the Islamist terror group’s intention to keep the ceasefire reached with Israel after the November 2012 mini-war.
A report last week on a Fatah website said Hamas Interior Minister Fathi Hamad ordered a halt to rocket fire at all costs, especially attacks against Israel aiming to kill.
Last week Hamas removed most of the 900-strong force it had employed to prevent rocket fire into Israel from the Gaza-Israel border, prompting fears of an escalation in hostilities between the Islamist rulers of the Gaza Strip and the Jewish state.
Sources in Gaza said the decision of Hamas’s military wing to withdraw most members of the rocket-prevention force, which was first deployed last July, was taken in the wake of Israel’s airstrikes on targets in Gaza a week ago. Those strikes were ordered in response to a rocket attack on the southern city of Netivot.
In the aftermath of the Hamas decision, most members of the rocket-prevention force, formally deployed to “safeguard public order,” indeed disappeared from the Gaza-Israel border area.