The desperate situation that Hamas finds itself in during the latest round of fighting can be felt from last night's talks in Qatar between Hamas political leader Ismail Haniyeh and a senior Egyptian diplomat. According to Egyptian sources, the talks were tough. The Egyptian diplomat insisted that Hamas immediately halt rocket attacks on Israel and compel Islamic Jihad to stop firing as well.
The Egyptian diplomat reportedly said, "Don't you see how Israel is behaving? You must take responsibility for the children being killed in Gaza. There won't be any buildings left for you to go into."
Haniyeh demanded that Israel must stop firing first, which was dismissed out of hand in advance by Israel. The talks were only about a temporary ceasefire rather than returning to longer-term arrangements.
A senior Israeli diplomatic source said that the operation will probably continue for a few more days with international backing from the US, Germany and other countries. Despite the harsh condemnation of Israel on social media and in some of the international media, Hamas attacks on Israeli cities have helped in gaining international diplomatic support. The source said that what happened in the past won't happen in the future and Israel will demand tough terms for a ceasefire, including on the issue of rockets and other weapons.
However, Hamas can take encouragement from Qatar's entry into the arena. Last summer Qatar came to a reconciliation with its neighboring countries and is now cooperating with Egypt in mediating with Hamas. Qatar has offered Hamas compensation for those whose homes have been destroyed as part of a ceasefire deal.
In contrast, the Palestinian Authority would be happy for Israel to continue attacking Hamas until it is toppled. A senior Palestinian Authority source told Channel 11 KAN correspondent Gal Berger, "Hamas rule in Gaza must be ended. They cannot be allowed to come out of this battle with pictures of victory. It will cause strategic damage to the entire region."
The senior source added that the Palestinian Authority is following events in the West Bank to ensure that matters do not get out of control. Today a 'day of anger' was declared by the Palestinian Authority in solidarity with the residents of Gaza but it is reasonable to assume that the Palestinian security forces will not allow major confrontations with the Israeli army. A message in this spirit was sent from Israeli security sources to their Palestinian counterparts.
So how hard have Hamas and Islamic Jihad actually been hit? The biggest strategic damage has been done at the infrastructures level. The IDF bombing has demolished extensive parts of the terror organization's underground systems, the largest of which was in the northern Gaza Strip, until it was destroyed last Thursday.
Dozens of terrorists were buried under the rubble and a large number of rocket launchers were destroyed. Most of Hamas's weapons development and manufacturing sites have been destroyed, which have been the main target of the IDF attacks, using precise intelligence. In this way too, most of Hamas's sea weapon capabilities were destroyed as well as its drones and UAVs.
Another impressive strategic achievement has been in targeted killings of senior Hamas and Islamic Jihad commanders and leaders. IDF intelligence and the Shin Bet General Security Services can take much of the credit for these successes. Yesterday Islamic Jihad second in command and head of the northern Gaza Strip Hussam abu Harbeed was killed. He changed his hiding place several times but was eventually killed in an apartment in the Jabalya refugee camp.
Another senior Islamic Jihad commander who was killed was Mohammed Abu Al-Ata, the deputy of Baha Abu Al-Ata who was killed 18 months ago as well as Sameh Mamluk and Jamal Kerika, senior commanders of the rocket launching units. Other commanders were also killed as well as several dozen Islamic Jihad terrorists from the rocket and anti-tank missile launching units.
Hamas was hit even harder. The most senior commander who was killed was head of the Gaza brigade Bassem Issa, one of the five most senior Hamas commanders. He was killed with a group of other senior members of the organization in two successful attacks by the IDF based on precise real-time intelligence. In these attacks 15 Hamas terrorists were also killed as well as almost all the R&D department for rockets and weapons.
Also killed in the attacks were Hamas counter espionage chief Wail Issa, the brother of Marwan Issa, deputy to Hamas military chief Mohammed Deif as well as Issa's deputy Hassan Kaogi.
At the same time the IDF has destroyed the homes of Hamas commanders of all ranks, some of which served as weapons depots.
Over the past two days, political leaders have also been targeted. The IDF attacked and destroyed the homes of senior Hamas leader Yahya Sinwar and his number two Halil Alhiya.
The significance of this policy of eliminating commanders and leaders is clear. They are perceived as guilty and responsible and are continually on the run and in hiding several floors underground.
Eliminating the commanders has dealt a huge blow to the military structure of Hamas and its ability to send out orders and implement operations. In the past two days, its rocket launching capability has clearly been reduced. According to intelligence assessments, the terror organizations in the Gaza Strip had more than 10,000 rockets, of which one third have either been fired or destroyed.
The bottom line is that Hamas has been taken by surprise and together with Islamic Jihad has been dealt a major strategic blow and the Gaza Strip has seen vast damage including the symbolic destruction of high-rise buildings. Hamas leaders will now seek a period of quiet in order to allow them to rebuild their military forces, and the question is whether that can be prevented.
Published by Globes, Israel business news - en.globes.co.il - on May 18, 2021
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