Last weekend, the rocket prevention forces – deployed to deter the numerous factions in Gaza from undoing the relative calm between Israel and Hamas – withdrew from their positions, returning to their posts on Tuesday morning.
Palestinian sources said that the matter was not one of tactical indecision, but internal disagreements regarding the proper response to IDF operations. A document obtained by Ynet confirmed that in the end, the moderate elements prevailed.
The affair began Thursday night, when the Israeli Air Force attacked three Gaza Strip targets belonging to the military wing of Hamas. Some of the targets held large reserves of rockets, which were destroyed in the attack.
- Hamas withdraws 'anti-missile' force from Israel border
- Hamas deploys forces to prevent rocket fire on Israel
The following day, the military wing of Hamas announced a withdrawal of the forces along the security barrier. The forces, numbering around 900 soldiers, were posted two weeks ago to search passing vehicles in order to prevent additional rockets being fired on Israel.
The forces' withdrawal could only have one meaning: Hamas was preparing to launch rockets in response to the IDF attack – despite the decision of the political wing of Hamas. These insights were published Tuesday morning in the Arab daily Asharq Al-Awsat; Palestinian sources confirmed the events to Ynet.
A security source said that the leadership of the military wing felt that it was losing its popular support in the public, especially given the criticism received by Islamic Jihad, who had called for shooting rockets towards Israel in response to IDF attacks.
Maintain popular support
He noted that the military leadership of Hamas did not want to be seen as a moderate entity that supports restraint and prevents a military response against Israel – fearing that such a position would weaken their standing next to Islamic Jihad.
However the intention of the military wing to attack caused a conflict between it and the political wing that required the involvement of Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh and the movement's political chief Khaled Meshaal.
The Palestinian sources said that Haniyeh sided with Meshaal and the two worked together to coax the military leadership away from its decision to respond with rocket fire. The two leaders worried that such a rocket barrage could lead to the collapse of the relative calm, and maybe even to IDF operations within the Gaza Strip.
The quick involvement of the political echelon bore fruit, and on Tuesday Hamas' Interior Ministry announced, that the forces were redeployed along the security barrier to maintain the peace.
The document was written on Saturday, less than a day after the first withdrawal. The letter is written to Abu Ubaidah al-Jarrah, the commander of the national security forces of Hamas, and emphasizes that aggressive action must be taken against anyone who attempts to launch rockets.
Hamas has already clarified that it is not interested in an escalation on the border. The terrorist organization sent such a message to Israel through Egypt after five rockets were fired at Ashkelon in January. That particular barrage led to a conference meeting of the numerous Palestinian factions, in which participants were told they must maintain restrain to prevent further Israeli attacks on the Gaza Strip.
The meeting ended with the understanding that all factions were committed to the restraint tactic, though that very night a rocket was fired from the Strip. Hamas was furious with the launchers, who most likely belonged to Islamic Jihad, and the movement announced that it will aggressively operate against anyone who tries to launch rockets towards Israel.