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Hamas political leader Khaled Mashal. A moderate Sunni orientation
Photo: MCT
Ron Ben-Yishai

Israel dealing with two Hamas entities

Analysis: The arrest of Hamas fighter Ibrahim Shaer reveals the complex reality in Gaza, where two separate bodies with different goals and interests – the political wing and the military wing – are competing over the Strip's management and foreign relations.

The arrest of Hamas fighter Ibrahim Adel Shehadeh Shaer of Rafah is a very impressive achievement for the Shin Bet and probably also for the IDF, and was likely the result of creative planning and efficient execution.

 

 

The man was apparently captured on Israeli territory, and not incidentally. His arrest provides a detailed intelligence picture of the preparations being made by Hamas' military wing, led by Mohammed Deif, ahead of the next round of fighting with Israel.

 

The actual publication of his arrest and the information he provided will likely force Hamas to reassess its preparations and military deployment on the southern part of the Strip, and will lead to delays in the preparations for a conflict with Israel.

 

Ibrahim Shaer on the background of the road being built by Hamas on the border
Ibrahim Shaer on the background of the road being built by Hamas on the border

 

But the exposure raises a more important point: In the Gaza Strip, things are being run by two bodies – or entities – of Hamas, the political wing and the military wing. They differ in their interests and political orientation, and are competing over the Strip's management and foreign relations.

 

The political leadership, led by Khaled Mashal and Moussa Abu Marzouk outside the Strip and by Ismail Haniyeh and his friends inside the Strip, has a moderate Sunni orientation. Its main goal is easing the population's distress for fear of a revolt against Hamas' civil rule.

 

The fear for its survival is causing the political leadership to try to restore its relations with Egypt, so that it would open the Rafah crossing, and at the same time to move closer to Saudi Arabia and Qatar in order to receive money for the Strip's reconstruction and the government workers' salaries. That is the reason why the political wing is blatantly staying away from Iran: Mashal recently called off a visit to Tehran, favoring a visit to Riyadh instead.

 

The political leadership is also making an effort to receive the world's recognition and especially Europe's, so that the "charity organizations" would be able to collect donations and transfer them to the Strip, and in general in order to prevent Israel from gaining legitimacy to attack in the next round.

 

The military wing, on the other hand, is trying to move closer to Iran and is receiving aid from the Islamic Republic in the form of funds, weapons and training. The Izz al-Din al-Qassam Brigades, led by Mohammed Deif, know in advance that they have no chance while Egypt is ruled by General Abdel Fattah al-Sisi. They are suspected of helping the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt and the Islamic State in Sinai, and there is plenty of evidence of that. So Hamas' military wing is betting on Iran and, to a certain extent, receiving aid from Qatar.

 

The two Hamas wings are trying to maintain the calm at the moment (and Ynet correspondent Elior Levy notes that there are a few leadership officials who are mediating between the two wings and forming shared views). But they have different motives: Deif and his men are not doing it because of the population's suffering. They just want to prevent Israel from disrupting their preparations for the next round of fighting until they are completed, and then they will act. Sources in Gaza believe it will happen within six months to a year.

 

Hamas preparing further surprises

Shaer's interrogation also indicates that Hamas has drawn very detailed conclusions from Operation Protective Edge, in an organized and thorough process, and is implementing them. As in previous years, Hamas' abilities - and mainly its military wing's abilities – are dramatically improving from round to round, both on the training and fitness level and on the creativity level.

 

Hamas feels its hasn't utilized its underground abilities – the different tunnels – to the fullest, and is preparing surprises for the IDF in this field too. The competition between the counter measures developed by the IDF and the offensive creativity of Hamas is ongoing, according to Shaer's testimony.

 

Netanyahu and Obama. Terror funded by Iran (Photo: Reuters)   (Photo: Reuters)
Netanyahu and Obama. Terror funded by Iran (Photo: Reuters)

 

In an unusual manner, the Shin Bet – the Prime Minister's Office actually – chose to publish the findings of the Hamas fighter's investigation in great detail. There are three reasons for that:

 

1. Specifying the preparations and great effort invested by Hamas in various killing measures allows Israel to gain legitimacy for offensive IDF activity in the next round of fighting. The publications about the explosives being hidden and used within civilian homes and similar findings will undoubtedly be brought to the attention of the United Nations and will allow Israel to explain how and why the IDF is operating. The UN Human Rights Council won't be able to deny either that the writing and information were on the wall.

 

2. The desire to help Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's campaign against the nuclear agreement with Iran in the United States. Shaer's investigation clearly reveals that at least some of the funds Iran will receive after the sanctions against it are lifted will be used to wreak havoc and kill in Israel.

 

3. The desire to curb Hamas' legitimization process in the world, which has been gaining momentum recently with the help of pro-Palestinian elements in Europe and North America.

 

Israel has learned to use the collected intelligence wisely in order to gain legitimacy and wage diplomatic battles. Gaza's case is particularly complex: The Strip has a semi-legitimate government – the political Hamas which Israel is holding a dialogue with, and the terroristic Hamas which Israel is waging an all-out war against.

 

The goal is to create a situation in which the next round of fighting will end in a quick and clear victory for Israel, and that requires international legitimacy.

 


פרסום ראשון: 08.12.15, 15:33
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