In the past two days, Israel and Egypt conveyed to Hamas, directly and indirectly, an unequivocal message—If the high level of violence during the border demonstrations remains—Israel will have to strike Gaza with a heavy military blow.
Hamas is an organization that knows how to adapt itself to the changing reality. It always knew.
What became obvious to Hamas over the past week is that, unlike the last month and a half, the rope around their neck has started to tighten, and this time Israel will not simply look the other way and absorb the violence. This time, the holidays are really over.
The message has been internalized by Hamas as proven by the events of the past three days.
The Wednesday’s statement, by senior Hamas official Bassem Naim—made following the firing of a missile on the city of Be’er Sheva that hit a residential home—said the incident prompted the group’s security forces to launch an investigation into finding the perpetrators behind the rocket attack.
While on Friday, came the announcement from the March of Return campaign’s organizing committee, saying it intends to ask the demonstrators not to approach the border fence in order “to not provide Israel with an excuse to strike the Gaza Strip as it wishes.”
It was not a coincidence that Hamas chose to publish that statement in English, as the group intended to catch the attention of every Western ear but not the ears of the demonstrations themselves—which Hamas already knows how to control without the official announcements.
Nevertheless, for the 30th Friday in a row the March of Return demonstration once again took place, with ten thousand protesters taking part in the event.
However, in recent weeks the number of demonstrators was around 20,000, with multiple Palestinians killed and wounded. This Friday there were several attempts to breach the border fence, but not a single protester was killed.
The security establishment described the demonstration as the quietest since the March of Return campaign began seven months ago, but the truth is that it was the mildest protest since the collapse of the ceasefire talks last month (mostly because of Mahmoud Abbas, but that is a different issue).
It is safe to assume that Israel is relatively satisfied by this development, and it will most likely allow once again Qatari-bought fuel to enter Gaza.
However, it’s unclear if the demonstration next Friday or the Friday after that will be similar in scope. The memory span of those in Gaza is very short, and no one can be sure that Hamas will not gradually escalate the border violence once again, if it decides that the quiet does not serve its interests.
In other words, Egyptian intelligence is no more than a pain relief pill—without a long-term solution to the core problem acceptable for both sides—which means the winds of war will blow once again much faster than we thought.
Maybe a rocket or two will once again hit an unexpected location, but this time there might not be another Miri Tamano to save her children on time and spare us a military campaign.