How Hamas miscalculated and made more mistakes

545
- Advertisement - [resads_adspot id="2"]

Hamas has lost power in Gaza.

Israel wants Hamas dead. It doesn’t matter that Israel once helped turn a bunch of Palestinian Islamists in the late 1970s into one of the world’s most notorious terror groups, which then bit the hand that feeds it when Hamas launched a massive attack on Israel on Oct 7 – killing 1,200 Israelis and kidnapped about 240 people, including children and women.

Yes, Israel had helped finance the Palestinian Islamist movement in order to counter or neutralize the secularists and leftists of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) and the Fatah party, which was led by Yasser Arafat. It was a normal “divide-and-conquer” strategy to control the enemy – dividing power between the Gaza Strip and the West Bank.

While the United Nations recognize the PLO as the “representative of the Palestinian people”, the Palestinian Authority was formed in 1994, pursuant to the Gaza–Jericho Agreement between the PLO and the Government of Israel. In order to bring Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas to his knees, Israel continued to prop up Hamas for years.

In fact, Hamas’ primary source of funds came from gas-rich Qatar, which has been pumping hundreds of millions of dollars in so-called “aid” to Gaza residents since 2014. The money was transferred electronically and routed to Israel before ending in Hamas’ accounts. Israel has also allowed suitcases loaded with millions in Qatari cash to enter Gaza through its crossings since 2018.

At the same time, work permits were granted to Gaza people to work in Israel, allowing them to earn higher salaries to help preserve calm and to buy peace. But Hamas soon became a monster Israel could not control. After winning the 2006 elections, allowing it to control Gaza, Hamas had violently removed all Fatah officials from Gaza. In addition, the terror group also received funding from Iran.

It was the “fine balancing” that Israel under Netanyahu-led governments have been trying to do for years – keeping power centres between the West Bank and Gaza separate. The idea was to prevent the establishment of a Palestinian state by Arafat or his successor Abbas, or anyone for that matter in the Palestinian Authority’s West Bank government.

Finance Twitter

Since 2006, Hamas and Israel have fought five bloody wars, the most recent in Oct 2023. Still, before “Israel’s 9/11” on October 7, Gaza had an open border with Egypt for people who wanted to leave or fly. Every day, about 19,000 Gaza people would go to work in Israel, not to mention thousands of people from Gaza who were treated in Israeli hospitals.

All bets were off after the latest terror attacks. Israel swiftly declared war on Hamas, and Gaza was quickly transformed into dead bodies and rubble. Whole neighbourhoods have been erased. Homes, schools and even hospitals have been blasted by airstrikes and scorched by tank fire. Israel’s bombardment has become one of the most intense air campaigns since World War II.

Hamas terrorists might think it was a brilliant plan to hide in the tunnels, using schools, mosques and hospitals above them as human shields. However, the Israeli forces could use innovative bombs known as “sponge bombs”, which can seal off the network of tunnel entrances beneath Gaza without any explosions – effectively trapping Hamas terrorists. The only thing stopping Israel is the hostages.

Finance Twitter

Not only has Hamas underestimated Israel’s military retaliation, but it has also miscalculated the support from Iran. The Mullahs, who initially cheered and applauded Hamas’ bravery in slaughtering and kidnapping Israeli people, have suddenly made a U-turn and abandoned its proxy. Ayatollah Ali Khamenei told Hamas that while Iran would continue to provide political and moral support, it would not intervene directly.

Iran’s supreme leader has accused Hamas of not giving any prior warning. The Hezbollah too said they were not informed of the October 7 attack. Of course, Tehran knew about the plan as did Tel Aviv. But both pretended they did not know. Iran will be dragged into the war if it admits to knowing in advance about the massacre. Likewise, Israel will not be able to divert attention from its domestic crisis.

In truth, despite Iranian’s earlier rhetoric, the ordinary Iranians on the street have been showing strong opposition to the government’s pro-Hamas and anti-Israeli narratives – spooking the Mullahs that the country could explode into a civil war if dragged into a war with Israel, the US and even Europe. Worse, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and his minions could lose power.

As the war in Gaza began, Iranians also noticed luxury cars belonging to Palestinians who were leaving Gaza City – a different image from the one that their government had been portraying Palestinians as impoverished for decades. Social media also splashed the news about Hamas militants being paid between US$400 to US$600 per month by the Iranian government, while current wages in Iran barely reach US$200.

Having been betrayed by the Iranian regime, Hamas has nowhere to go. From the beginning, it had hoped that its killing, kidnapping and raping of the Jewish people would provoke furious retaliation from Israel, which in turn will kill thousands of Palestinians and inflame the Middle East and perhaps triggers World War III. However, after the Arab Islamic Summit in Saudi Arabia, the Arab world refused to take the bait.

Finance Twitter

Iran, who had tried – and failed – to instigate the Saudi-led Arab world to go to war with Israel, finally decided to throw Hamas under the bus. To fight Israel and military superpower United States, at least Russia or China must support Iran militarily, which is not going to happen. Even if the Kremlin isn’t engaged in the Ukraine War, there is no reason for it to join a war started by Hamas.

To win the war, Hamas simply needs to survive. That’s all it needed to do. It does not care about the number of Palestinians in Gaza being killed. On the contrary, the more Gazans – especially children and women – died in the IDF (Israel Defence Forces) relentless bombing, the better it is for Hamas’ propaganda. It will lead to the world’s condemnation of Israeli brutality.

Israel knew that nothing it said would change the Muslim perception of Hamas terrorism and provocation that started the war. So, it did what it did best – kill first, talk later. Heck, the IDF had even surrounded, stormed and trapped thousands of Palestinians sheltering at the al-Shifa Hospital just to hunt down Hamas terrorists. Some tunnels were found and shown to the public.

As expected, even after Israel released a video of a tunnel used by Hamas in al-Shifa Hospital, as well as CCTV footage of Hamas militants carrying the hostages into Gaza’s biggest hospital, Hamas and Palestinian hardcore supporters refuse to believe the evidence. Some have even accused Israel of building the tunnels, not Hamas. It’s a PR war that Israel can’t win.

Finance Twitter

But Israel was extremely focused on dismantling and destroying Hamas’s capabilities. After Israeli troops photographed themselves inside Hamas’s parliament building in Gaza City, the military then blew up the symbol of Hamas’s seat of power. The demolition was to send a powerful message – Hamas had lost control of Gaza, the terrorists were fleeing and there was no power of Hamas capable of stopping the IDF.

To survive so that it could claim victory, Hamas had no choice but to accept a temporary ceasefire, a truce deal brokered by Qatar. After seven weeks of war, Hamas urgently needed some breathing space to re-group and re-organise. It took some time before Israel agreed to the “four days” ceasefire, largely because the Biden administration was pushing it and partly due to domestic pressure to bring home the hostages.

Interestingly, the release of 50 hostages in exchange for 150 Palestinian prisoners (one for three) was quite a bad deal for Hamas, considering that an Israeli soldier – Gilad Shalit – was exchanged for more than 1,000 Palestinian prisoners from Israeli jails in 2006. This alone shows Hamas was incredibly desperate for a ceasefire, even for as short as four days.

But the Hamas leader – Yahya Sinwar – as well as political bureau head Ismail Haniyeh made a stupid mistake. In a “power play” by delaying the planned release of a second wave of Israeli hostages, Hamas tried to show who was the boss controlling the deal. The terror group alleged that aid deliveries fell short of what was promised when in reality Israel had to thoroughly check each delivery truck.

Qatar, playing a double game as a mediator to Israel-Hamas as well as a host harbouring Hamas leaders, had to scramble to fix the fragile deal. But the damage has been done. It shows that the Qatari was not in control of Hamas anymore. To further weaken the Qatari influence, Israel’s Mossad national intelligence agency received orders to “assassinate” the top leadership of Hamas “anywhere in the world”.

Replacing Qatar was the Egyptian government in patching the truce deal. Unlike the Qatari, who have no leverage whatsoever over Hamas, Egypt possesses powerful leverage over the terror group. Egypt is the only Arab state to share a border with Gaza – the passage for Hamas leaders like Yahya Sinwar to escape when things go ugly. That explains why Hamas obediently resumed the game after Egypt’s intervention.

But Israel isn’t the only one who wants Hamas dead. Egypt also wants Hamas dead. In fact, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, UAE and even the PLO or the Palestinian Authority all want Hamas dead. Hamas is a spin-off of the Palestinian branch of the Muslim Brotherhood, which gave birth to the Arab Spring uprisings and threatened Saudi, United Arab Emirates, Kuwait, Bahrain, Qatar and Oman monarchies.

On 5 August 2012, Hamas terrorists ambushed an Egyptian military base in the Sinai Peninsula, killing 16 soldiers and stealing two armoured cars. In 2015, an Egyptian court branded Hamas a “terrorist” organisation. In 2016, the Egyptian minister of the Interior, Magdy Abdel Gaffar, accused Hamas of assassinating the Attorney General in a car bomb.

In efforts to tighten the blockade of Gaza and to contain Hamas’ terrorism and radical Islamic insurgency, Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi who came to power in 2013 decided to destroy 1,370 smuggling tunnels in 2014 and used seawater to destroy the tunnel network in 2015. It’s not rocket science that Hamas and Egypt are mortal enemies.

Finance Twitter

Therefore, Hamas is now at the mercy of the Egyptian authorities after overplaying its hands by trying to show off “who’s the boss” in the truce deal. Because Cairo controls the tunnels, Yahya Sinwar is essentially a dead man walking. Tel Aviv and Cairo were so close that the Israelis sold the Egyptian president sophisticated spy software that could be used to spy on political dissidents.

Israel had said it was willing to extend the truce by one day for every 10 hostages freed by Hamas and would continue the bombardment thereafter. Hamas’ only option, however, is to extend the truce as long as possible by offering to release additional hostages – and hope that international pressure could help secure a “permanent ceasefire”. Either way, it has lost power in Gaza. – Finance Twitter