The last year has not exactly been all that wonderful for Hamas and their leadership. Often the Hamas leadership found themselves divided and taking opposite sides on some of the most important issues faced by the terror organization which also has the added difficulty of being the primary governing organization in the Gaza Strip. One of the most difficult choices faced this past year by Hamas was the uprising in Syria. On one side they had to choose which group they were going to support and this was a particularly difficult and perplexing choice. On one side was the Syrian government of President Bashir Assad who was also one of the main allies to Iran, the same country that had been supplying Hamas with arms, training, cash and other vital supplies and services. On the other side was the Muslim Brotherhood who not only was one of the principle backers and components of the Syrian resistance but was also the originating organization which had formed Hamas initially. Adding to this tough choice was the fact that the Muslim Brotherhood had also taken the lead positions in the formation of the new Egyptian government with whom Hamas in Gaza shared a border through which much of their supplies flowed. Hamas had one further complication in that their political arm had its headquarters in Damascus, Syria. Despite all the ties to Bashir Assad, Hamas chose to side with their founding root organization and gave their support to the Syrian opposition. This immediately made things very uncomfortable for the political headquarters of Hamas which soon found themselves homeless as Damascus was no longer a safe haven with Syrian President Bashir Assad holding ill feelings for them after their siding with those sworn to remove him. This also put them in opposition of Iran which, in time, caused a breakup in their relations leaving Hamas seeking new suppliers for weapons, funding and any training they may desire.
All was not a complete loss for Hamas in their choice to side with the Syrian rebels. This not only returned them to within the fold of the Muslim Brotherhood, it made them allies of the rebel forces in Libya. This also opened up a new supplier of sophisticated rockets and weaponry. Exactly how rich a supply quickly became evident from two sources. The Israelis intercepted two major shipments of weapons and other supplies from the Libyan rebels which were heading for Egypt or other transfer points to be unloaded and smuggled into Gaza through the network of terror tunnels spanning the Egyptian border. The really frightening find by the Israelis was the presence of chemical agents which could have been used to produce a range of WMDs (weapons of mass destruction) which included nerve agents. The intercepted shipments also contained longer range rockets as well as guided missiles which were a definite upgrade in weaponry for Hamas forces in the Gaza Strip. These guided munitions included a version of Kornet Antitank Missiles and also some antiaircraft missiles. One of these antitank missiles was used in a terror strike aimed at a yellow school bus which was fortunately almost empty of students. One young man was killed in the strike and the driver escaped with serious injuries which he did survive.
As a result of the break between Hamas and the Iranian and Syrian leadership, Hamas is not only seeking a new location for their political headquarters, but Hamas has also announced that should there be hostilities between Iran and Israel they are not planning on utilizing such an opportunity to mount a large scale attack upon Israel. This unfortunately does not rule out an increase in rocket and mortar cross border terror strike under such circumstances. These styles of cross border strikes have been continued and actually increased in the past year over most previous years. This has brought numerous response attacks from the Israelis including some which targeted terror leaders living in Gaza. Most of these retaliatory strikes were made against known Hamas training areas, munitions’ storage warehouses, metal shops used to produce the rockets, and both rocket firing teams and terror leadership. A number of the assassinations launched against the terror leadership in the Gaza Strip included more than just Hamas leadership but also included the PFLP (Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine), al-Qaeda in Gaza, PRC (Popular Resistance Committees), and other smaller terror groups. One of the results from the Israeli retribution strikes was to force the Hamas leadership to attempt to establish periods of quiet whenever the Israeli strikes were escalated in response to increased terror rockets fired. This was also the cause of some friction between the Hamas Gazan leadership and the other terror groups who did not always heed any declared ceasefires by Hamas. This led to attacks which Hamas believed were unfair as they were struck when they had supposedly not been the aggressors but rather the victims of others taking the lead and attacking Israel.
Another turn which has recently been observed has been Hamas taking steps to reassert their indisputable position as the terror and political leadership within Gaza. This has led to another round of their Security Forces using brutal tactics to squelch any resistance to Hamas as the sole leadership in the Gaza Strip. This has taken much of the usual violence which has been witnessed ever since Hamas took over control of Gaza in a putsch in June 2007 after having decisively won the Palestinian elections the previous fall. Hamas controlled security personnel have been using beatings and other intimidation to reinforce their impositions and censorship of reporters operating in the Gaza Strip as well as using even more violent tactics to intimidate their political rivals, especially any remaining Fatah personnel. Over the past five years Hamas has systematically and periodically kidnapped, tortured, maimed, and incarcerated reporters, journalists, dissidents, political rivals and the leadership of Fatah throughout the Gaza Strip. This violence against any perceived political or other oppositional leadership, forces, manpower, media and activists was severe enough to get the attention of the United Nations Human Rights Commission which on April 20, 2012 released a statement charging Hamas has illegally executed at least eighteen persons since rising to power in Gaza. These charges do not include those from the Fatah leadership and membership in Gaza who had been dragged out into the streets and had both of their kneecaps shot off.
And finally, Hamas has been engaged with the Palestinian authority and Fatah members which make up the PLO as well as ruling in Judea and Samaria (West Bank) in negotiations to unify the two opponents. This has revealed a large disparity between the Hamas leadership within the Gaza Strip and those Hamas leaders who live outside the Gaza Strip. At a meeting between the Political Hamas leaders from outside of Gaza with Mahmoud Abbas and other representatives from Fatah held in Qatar, they managed to hammer out an agreement which both sides were able to support. When within a month the leadership of Hamas within the Gaza Strip met for the formal signing of this agreement, they made numerous additional and far reaching demands which the officials from the West Bank were not willing to acquiesce and the tentative agreement fell apart. In some ways this was a kind of poetic justice as Mahmoud Abbas and his fellow PLO terror masters have used this exact ploy to subvert any negotiations with Israel. On rare occasions we get to feel the warmth and strange satisfaction of schadenfreude and without a shred of remorse. This is definitely such an occasion and we advise taking the full joy of the moment as such perfect examples of such misfortune striking down some of the most deserving is extremely rare.
Beyond the Cusp