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ISRAEL, HAMAS AND THE SUMMER OF 2017

HAMAS AND THE SUMMER OF 2017

Since the start of 2017, the entire world has been up for a topsy-turvy ride. Those having a keen eye on international politics might be relishing on the prospect of being able to navigate through multiple stories at a particular instance. Those having to analyze these, however, might find it arduous enough to keep pace with the recent developments. From the American missile strikes in Syria to the devastating MOAB bombing in Afghanistan; and from Erdogan winning the Turkish elections to an American fleet being placed in the Korean Peninsula, there’s one development that has, somehow, circumvented the mainstream media. It’s the prospect of an all-out Israel-Hamas war in the summer of 2017.

The apprehensions aren’t uncalled for. It’s been more than 30 months since the 65-km border that separates Hamas from Israel was in the news for all the wrong reasons. I’ve been saying this all along; Israel intends to ward off any extremist threat by physically disarticulating the Palestinians, particularly the Gaza residents, from the Israeli mainland.

Now, it’s about the new fencing project Israel has recently envisaged. As per the official details, the goal is to construct border fences that can help prevent illegal border crossings into Israel. The investment to the tune of $1 billion is significant enough in the fact that it can add to the Israeli defence capabilities. But, this isn’t what you might go haywire about. Here’s the catch: The proposed fencing project will surround and fence Gaza from the three sides – the fourth being the Mediterranean Sea itself. Thereby, as it stands, there’ll be nowhere to go for the Gaza residents.

The project is already being tipped as the world’s most decorated and advanced border fencing. It’ll have underground walls with all the seismic monitoring system in place. In addition, sophisticated and up-to-date sensors are being employed. The premise is to avoid infiltration, which in most of the cases, have been through underground tunnels. The Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) were alarmed after they had found 31 tunnels since the last summer war with Hamas in 2014. This is quite meaningful because tunnels serve Hamas as one of the two most important warfare tools. The other, of course, constitutes rockets.

So, how to go about it?

Here’s the conundrum: Can Hamas wait it out and let the wall being erected? No? Should they launch pre-emptive strikes too early just to rattle themselves up? I highly doubt for it to be the most prudent option, anyway. It is intriguing enough to note that Mossad has acknowledged the fact that the military capability of Hamas is right up there. Along with rockets and tunnels, Hamas is pretty much there in terms of having a naval commando unit which is to be supplemented by aerial drones. It’s the sort of military arsenal that can urge an outfit to go to war; and repercussions, then, become an afterthought.

Artillery isn’t the only option Hamas is intending to play with. Getting political inroads is what the organization is looking at. Hamas’ differences with Fatah, which is currently the official voice of the Palestinian people, are rather too obvious. In all of this political brouhaha, Yahiya Sinwar has recently been appointed as Hamas’ political leader in Gaza. For all of those who aren’t much cognizant with the politics from the Israel-Palestine region, Sinwar, a fierce military commander, was jailed for 20 years in Israel. Retribution, in all its likelihood, might be on the cards.

What’s appreciable for peace-lovers is the fact that Hamas’ Shura Council is contemplating agreeing to come to terms with Israel on the issue of acceptance of the Palestinian state. If it does end up materializing, Hamas will accept the pre-1967 borders. It, however, doesn’t have to do with Hamas reneging on its idea of a Muslim holy hand, which stays intact no matter what.

Tensions between IDF and Hamas have been on a steady rise. When Mazen Fuqaha, a Hamas operative, was killed in March 2017 in Gaza, the incident was perceived by many as the tipping point, which may trigger another war between Israel and Hamas. Things seem to be slowly but surely going down that path. It may boil over anytime soon.

One thing’s for sure; Israel, at this point in time, wouldn’t want to militarily engage with Hamas. It’ll go about its business of completing the fencing project. Hamas, on the other hand, might be mulling over the final move that it may make. There are too may ifs and buts to deal with, but as I’ve stated above, neither can Hamas afford to sit back and let the fencing get the better of it, nor an all-out offensive is going to do the trick. As for now; wait and watch, but keep your options open.

The possibility of the fourth war (in the last decade) between Hamas and Israel this summer can’t be ruled out. If the situation goes berserk, Palestinians are going to be the net losers. They, unfortunately, aren’t winning anyway.

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