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Friday, July 19, 2024

What Was Hamas Considering? Categorical Instances

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Mousa Abu Marzouk, a senior political chief of the Palestinian militant group Hamas, awoke Saturday morning to information of a massacre. Hamas’s navy commanders, who’re primarily based in Gaza, had been so decided to maintain secret their plan for a pre-dawn invasion of Israel that they’d hidden the main points and the timing of the offensive even from the group’s political leaders—together with Abu Marzouk, who lives in exile in Doha, Qatar. He’d gone to sleep anticipating nothing, he instructed us, in a telephone interview. “All of Hamas’s leaders who will not be navy ones acquired the information early Saturday morning,” Abu Marzouk mentioned. The declare was believable: given the penetration of Israeli intelligence companies and the surveillance sometimes surrounding exiled Hamas leaders, it could have been unwise to provide Abu Marzouk foreknowledge of the assault.

Hamas’s assault has launched a harmful new stage within the Israeli-Palestinian battle. Hamas fighters and different militants gunned down greater than twelve hundred Israelis—lots of them civilians. And greater than 100 and fifty hostages had been captured. The Israeli authorities has retaliated by slicing off meals, gasoline, and water to Gaza’s two million residents. The Israeli navy has begun levelling complete neighborhoods with air strikes, inflicting nineteen hundred deaths up to now, and tens of hundreds of floor troops could quickly be deployed on a mission to eradicate Hamas as a corporation.

Why had Hamas, which has dominated Gaza since 2007, undertaken this assault now, for thus little tangible achieve and with such a foreseeably grave value to Palestinian civilians? To date, Hamas’s navy leaders have primarily spouted propaganda. (“That is the day of the good revolution to finish the final occupation!,” Mohammed al-Deif, the chief of Hamas’s navy wing, declared in an announcement.) On October twelfth, we spoke with Abu Marzouk—a long-time Hamas political chief who had been on the forefront of its efforts to achieve out to the West—within the hope of getting a clearer understanding of the group’s strategic considering.

He instructed us that he’d been bowled over by the success of the assault: Hamas fighters had bulldozed about two dozen holes by the safety barrier surrounding Gaza, and had penetrated greater than twenty Israeli cities and villages. He mentioned that Hamas’s leaders had anticipated the Israeli navy items deployed round Gaza to be “the strongest divisions, and probably the most educated,” with “loads of data and fortifications,” in addition to help from “intelligence officers who know rather a lot about our actions.” As an alternative, he mentioned, Israeli fighters had retreated in confusion. “We by no means anticipated that,” he mentioned.

Abu Marzouk’s professions of shock matched the agonized assessments of Israel’s navy leaders. However his feedback about Israeli failures had been additionally clearly tactical, meant to rally Palestinians throughout the West Financial institution and Gaza. He additional claimed—this time, towards all proof—that Hamas fighters hadn’t executed civilians or dedicated atrocities. Such violence could have been finished, he steered, by Palestinian militants and civilians who had adopted Hamas fighters by openings within the safety wall.

Abu Marzouk emphasised that, although he’d been unaware of the ultimate particulars, he and different Hamas political leaders had approved the assault’s over-all technique, together with its scale and ambition. “The troopers are those who plan, execute, and so forth, however they abide by the overall insurance policies put forth by our political bureau,” he mentioned. “We had been stunned by the date however not by the actions.” He was hazier on the query of timing. He mentioned at one level that Hamas’s navy department, the Qassam Brigades, had determined to invade mere hours earlier than the safety barrier was breached. But, at different moments within the interview, he referred to “a plan that had been ready for years.” The assault “was not one thing that the Qassam may undertake 5 years in the past,” he defined. “They had been educated and ready to do all of this. This wasn’t a spontaneous factor.”

Whereas we spoke, Israeli air strikes had been escalating and troops had been massing on the Gaza border, and Abu Marzouk appeared desperate to open negotiations over the discharge of hostages. He declared that Hamas was able to launch any girls, youngsters, or aged captives, along with residents of different international locations—if Israel ceased its navy marketing campaign. “The harmless individuals who had been imprisoned, we won’t preserve them,” he instructed us. (Whether or not Hamas’s navy leaders concur stays to be seen.) He indicated that Hamas may search to swap some Israeli troopers for Palestinians being held in Israeli jails, however added, “It’s too early to speak about swaps.”

A spokesman for Hamas’s navy wing had mentioned that if Israel bombed Gazan houses with out first warning occupants to flee, the group would broadcast video of civilian hostages being executed. Abu Marzouk retracted that risk. “That’s a mistake—we are able to’t execute hostages,” he instructed us. He mentioned that 4 captives had died already—Israeli troopers captured on the Erez border crossing—however they’d been killed by an Israeli air strike, not by Hamas fighters. He mentioned, “Let the scenario relax and the bombardment cease for us to have the ability to differentiate the prisoners from varied factions. They’re a really large quantity.” Abu Marzouk went on, “Allow us to cease the struggle and every thing might be mentioned on this concern.”

Gazan civilians have little probability to specific objections to the excessive value they’re now paying for Hamas’s aggression. The group’s tight management over Gaza leaves little room for dissent or criticism. However, in a phone name from Gaza, Mkhaimar Abusada, a political scientist primarily based in Gaza Metropolis, mentioned that the distinction in perspective between Hamas leaders and different Gazans was clear: “The Palestinian folks in Gaza have rather a lot to lose. Most Palestinians don’t need to die, and so they don’t need to die on this ugly method, below rubble. However an ideological group like Hamas believes that to die for a simply trigger is a lot better than dwelling this meaningless life.”

Abu Marzouk’s household lives within the Gazan metropolis of Rafah, and considered one of his brothers, Youssef, was killed this week in an air strike. Abu Marzouk deflected speak about his private loss and insisted that Gazans accepted such sacrifices: “The Palestinians are able to pay a fair greater value for his or her freedom.”

Abu Marzouk, who’s seventy-two, was born three years after the state of Israel. Raised by illiterate refugee mother and father who had fled to Rafah, he was bookish and spiritual, and as a younger man he dedicated himself to the Muslim Brotherhood. He moved to the USA in 1982, the place he earned a Ph.D. in engineering. After Hamas, a militant offshoot of the Brotherhood, first emerged, in 1987, Abu Marzouk turned considered one of its leaders, usually flying backwards and forwards between the U.S. and the Center East. In 1995, he was detained upon arrival at J.F.Okay. Airport and held for greater than a 12 months, in solitary confinement, on the Metropolitan Correctional Heart, in Manhattan. After an extended court docket battle, he fought off extradition to Israel, the place he confronted costs of abetting terrorism; in 1997, the U.S. State Division organized his deportation to Jordan. (Later that 12 months, the U.S. designated Hamas as a terrorist group.)

After the assaults this previous weekend, quite a lot of analysts, together with some near Hamas, have steered that the group intentionally lulled the Israeli safety forces right into a false sense of safety. Prior to now few years, Hamas had appeared more and more keen to average its most hard-line positions and to strike offers with Israel, in an effort to higher the lives of Gaza residents. In 2017, Abu Marzouk had helped promote a Hamas coverage doc that prevented the aggressive antisemitism of the group’s unique constitution, which had known as for the obliteration of the Jewish state. Hamas has currently prevented different militants or civilians inside Gaza from making an attempt to assault Israeli forces throughout the border, successfully getting into right into a quiet safety association with Israel, even because it has denounced the Palestinian Authority for its extra open collaboration. Throughout latest escalations of violence involving the hard-line Palestinian faction Islamic Jihad, Hamas fighters conspicuously stood apart as Israeli forces worn out the navy commanders of its ostensible ally.

By intermediaries, in the meantime, Hamas has reached agreements with Israel that introduced in a whole lot of thousands and thousands of {dollars} in Qatari grants for poor households, supplied better electrical energy to residents, expanded fishing rights off the coast of Gaza, and elevated the variety of permits for Gaza residents to work in Israel. As just lately as 2020, Hamas dedicated to take part in Palestinian nationwide elections; this plan fell aside not due to Hamas however due to the Western-backed Palestinian Authority, whose leaders denounced Israel’s refusal to permit elections in East Jerusalem.

Had these obvious gestures of compromise all been a part of a ruse to purchase time whereas Hamas ready a brutal assault? Abu Marzouk insisted that these efforts at negotiation and coexistence had been real. He blamed Israel and the Western powers for thwarting Hamas’s overtures. He instructed us, “We rolled down all the pathways to get some of our rights—not all of them. We knocked on the door of reconciliation and we weren’t allowed in. We knocked on the door of elections and we had been disadvantaged of them. We knocked on the door of a political doc for the entire world—we mentioned, ‘We would like peace, however give us a few of our rights’—however they didn’t allow us to in.” He added, “We tried each path. We didn’t discover one political path to take us out of this morass and free us from occupation.”

There may be some proof to assist Abu Marzouk’s narrative. In recent times, Hamas had appeared keen to coexist with the Jewish state. However, as Abu Marzouk acknowledged to us, Hamas additionally by no means deserted core calls for resembling full Palestinian independence and the appropriate of all Palestinian refugees to return to their homeland. Nor did the group relinquish its weapons. “However we didn’t mislead anybody,” he instructed us. “We by no means hid these slogans.”

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