After the end of the Gaza war, Hamas largely stopped firing missiles at Israel, and forced the other Palestinian factions to observe the tahdiah (calm) as well – though both the factions and Hamas occasionally breach it. At the same time, Hamas has consistently clarified that it has not abandoned the resistance, proving this in practice in March-April 2011 when it participated in firing dozens of rockets at Israel, including one targeting an Israeli school bus. Hamas leaders continue to extol jihad, and the movement continues to arm itself, train, and fortify positions.
I. Tahdiah – With Intermittent Firing of Rockets
Hamas’s efforts to maintain the tahdiah were evident, for example, in March 2, 2010, when Gaza police commander Abu ‘Ubaida Al-Jarrah issued guidelines to all police elements in the Gaza Strip “to hunt down those who are firing missiles, to arrest them for investigation by the Hamas security apparatuses, and to punish them, treating them as perpetrators of serious offenses.” After Russia’s foreign minister pressured Hamas to stop the firing of the missiles, in late March 2010, Hamas political bureau head Khaled Mash’al responded that the Hamas leadership supported the tahdiah and was not ratcheting up tensions, and that it would use appropriate means to prevent the firing of missiles. In fact, several days later Mash’al ordered the leaders of Hamas’s military wing to stop launching missiles and to prevent the Palestinian factions from doing so as well, “even if this involves the use of force.” Hamas also sought to coordinate positions with other factions, and on April 3, 2010, met with representatives of Islamic Jihad, the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), and the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine (DFLP). All agreed to act in concert, in light of Israel’s threats to respond to the firing of missiles.
Hamas leaders sensed a need to explain their support for the ceasefire. Hamas political bureau deputy head Moussa Abu Marzouq said: “Hamas is interested in continuing the ceasefire with Israel, so that the latter will have no excuse to launch [another] military campaign against the Gaza Strip. There is agreement among the Palestinian factions to refrain from firing missiles at Israeli targets, but from time to time this agreement is violated.”
Particularly interesting was a statement by Hamas official Mahmoud Al-Zahhar, who called the firing of the rockets “suspicious,” hinting that Israel was encouraging it. He said: “The enemy wants to portray the operations it is carrying out as self defense, by [saying that they are] a response to the firing of missiles from the Gaza strip.”
Though Fatah supports the tahdiah, it saw Hamas’s suspension of the attacks on Israel as an opportunity to sting this movement. Fatah spokesman Ahmad ‘Assaf said: “It is a positive development that Hamas now realizes the correctness of Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud ‘Abbas’s repeated call to save our people the troubles [caused by] Israeli reaction to the firing of missiles, to cease the firing, and to renew the tahdiah… [In the past,] the Hamas leaders preferred a regional agenda and narrow party interests to the supreme interests of the Palestinian people, and accused the [PA] leadership of treason and unbelief.”
Towards the end of 2010, Hamas loosened its grip on the various organizations, which caused a rise in the number of gunfire incidents and clashes with Israeli forces. The resulting tension, and Israel’s retaliation, prompted the Hamas leaders to reiterate their commitment to the tahdiah and to enforce the ban on actions leading to escalation. In January 2011, the factions agreed to “protect the Palestinian people in Gaza and distance them from the danger of war,” clarifying, however, that they were not announcing a tahdiah. In mid-March 2011, Hamas deviated from this policy and participated in firing mortars and rockets at Israel. In this case, too, the firing of rockets stopped after a few days, and an agreement was reached with the factions to uphold the tahdiah, providing that Israel ceased its attacks on Gaza. In response to the assassination of fighters from Hamas’ military wing, the movement renewed the firing of rockets, and claimed responsibility for the firing of a rocket on an Israeli school bus, which resulted in the death of a teenage boy.
Hamas’s actions reflect a duality within the movement. On one hand, Hamas wishes to maintain the tahdiah in order to avoid an Israeli retaliation that would cause it severe damage and undermine its control over Gaza. This policy is led by Hamas’s political leadership inside Gaza. On the other hand, Hamas is trying to establish a new paradigm, whereby any harm to its members triggers an automatic response in the form of rocket fire, so that its members will be protected from harm even while preparing terrorist attacks or abductions of Israelis. This policy is led by the head of the military wing, Ahmad Al-Ja’bari. The calm that has prevailed in the recent weeks indicates that Hamas has the capability to prevent the firing of rockets into Israel.
II. Hamas Remains Committed to Resistance and Jihad
Hamas’s tahdiah was perceived in the Gaza Strip as a tactical move – a time-out for regrouping in preparation for the next round of activity against Israel. Hamas website columnist Yasser Al-Za’atra wrote: “It is almost certain that the Palestinian arena will yet return to the path of the resistance, as it did after the misguided Oslo campaign (1993-2000).” ‘Abd Al-Bari ‘Atwan, editor of the London daily Al-Quds Al-’Arabi, assessed the situation in much the same way: “Hamas never ultimately relinquished the resistance, and perhaps the current hudna [ceasefire] is temporary, like those that preceded it – but its leaders must realize that the patience of some of the Islamic groups has a short fuse, and that some yearn for jihad.”
The Hamas leaders themselves have continued to speak in pro-resistance and pro-jihad terms. In response to the continued construction in Jerusalem, and to the March 16, 2010 inauguration of the Hurva Synagogue in the Old City, Palestinian Legislative Council deputy speaker Ahmad Baher (of Hamas) called on the resistance factions to “strike a hard military blow against the Israeli occupation.” A Hamas communiqué stated, “Resistance is a strategic choice… and the [Hamas] movement clings to jihad.” The communiqué also called for the Arab Peace Initiative to be rescinded.
Also glorifying the resistance was the Gaza municipality itself; it named a city square after Rim Al-Riyashi, who carried out a suicide bombing in 2004.
The atmosphere of preparation for the continuation of the struggle was also evident in Gaza’s education system. In a play at a commencement ceremony in Gaza, children wore the uniforms of the ‘Izz Al-Din Al-Qassam Brigades, Hamas’s military wing, and “fought” “Israeli soldiers,” “kidnapping” one of them. At a Hamas ceremony honoring families of martyrs in Jabalya, the spokesman for the families said: “We are ready to sacrifice our children, ourselves, and our money to declare ‘there is none but Allah,’ and to liberate the homeland.”
The most obvious manifestation of militant education was reported by the Egyptian daily Al-Ahram, in a story that described the militant atmosphere at the Hamas summer camps, in comparison to the atmosphere in the UNRWA summer camps: “While the children in the UNRWA [camps] enjoy painting, swimming, and dancing to folk music, other children march in military parades, bearing the photos of Hamas prisoners and martyrs and shouting slogans of the resistance. These are the children in the Hamas camps. ‘Our Al-Aqsa, our prisoners, freedom will come’ – these are the slogans shouted by children aged seven through 12 in a military march. ‘No toys or rowdiness,’ as one of the camp leaders put it… The children live in an atmosphere of military mobilization and preparation for resistance [in times of both] peace and war. In one camp, held at the Sheikh Radwan mosque, the setting and the training create an atmosphere of war and resistance. Photos of masked men with guns festoon the camp, [which looks like] a military base.”
Hamas’ Ministry of Prisoners’ Affairs officially endorsed the cause of kidnapping Israeli soldiers, when it announced that it supported a campaign, declared by the Wa’ed Society in Gaza, promising a million Jordanian dinars “for anyone who kidnaps an Israeli soldier to exchange him for Palestinian prisoners.” Isma’il Haniya’s advisor Mustafa Al-Kanu’ said that the Palestinian prisoners would only be liberated by kidnapping more Israeli soldiers. Hamas’s military wing, the ‘Izz Al-Din Al-Qassam Brigades, have pledged to continue their efforts to achieve this.
To read the rest of Chapter 2 visit, http://www.memri.org/report/en/0/0/0/0/0/0/5490.htm.
To read Chapter 1: Hamas’s Gaza – Four Years Later; Chapter 1: Fatah-Hamas Relations, visit, http://www.memri.org/report/en/0/0/0/0/0/0/5484.htm.
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 Al-Ayyam (Palestinian Authority), March 24, 2010. On January 14, 2004, Rim Al-Riyashi, mother of two, blew herself up at the Erez checkpoint between Israel and Gaza, killing four Israelis and wounding ten.
 Maannews.net, May 30, 2010.
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