Hamas has largely stayed out of the fighting in Gaza on Saturday, raising the chances that the current round of cross-border violence could be contained in both scope and duration.
Hamas political bureau leader Ismail Haniyeh has made noncommittal statements, saying that Israel bears full responsibility for the latest escalation without elaborating on Hamas’s own intentions.
One reason may be work. Since the last major Gaza conflict in May last year, Israel has changed its policy toward Gaza in what officials have described as an effort to keep the peace, offering economic incentives to the 2 million civilians in the coastal enclave and raising bets for Hamas. if you decide to join hostilities.
Israeli security officials have issued thousands of permits to Gazans that allow them to enter Israel daily to work in agriculture and construction. Some 14,000 Palestinian workers from Gaza have been working in Israel in recent months, the largest number since Hamas gained control of the Gaza Strip in 2007, and Israel has promised to increase the number to 20,000.
Beyond that economic incentive, the Israeli military has also been warning of the dire consequences of another major round of fighting in Gaza. Military officials have released what they describe as intelligence reports showing Hamas tunnels and other military infrastructure built in the heart of Gaza’s residential areas, suggesting that civilian casualties would be almost inevitable in a military campaign.
In addition to work permits, Israel has also allowed improvements in recent months that have expanded Gaza’s supply of water and electricity and expanded import and export capacity.
More medical equipment has been imported and exports of Gaza’s agricultural products and its fishing, textile and furniture industries have almost doubled in the first half of this year compared to the same period last year, military officials said.
But in recent days, as Islamic Jihad threatened to retaliate from Gaza for Israel’s arrest of one of the group’s top commanders in the West Bank, Israel closed border crossings, preventing the movement of people and goods in and out. from Gaza. Israeli residents living near the border were effectively placed under a curfew, with all roads closed in the areas near Gaza.
Major General Ghasan Alyan, head of the military agency responsible for liaison on civil affairs in the occupied West Bank and Gaza, delivered a stern message to Hamas on Friday, highlighting the choice it faces regarding supporting Islamic Jihad or staying out. . fighting round.
“The responsibility lies with Hamas,” he said, in a video posted on the agency’s Arabic Facebook page. “Are you more concerned with helping Gazans or helping dissident organizations?”
Hamas’s decision to remain on the sidelines so far recalled a brief round of cross-border fighting in 2019. That cycle also opened with an Israeli airstrike that killed a senior Islamic Jihad commander, Baha Abu al-Ata, along with his wife, Asmaa Abu al-Ata, and incited Islamic Jihad to fire hundreds of rockets at Israel.
Over the next two days, Israel killed 34 people in Gaza, including some two dozen militants and several children. but Hamas chose not to participatecontaining the scope of hostilities.
Rather, it was Hamas that started the last major Gaza conflagration in May 2021, when it fired a barrage of rockets toward Jerusalem after weeks of rising tensions and clashes between Israelis and Palestinians in the disputed city.