Smoke rises in Gaza after an Israeli airstrike on the second day of Operation Protective Edge, July 9, 2014. (photo by Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
With the launch of the Israeli army’s Operation Protective Edge in Gaza, much of the public’s attention has focused on Hamas, which has escalated its rocket fire on Israel. But the threats the Jewish state faces from Gaza may not be as clear-cut as they seem.
While Hamas is still extremely deadly, it has seen a weakening of its grip on the coastal enclave over the past few years, due to challenges from other Islamic terror groups and isolation from its former patrons in the Muslim world.
“Hamas has been on the brink of collapse,” explained Jonathan Schanzer, vice-president for research at the Foundation for Defence of Democracies. “It has become very isolated politically and economically.
“It is very difficult to figure out what Hamas’ calculus is [in its current escalation with Israel],” Schanzer added. “Hamas may have nothing to lose but, on the other hand, they could have really overplayed their hand, which could lead to complete devastation of their assets.”
Since taking control of Gaza in 2007, Hamas has seen a steady decline in its support from the
Palestinian people and the rise of other Islamic terrorist groups there, including its main Palestinian rival, Islamic Jihad, as well as al-Qaeda-inspired Salafi global jihadist groups.
In February, leaders of the Salafist factions known as the Al-Quds Mujahideen Shura Council in Gaza issued a statement pledging allegiance to Islamic State in Iraq and Greater Syria (ISIS), which has made global headlines for its brutality and swift victories in the Syrian civil war and in Iraq. These Gaza-based Salafi jihadist groups have often been at odds with Hamas and have been targeted by Hamas’ internal security forces. At the same time, these groups have been responsible for rocket fire on Israel, both from Gaza and Salafi groups operating in the Sinai Peninsula. This includes rockets fired on the southern Israeli city of Eilat in January 2014.
Meanwhile, recent reports indicate that jihadists from ISIS – now also known simply as “Isamic State” – have attempted to infiltrate Gaza from Egypt, the Gatestone Institute reported.
Read more at jns.org.