Why does Hamas arrest fighters who fire rockets at Israel?

Hamas recently arrested two men for firing rockets into Israel, demonstrating the terror group’s pragmatism but not moderation.

Hamas, an offshoot of the Muslim Brotherhood, has ideological red lines, but it is also trying to find practical solutions to its plight in the face of a far more powerful Israeli army.

“It’s clear that Hamas is no longer interested in a conflict with Israel,” Ido Zelkovitz, head of the Middle East studies program at Max Stern Yezreel Valley College, told JNS.

He added that one of Hamas’ top priorities is a deal that would see its prisoners released by Israel.

“Such an agreement would be a political victory and give it a boost in its competition with the Palestinian Authority,” said Zelkovitz, who is also a researcher at the Chaikin Chair in Geostrategy at the University of Haifa.

Hamas security forces arrested two Palestinians on Sunday after firing four rockets into Israel on Thursday, violating the ceasefire and prompting a retaliatory attack by Israel, a source in Gaza said. AFP.

“The Palestinian factions have nothing to do with these rockets, which aim to give the occupation [Israel] an excuse to continue the assault,” the source said.

The rockets were fired just hours after Likud party leader Benjamin Netanyahu won the November 1 Knesset elections and just days after Israeli forces killed an Islamic Jihad leader in Nablus, Samaria.

Kobi Michael, a senior fellow at the Israel Institute for National Security Studies (INSS) at Tel Aviv University, agrees, saying it’s no surprise Hamas isn’t interested. by a war for the time being.

“Hamas wants to take advantage of the calm to continue improving the economic reality and standard of living in the Gaza Strip,” Michael said.

“Hamas also wants to rebuild its military capabilities that were dramatically damaged during ‘Operation Guardian of the Walls’,” the air war with Israel in May 2021, he added.

Moreover, continues Michael, “Hamas is interested in seizing the opportunity and continuing to weaken Islamic Jihad, its main political adversary. [in Gaza].”

Pragmatism, not moderation

Meir Litvak, a Hamas expert at Tel Aviv University, wrote a newspaper article giving examples of how Hamas’ ideology of jihad and martyrdom is counterbalanced by its desire for tactical victories.

“Like most other Sunni movements, Hamas relegated the messianic elements of Islam to a secondary level, as it was much more interested in establishing an Islamic state here and now,” he wrote in “‘Martyrdom is Life’: Jihad and martyrdom in the ideology of Hamas”, published in Conflict and Terrorism Studies in 2010.

“The only exception is the eschatological meaning that Hamas gives to jihad against the Jews, which it says is a prerequisite for fulfilling God’s promise to establish His rule over the earth,” Litvak explains.

For example, he continues, then-Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal said in 2008 that his agreement to a brief ceasefire (tahdi’a) in hostilities with Israel was not meant to signal a transition from a “phase of resistance and fighting to a phase of calm”.

On the contrary, according to Hamas’ “concept of managing this conflict”, the tahdi’a is a tactical means. It is a step in the resistance and she is not detached from it,” Litvak wrote.

Therefore, while Hamas’ long-term goal is to destroy Israel and replace it with an Islamic state, it realizes that this is not currently possible and that it must achieve small incremental victories at the expense of a continuous self-destructive jihad that Israel’s overwhelming power would crush.

The Muslim Brotherhood movements tend to avoid uninterrupted jihad and prefer a patient strategy of building grassroots support through their social services and educational institutions.

While the end goal of creating a global caliphate is no different from that of other jihadist groups like the Islamic State, it prefers to play the long game instead of insisting on constant unrestrained attacks regardless of force. of their enemy.

The recent arrests of those responsible for firing rockets into Israel do not signal moderation but rather that this is not the right time for such attacks in the opinion of the Hamas leadership.

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