If Hamas allows Israel to drag it into another lopsided fight, it will not only cost the lives of countless innocent civilians in Gaza, it will also distract from ongoing mass resistance to the siege.
Israel’s killing of Hamas commander Nour Baraka on Sunday and the predictable response from the Islamist movement have sparked fears of renewed hostilities between the two sides. Although it remains unclear whether Baraka’s killing was planned or the result of a botched Israeli “intelligence-gathering” operation, many observers see parallels with Israel’s 2012 assassination of Ahmad Al Jabari, then the head of Hamas’ military wing. That incident set off eight days of fighting in which six Israelis and 167 Palestinians were killed.
If the deadly exchange six years ago was about avenging a senior Hamas commander, its casualties, even according to the Israeli military’s official figures, were mostly civilian. The same outcome would surely follow another confrontation, as any sustained Israeli air assault would no doubt send Hamas operatives into hiding. Both sides know this, and though Netanyahu has demonstrated time and again that he will not hesitate to kill innocents, especially in pursuit of domestic political gain, what options does Hamas have?
To explore this question, we must be clear about what is at stake.
Whether they intended it or not, Israel’s military planners know that Baraka’s killing will bait Hamas. Any sustained response by the Palestinian faction would clearly benefit Netanyahu, who has been lambasted by his political opponents for allowing $15 million in Qatari cash to be transferred to the Strip, mostly as a stop-gap against its ongoing descent into chaos.
Yet despite the fallout from that move, Netanyahu has a more pressing political problem — mass resistance to Israel’s ongoing siege and the humanitarian disaster it has created.
According to recent estimates, some 200 Palestinian protesters, part of the thousands who march each week along Israel’s self-declared “border” with Gaza, have been gunned down by state snipers while a further 18,000 have been injured, many by live fire. These victims include the wheelchair-bound 29-year-old Ibrahim Abu Thuraya, whom Israeli snipers shot in the head with live ammunition, an act the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights called “truly shocking and wanton”; and 21-year-old volunteer medic Razan Al-Najar, who wore a white uniform and, according to eyewitness reports, had her hands raised when an Israeli sniper shot...Read More