With the “March of Return,” Hamas Finds a New Way to Use Human Shields

On Friday March 30, Hamas gathered thousands of its subjects at the border fence separating Gaza from Israel to inaugurate the “March of Return.” The protests are planned to continue until May, culminating in a massive attempt to storm the border. Oded Granot explains:

[Hamas’s] calculation is simple. Israel has enough military might to repel any military threat to its borders and sovereignty. But it won’t dare slaughter civilians en masse—women and children who are trying to “return to their homes in Haifa, Acre, and Ashkelon.” And if, heaven forbid, it did, it would be immediately condemned by the international community and accused of harming innocent civilians and of crimes against humanity. . . .

About 250 buses brought some 30,000 people to the border area [on Friday]. Some are relatives of Hamas operatives and public officials. Not everyone participated willingly. Some were forced.

This was no peaceful, popular demonstration, as the organizers promised it would be. This was incitement. Rocks were thrown. Attempts were made to vandalize the border fence, and demonstrators were used as cover for an attempted attack against IDF forces. When these attempts failed, and seventeen people had been killed—including ten known terrorists—Israel was accused of perpetrating a mass slaughter. In this sense, Hamas’s tactics during Operation Protective Edge in the summer of 2014, in which it located terrorist headquarters and weapons caches in civilian homes, didn’t differ much from the events on Friday. In both cases, civilians were forced to serve as human shields.

Read more at Israel Hayom

More about: Gaza Strip, Hamas, Israel & Zionism

 

The Possible Death of Mohammad Deif, and What It Means

On Saturday, Israeli jets destroyed a building in southern Gaza, killing a Hamas brigade commander named Rafa Salameh. Salameh is one of the most important figures in the Hamas hierarchy, but he was not the primary target. Rather it was Mohammad Deif, who is Yahya Sinwar’s number-two and is thought to be the architect and planner of numerous terrorist attacks, of Hamas’s tunnel network, and of the October 7 invasion itself. Deif has survived at least five Israeli attempts on his life, and the IDF has consequently been especially reluctant to confirm that he had been killed. Yet it seems that it is possible, and perhaps likely, that he was.

Kobi Michael notes that Deif’s demise would have major symbolic value and, moreover, deprive Hamas of important operational know-how. But he also has some words of caution:

The elimination of Deif becomes even more significant given the current reality of severe damage to Hamas’s military wing and its transition to terrorism and guerrilla warfare. However, it is important to remember that organizations such as Hamas and Hizballah are more than the sum of their components or commanders. Israel has previously eliminated the leaders of these organizations and other very senior military figures, and yet the organizations continued to grow, develop, and become more significant security threats to Israel, while establishing their status as political players in the Palestinian and Lebanese arenas.

As for the possibility that Deif’s death will harden Hamas’s position in the hostage negotiations, Tamir Hayman writes:

In my opinion, even if there is a bump in the road now, it is not a strategic one. The reasons that Hamas decided to compromise its demands in the [hostage] deal stem from the operational pressure it is under [and] the fear that the pressure exerted by the IDF will increase.

Read more at Institute for National Security Studies

More about: Gaza War 2023, Hamas