The Mass Surrender of Hamas Terrorists Could Be a Turning Point in the War

April 1, 2024 | Eran Lerman
About the author: Eran Lerman is vice-president of the Jerusalem Institute for Strategic Studies and teaches Middle Eastern and Islamic Studies at Shalem College.

While trouble brews in the north, fighting has continued in the area around al-Shifa hospital in central Gaza, where large supplies of weapons were hidden in the maternity ward and where numerous Hamas operatives gathered to renew combat against the IDF. Israeli forces have killed dozens of terrorists there, including some high-ranking officers; they have managed to arrest hundreds more. Eran Lerman examines the significance of the fact that these fighters are choosing surrender over martyrdom:

Achieving the surrender of large numbers of enemy fighters is advantageous, first of all, in terms of incurring fewer casualties and requiring less military effort than a “fight to the finish.” It has also been proven to be of immense value in obtaining vital intelligence, such as the location of tunnels and their entrances. Another operational consideration has to do with improving Israel’s leverage in the negotiations for the hostages’ release.

Yet in addition, the surrender of Hamas’s armed men is also of long-term value at the level of grand strategy. For decades, Islamist totalitarian terrorist groups, from Hizballah and Hamas to al-Qaeda and Islamic State, have cultivated the legend that the muqawwamah (“resistance”), rooted in a version of religious faith, will stand and fight to the last—unlike the . . . flight and surrender that marked the defeat of secular Arab nationalism, above all in the war of 1967.

Thus not only do mass arrests suggest flagging morale, but they also send “a message both to the Gazans themselves, whose life Hamas was willing to sacrifice unhesitatingly and in great numbers, and to much wider circles in the Arab and Muslim world,” a message that the myth of resistance is no more than a myth.

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