Conflict between Hamas and Fatah Prevents the Reconstruction of Gaza

According to the cease-fire agreement that ended the summer’s war, as well as the preconditions set by the states pledging to reconstruct Gaza, Hamas is to relinquish partial control of the strip to the Palestinian Authority. But the two have proved unable or unwilling to cooperate. As a result, only a small fraction of the billions of dollars in earmarked aid has been delivered, while buildings destroyed in the fighting remain in ruins. Israel seems to be the one party interested in helping, while Hamas is contemplating another war. Neri Zilber writes:

Israel, of all the parties involved, has shown the greatest degree of flexibility toward a Gaza Strip still ruled by Hamas. In addition to acquiescing in the salary payments, Israel has begun easing restrictions on construction materials and other goods entering the territory, and on certain products (fish, cucumbers) and people exiting. Israel has given its consent to an elaborate UN-led inspection mechanism for reconstruction, which . . . has not yet begun in earnest due to the lack of a PA presence on the ground. “I can’t say that it’s because of Israel that there has been no movement [on reconstruction] at present,” [a] senior UN official said, a sentiment shared by several other foreign diplomats I spoke to in Jerusalem. . . .

Sheikh Mahmoud Musleh, a senior Hamas leader in the West Bank whom I spoke to, had no illusions about the purpose of the new squeeze around his group. “What they are seeking is the end of Hamas military power in the Gaza Strip,” he observed. “This is the main impediment [to reconciliation with the PA].” When I inquired whether his group would consider laying down their arms for the greater welfare of the Gazan people, the answer was definitive: “This is impossible.”

Read more at Politico

More about: Fatah, Gaza, Hamas, Protective Edge

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