by Ari Lieberman
The terrorist group has been methodically outmaneuvered and outsmarted by Israel.
Hamas has lost. The Islamist terrorist entity that governs the impoverished Gaza Strip has run out of military and political options. Following Israel’s withdrawal from Gaza in 2005, Hamas began a systematic campaign to harry and harass Israeli border communities by showering them with thousands of rockets. Soon, Hamas managed to increase the range, accuracy and payload of its rockets placing Ashqelon, Ashdod and even Tel Aviv in peril. But Israel answered the challenge by introducing its Iron Dome wonder weapon which effectively neutralized the rocket threat.
So Hamas turned to its Plan B – terror tunnels. Hamas began digging tunnels into Israel with the aim of carrying out mega attacks. In 2014, a plan was in the works to launch a massive attack on the Jewish new year of Rosh Hashanah in which Hamas would deploy hundreds of fighters who would emerge from tunnels and engage in a kidnapping-murder spree. As it would turn out, the plan never materialized. A series of Hamas provocations prior to Rosh Hashanah triggered a massive Israeli counter-insurgency operation against Hamas in the summer of 2014.
During the course of the 50-day campaign, the Israel Defense Forces uncovered some three-dozen tunnels, many of which penetrated into Israel. They were destroyed but the revelation prompted Israel’s military planners to invest in technologies capable of detecting terror tunnels. The investment bore fruit. Israel is in the midst of constructing a massive underground barrier aimed at thwarting infiltrations. In addition, the IDF has devised methods and technologies specifically geared to detecting underground anomalies.
In the past few months, the IDF has destroyed or caused the collapse of no less than five tunnels. Just days ago, a tunnel collapsed near the border in Deir al-Balah, in central Gaza killing a member of the so-called Al-Qassam Brigades. On April 15, the IDF destroyed a tunnel that it described as the “longest and deepest” yet uncovered. And in October 2017, the IDF destroyed a tunnel killing 14 terrorists – 12 belonging to Islamic Jihad and two from Hamas. Israel has transformed terror tunnels into giant burial chambers for terrorists.
Its rocket and tunnel threats neutralized, Hamas turned to a new tactic, one aimed at cynically employing civilians and garnering world sympathy. Three weeks ago, it began to stage mass protests along the border. These protests were anything but peaceful but the IDF was ready for all contingencies. In the first week of protests, 30,000 demonstrators, some of whom were armed, took part. That number whittled down to 20,000 in the second week and to about 5,000 in the third week.
The downward trend is expected to continue as Gazans recognize the futility of their actions and exploitation by their government. Noteworthy is the fact that 80% of “peaceful demonstrators” killed thus far along the border actually belonged to one of three terrorist groups, the Al Qassam Brigades, the Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigade and Islamic Jihad. Photos of some of them can be viewed here.
Having failed with rockets, terror tunnels and mass demonstrations, Hamas’s options have been severely curtailed. Hamas has invested heavily in Unmanned Aerial Drone technology but here too, Israel has stymied their efforts.
Last Saturday, 35-year-old Fadi Muhammad al-Batsh, was liquidated as he was walking from his house to a nearby mosque in the Malaysian capital of Kuala Lumpur. The assassins pumped 10 to 14 bullets into his body to ensure death. Al-Batsh, an electrical engineer, was a lecturer at the British Malaysian Institute at the University of Kuala Lumpur. But al-Batsh had a more sinister side. He was a high ranking member of Hamas and was responsible for advancing the group’s militarized UAV program. Hamas described him as its “engineer commander.” According to a New York Times report, Batsh may have also been secretly negotiating with North Korean agents, on Malaysian soil, for arms transfers to Hamas. He thus became a legitimate target for liquidation.
In December 2016, Mohammad Zawari, another Hamas operative and an engineer who was also central to Hamas’s UAV program met a similar fate in Tunisia. In both cases, Israel remained tight-lipped but there is little doubt that Israel’s long arm of justice reached out and touched both of these menaces.
In the air and subterranean theaters, Israel has outmaneuvered Hamas and its affiliates. The Islamist group has plainly run out of options and is under extreme distress. Its negotiations to forge unity with Mahmoud Abbas’s Palestinian Authority (the other corrupt Palestinian entity that governs 40% of Judea and Samaria) have run into a brick wall. Graft and mismanagement are rampant in the Strip and unemployment for those between the ages of 15 to 29 hovers at an astonishing 60%. Drug addiction is prevalent as many have resorted to opioids to escape their abysmal, Hamas-created reality. Electricity and water shortages are commonplace and raw sewage remains untreated.
Left with no viable military options to deflect Gazans’ attentions away from their hellish predicament, we can expect Hamas to resort to yet greater internal repression to maintain its vice-like hold on power.
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