• Sun. Sep 25th, 2022

It is expected that Hamas in the Gaza Strip will also attack Israel in 2020, as long as it is in the terrorist group’s own interest. This is according to a report by the Israeli Defense (IDF) on the situation in the Palestinian enclave.

At the same time, the IDF emphasizes that Hamas is skeptical about a fourth war against Israel. The IDF believes that the terrorist group will instead prefer to focus on improving the situation on the ground, in order to maintain the grip on power in Gaza.

But even if the terrorist group is not interested in a full military confrontation with the IDF, Hamas will not hesitate to fire rockets at Israel during short – but often intense – rounds of conflict. During 2019, there were twelve such rounds of combat actions that could last for hours or up to several days. More than 1,200 rockets were fired from Gaza against Israel last year, writes military correspondent Anna Ahronheim in the Jerusalem Post.

On Wednesday 15 January, we received a warning about what to expect in 2020 as well. Four rockets were fired from Gaza against Israel. Two rockets were fired by the Iron Dome rocket defense system, but no one was injured.

Hamas, which sees itself as a resistance movement, does not want to lose legitimacy in the eyes of the public. The IDF’s assessment is that as long as peace and quiet are in the interest of the terrorist group, especially when it wants to ensure its survival, Hamas will continue to negotiate with Israel – with Egypt as an intermediary.

IDF chief Aviv Kochavi sees a possibility that the Gaza Strip will eventually be quiet, but he is a cautious optimist.

During 2019, significant progress was made in creating a long-term ceasefire between Israel and Hamas. Still, it is very uncertain whether the negotiations will lead to a final agreement. Hamas has reportedly refused to return the remains of two Israeli soldiers, Oron Shaul and Hadar Goldin, as well as two missing Israeli civilians, Abera Mengistu and Hisham al-Sayed, as part of the deal. It is a requirement for many in Israel.

Therefore, there are many who do not believe that anything will come out of the ceasefire that Egypt has long been working to get through. Nevertheless, IDF chief Aviv Kochavi believes that there is a “unique opportunity in the Gaza Strip now”.

-I see that there is a unique opportunity in Gaza. There is a strong will on the part of Hamas not to escalate the situation. It was Islamic Jihad under the leadership of the now deceased leader Baha Abu al-Ata who was responsible for most attacks on Israel in the past year, says the IDF chief.

When in November 2019 more than 450 were fired rockets from Gaza against Israel were carried out by the terrorist group Palestinian Islamic Jihad. They are the second largest terrorist group in Gaza and have very close ties to Iran. Hamas did not take part in the attacks, which were considered very positive given the possibility of a long-term ceasefire.

The IDF chief believes the episode suggests Hamas wants to focus more on improving conditions for the civilian population in the Gaza Strip. That is also what Israel and the Israeli defense want to do, says Kochavi.

During 2019, 1295 rockets were fired at Israel from Gaza. It is the largest number of rockets since the Gaza war in 2014. Seven civilians were killed during the attacks – the largest number of civilian casualties since 2014.

Rescue crews are present at one of the homes that were hit by the rockets from Gaza in May 2019. (Photo: Police)

While arms smuggling from the Sinai Peninsula into the Gaza Strip has declined in recent years, in-house rocket production in the Gaza Strip has increased.

The IDF notes in its assessment that although Hamas is negotiating a ceasefire with Israel, the terrorist group continues to increase its military capabilities. Both Hamas and Islamic Jihad regularly launch rockets into the Mediterranean to test new weapons, in an attempt to increase both range and explosive power.

When Hamas began developing Kassem missiles in 2001, they had a range of only four kilometers. Nearly two decades later, Hamas has the capacity to hit Nahariya in northern Israel. Hamas, which has a fighting force of almost 40,000 men, has in addition to rockets also thousands of grenade launchers.

But after rounds of conflict in recent years, and after many Israeli airstrikes against Hamas’ weapons stockpiles and other military targets, it is estimated that the number of missiles has been reduced to 5,000-6,000, Ahronheim concludes.

<img src = "https://www.miff.no/wp-content/uploads/2014/07/Raketter-fra-Gaza . to run to safety from rockets also in 2020. (Illustration photo: Tipinfo / Flickr)

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