Analysis: Is Hamas losing its grip on the Gaza Strip?

Reports from Gaza indicate mounting civil opposition to the Hamas terrorist government and Israeli analysts say this trajectory benefits the Palestinian Authority.

By: Steve Leibowitz, World Israel News

If one goes by television reports, it appears that the Gazan population is in open revolt against the Hamas government. Clashes are depicted that pit angry, young, unemployed Gazans facing off against armed Hamas police. It could have easily been visuals from the Arab Spring.

Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh is warning that the Gaza Strip is on the brink of an “explosion” because of the continued Palestinian power struggle between his group and the Palestinian Authority. According to Haniyeh, “Gaza is sitting on a volcano ready to blow.”

Haniyeh, and others have warned of an impending humanitarian crisis in the Strip, compounded by sanctions put on the coastal enclave by PA President Mahmoud Abbas, with the hope of undermining Hamas rule over the coastal enclave. The sanctions include payments for electricity supplied by Israel, forced early retirement of thousands of civil servants and halted welfare payments to hundreds of families.

For Hamas this means that the Palestinian Authority (PA) is not serious about the “national reconciliation agreement” signed in November 2017, and is instead attempting to pave the way for a return to Fatah control of the enclave.

Egyptian security officials have been in Gaza, ostensibly working to iron out differences, but they failed to make any significant progress. There has been some progress with Hamas managing to secure the Rafah border area between Gaza and Egypt. Egypt has made this a prerequisite for the regular opening of the border crossing in Rafah.

According to Dr. Mordechai Kedar from Bar Ilan University, “The reports from Gaza are tendentious, and magnify the protests that are in the service of the Palestinian Authority. The PA is encouraging the protests. They are insisting that they take over security control in Gaza and that means taking away the weapons of the military wing of Hamas. In effect, what could be better for the PA than armed Hamas clashes with Palestinian civilians who are protesting the incompetence of the Hamas government?”

“From its point of view, Hamas says it will never hand over its weapons, especially to those who they consider to be Israeli collaborators. Reconciliation was effectively torpedoed by Hamas and they are under intense pressure to come up with money to pay salaries and pensions in order to guarantee the loyalty of their supporters in Gaza. The cuts in UNWRA combined with the cuts from the PA are placing Hamas under a great deal of pressure, Kedar said.

Asked about reports that the Trump peace plan includes a security role for Egypt in the Gaza Strip Kedar said, “People are talking about the Egyptian role but I cannot imagine that they would send soldiers to Gaza. They would know how to get into Gaza, but they would not know how to get out.”

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Palestinian affairs expert Pinchas Inbari told WIN, “There are disturbances in Gaza, and the enclave is not quiet. But this is not endangering the Hamas government. They still control the situation but need better regulation of the border. The economy has failed and they have no solution. So they are under pressure, but not to the degree that they could lose control. Egypt and Israel both share concerns about a possible eruption. They don’t want it because the explosion of the volcano would engulf them both.

“As far as Egypt is concerned, they are mostly focused on terrorists in Sinai, and their enemies al Qaida and Islamic State. They have no love affair with Hamas, but they need its help against the terrorists. The Egyptians are willing to provide electricity and they do want conditions to allow the opening of the Rafah crossing. I do not believe reports indicating that Egypt will take on a security role in Gaza. There is no way they want to send their troops. … They want Hamas to maintain order.”