A year after Operation Protective Edge, an IDF intelligence expert discusses the outcome and the emerging threats, including Hamas alliances with major terror entities.
By: Aryeh Savir, World Israel News
A senior intelligence officer of the IDF’s Southern Command stated Tuesday that Hamas has forged an alliance with its rivals, specifically with the Islamic State’s (ISIS) affiliate in the Sinai, in order to create a smuggling route for rocket-building materials, Ynet reports.
Speaking a year after Operation Protective Edge, he said the collaboration between the two terror organizations was exemplified by last week’s massive attacks by ISIS terrorists on Egyptian security forces.
“This attack was intended to open a smuggling route into the Gaza Strip for Hamas,” he said. “In exchange, ISIS gets various resources from Hamas.”
This lethal cooperation continues despite power struggles within Gaza between Hamas and ISIS and notwithstanding ISIS’ slaughter of Palestinians and Hamas members in Syria earlier this year.
This discrepancy can be explained by the fact that the various ISIS terror cells in Gaza, the Sinai and Syria are not a unified group, and each group works based on regional interests and local leadership.
Hamas is, first and foremost, geographically isolated. Egypt conducted a massive operation in recent months to cut Hamas off from its supply routes by destroying its smuggling tunnels from the Sinai into Gaza. It has also, almost hermetically, shut down the Rafah border crossing from Egypt into Gaza.
This isolation hindered Hamas’ ability to build up its military capabilities. “The buffer zone causes a problem for Hamas,” the military officer explained. “Some processes were somewhat slowed down. It’s much harder today for Hamas to do what it did in the past, that is, to carry out smuggling of significant amounts of raw materials to produce rockets. Every such smuggling operation becomes a special operation,” Ynet quotes him as saying during a briefing for reporters.
Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon made a similar statement while speaking to Italian Chief of Defense Staff Claudio Graziano on Tuesday in Rome. “Hamas is joining forces with ISIS with the objective of harming Egypt. Their collaboration enabled the murderous attacks in the Sinai last week,” Ya’alon said.
The intelligence officer also pointed to Hamas’ cooperation with Iran. The terror group’s operations are funded in part by the Islamic Republic. “The military wing turned to Iran to get financial assistance to allow it to build up ahead of the next campaign against Israel,” he said.
However, he explained that Hamas would prefer to receive its support from what he called the “Saudi axis,” the Sunni Gulf countries and specifically Qatar, rather than from Shi’ite Iran, as it is a Sunni organization. “These are sums the military wing will not get from the organization’s [Hamas] budget, and when there’s no alternative at home – they turn to the Iranians, who supply the money because they are first of all interested in a foothold against Israel in every possible sphere.”
Was Protective Edge a Victory?
The officer was asked by friends after Israel’s summer operation if Israel won last summer’s war. “The military operation we conducted was broad and substantial,” he responded. “Hamas did not imagine it would suffer such a major blow. They tell you the truth, the whole truth, and you don’t believe it.”
“It was Khaled Mashal [a Hamas top leader] who defined his seven goals in the campaign, and he didn’t get even one of them,” he told Ynet. “So how can we tell ourselves we didn’t win?”
As for the next pending conflict with Hamas, the officer believes that the IDF did a good enough job that another round of hostilities is not immediately imminent. “I don’t see a high probability in the near future, certainly not in the coming months, of opening another campaign,” he said. “I don’t think there is an element within Hamas pushing for escalation today, not in the political wing and not in the military wing.”