Will assassination lead to war?

Israel/Palestine
on 28 Comments

On Friday night, Mazen Fuqaha, a senior leader of Hamas’ military wing, the al-Qassam Brigades—and a former prisoner of Israel freed in the 2011 Shalit exchange, a husband, and a father of two young children who also earned a degree in business administration—was gunned down in the Tell al-Hama neighborhood. Gaza’s ministry of interior said in a statement the weapon was a pistol with a silencer, a sure sign of a professional hit and a first in Gaza since Israeli forces withdrew from the Strip, according to the Washington Post.

To us Gazans, assaults and murders have become part of our lives. In between the wars waged by Israel every two to three years, there are scattered attacks, which never give us time to take a calming breath. We live in fear and anxiety. When one war ends, we begin to anticipate the next, which we see advancing now in the wake of Fuqaha’s killing. In 2012, for example, what has come to be known as the eight-day war, was preceded by the Israeli assassination of the second in command of the al-Qassam Brigade, Ahmed Jabari.

When Fuqaha’s body was found with four bullets in his head, rumors immediately spread that Palestinians who had collaborated with Israeli intelligence agents were responsible. And indeed, a few hours later, two press releases were issued, one by Hamas and one by al-Qassam, which claimed Israel was responsible for the crime. Although no tangible proof of Israel’s involvement has been reported, the most obvious “winner” of this killing is Israel.

(Although there are members of ISIS and other extremist groups in Gaza who would also have an interest in killing Fuqaha, although they typically announce their involvement after a crime is committed, and in the past have not targeted a senior official in an armed group.)

Israel has not claimed credit for the murder. Maybe the Israeli government wants to provoke a new war without losing the international community’s sympathy?

Al-Qassam is banned in the West Bank by the ruling Palestinian Authority, but active in Gaza. Ex-prisoners released in the Shalit deal in 2011 and deported to the Gaza Strip have entered leadership positions in recent years, including the selection of Yahya Sinwar as Hamas’ political leader. Prior to taking this position in mid-February, Sinwar was a senior official in al-Qassam.

Fuqaha fits that pattern. He was a senior Hamas official in the occupied West Bank until he was imprisoned by Israel in 2002 then released in the Shalit exchange. At that time he was deported to Gaza, along with 38 others who were originally from the West Bank.

Adding to this, the Israeli army bombed several military sites in Gaza in the last two months, while Palestinians in Gaza generally believed to be with Salafi groups fired three rockets at Israel. During this time in February the spokesperson for al-Qassam, Abu Obeida said: “resistance will be returned in the coming days, I promise.”

Rumors that another war will follow spread quickly on Facebook among Gazans who at this point have been taught to expect it to come at any time.

However, the prevailing opinion is that Hamas is unlikely to respond and risk another war. The last war resulted in more than 2,300 Palestinian deaths, 11,000 injuries and a half million people displaced during the fighting. Even today, almost three years later, thousands of Palestinians still are without homes. As of April 2016, UNRWA estimated nearly 75,000 are still displaced from the war.

For example, the Gaza-based Palestine Now newspaper reported journalist and analyst Mustafa al-Sawaf who has ties to Hamas, said it is unlikely Hamas will allow itself to be dragged so soon into another war with Israel, as many have yet to recover from the last war. Hamas has a depleted military reserve, which leads al-Sawaf to believe each side will now accumulate weapons or trade threats in a sort of Cold War-style buildup.

A Palestinian youth inspects the rubble of the destroyed a rehabilitation center, which police said was struck by a shell from an Israeli tank, in the northern Gaza Strip July 12, 2014. (Photo: Ashraf Amra/APA Images)

Average Gazans hope for a rest. The last thing people want to hear is that a new war is about to start, cold or otherwise. “The sound of bombings from the last war still echoes in my ears. When I hear a loud sound, like when a door is slammed, I am startled in fear,” Ahmed J. said, who asked to not be identified by his full name along with others I interviewed.

Basema, 58, Ahmed’s mother, said she believes Hamas will not start a new war, not now.  “Hamas knows how destructive the next war will be. Everyone knows the next war is going to bring a calamity on us. Each war brings more destruction to Gaza. God only knows what will happen during the next war.”

One of Basema’s sons was killed during the 2014 war.

On the other hand, Hesham M, a waiter at a café in downtown Gaza City, said he thinks Hamas will respond against Israel over Fuqaha’s killing. “Hamas is a strong party, and it will never accept such an offense without a firm response on the ground.”

There are clues coming from Hamas that war is on the rise. One rank and file member who was injured in the last war said: “Al-Qassam’s response will not be vague.” And, in fact, two months earlier, Hamas leader Mahmoud Alzahar stated that Hamas is more than ready to start a new war if necessary.

Salwa, a law student at Al-Azhar University said she fears war is indeed at Gaza’s door, adding, “I wish I will die before it starts. During war, I psychologically die many times a day.”

After 11 years of blockade, other people have simply become numb. “If a war erupts or it doesn’t, that feels the same,” said Ali. “I graduated from university eight years ago with a master’s in accounting, and I still don’t have a job. I can’t earn a living. I depend on family.”

Another youth named Murad said Israel committed this latest killing to send a message that Hamas is not capable of protecting its people, thus inspiring a revolt. But, as his friend Yasser commented, no nation in the world can assure its people’s safety when it is blockaded by a country that has international backing.

We will always be unsafe until Israel is held to account.

An earlier version of this op-ed was published by We Are Not Numbers.

About Ahmed Alnaouq

Ahmed Alnaouq is Gaza project manager for We Are Not Numbers, a youth storytelling project.

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28 Responses

  1. eljay
    March 29, 2017, 9:24 am

    … When Fuqaha’s body was found with four bullets in his head, rumors immediately spread that Palestinians who had collaborated with Israeli intelligence agents were responsible. And indeed, a few hours later, two press releases were issued, one by Hamas and one by al-Qassam, which claimed Israel was responsible for the crime. Although no tangible proof of Israel’s involvement has been reported … (Although there are members of ISIS and other extremist groups in Gaza who would also have an interest in killing Fuqaha … ) …

    Hamas is wise not to rush to war given that:
    – there’s “no tangible proof of Israel’s involvement”; and
    – the actual perpetrators could be Palestinian collaborators, ISIS or other extremists in Gaza.

    (Side note: A quadruple-tap to the head seems like overkill for a professional assassin or group of assassins.)

  2. AddictionMyth
    March 29, 2017, 9:55 am

    One of the problems here is that Gaza is dependent upon economic aid and doesn’t want to jeopardize that. Unfortunately the gravy train can’t go on forever. Israel is in the same position. To some extent this conflict is manufactured to keep the money flowing. The solution is one-state with equal rights for all. Need to end this nonsense.

  3. gamal
    March 29, 2017, 5:23 pm

    a word from Jamie Stern-Weiner

    DID ISRAEL THWART ANOTHER PALESTINIAN “PEACE OFFENSIVE”?

    “At this point, the script writes itself: Hamas threatens to moderate its position by amending its Charter, so Israel assassinates a senior Hamas militant.[1]

    Whenever a credible Palestinian force threatens by political moderation to undermine Israel’s pretexts for diplomatic rejectionism—by offering/adhering to a ceasefire; signalling acceptance of the international consensus framework for resolving the conflict; or participating in an internationally-acceptable national unity government—Israel resorts to violence in order to destroy it, or at least provoke it into abandoning its pragmatic shift.”

    https://jamiesternweiner.wordpress.com/2017/03/29/did-israel-thwart-another-palestinian-peace-offensive/

  4. JLewisDickerson
    March 30, 2017, 4:59 am

    RE: “Another youth named Murad said Israel committed this latest killing to send a message that Hamas is not capable of protecting its people, thus inspiring a revolt.”

    MY COMMENT: During this particular period, I suspect that when a decision is being made to execute an operation of this type, a key consideration is whether the operation might help Netanyahu stave off indictments for corruption (for all the pink champagne, expensive Cuban cigars, etc., lavished upon the Netanyahus at their request by a certain Hollywood “movie mogul”).

    Am I being overly cynical?

    Wag the Dog ~ https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wag_the_Dog

  5. Elizabeth Block
    March 30, 2017, 9:27 am

    Friends, can we stop calling Israel’s one-sided assaults on Gaza “wars”? As it has been said, if they are wars then a mugging is a prizefight.

    And let’s recognize that when (not if) Israel wants to launch another, they will provoke Hamas again and again until they get a response, in which case they will call their assault self-defense.

    • oldgeezer
      March 30, 2017, 10:18 am

      @Elizabeth.

      I could not agree more. The massacres occur with an army on one side and what could be best called a civilian militia on the other. Given their lack of weapons I think it’s a stretch to even call them a militia.

      If Israelis or zionists insist on calling it a war they should be quickly reminded that waging war against a civilian population is a crime against humanity. Not that they will care as they long ago abandoned all morals.

    • xanadou
      March 30, 2017, 2:45 pm

      Israel’s one-sided assault on Gaza fits the classic appearance of any war, whereby one side, armed to the teeth, invades another, usually quite quickly knocking out any effective organised resistance (army), then devolving to occupy the invaded with all the genocidal brutality it can exercise, mostly with impunity.

      On the other hand, with the horrendous and quickly deteriorating economic situation, why does Palestine bother to waste resources and risk lives to fire the rockets that have long ago lost any PR value, while giving the zio antisemites an excuse to support israel’s savagery?

      Palestinians’ best resistance is to stay off the streets and protect its youngest generation who will continue the fight to the inevitable victory. Stay off the streets and come together as self-help groups and focus on learning and mastering a trade or profession. It’s not enough to survive until that victory, it’s more important to be ready to live it from day-one when it finally comes around.

      By taking the (ineffective) physical resistance out of the equation, israel will lose the last excuses it has to keep up the genocide that still manages to elicit too much of the world’s cowardly silent approval to continue the murders, destruction, torture, theft of land and property…

      Hurling rockets and throwing stones is doing exactly what israel’s “army” and “police” governmental gangsters need to maintain their job security by giving the latter the pretext to invade Palestinian homes and invent reasons to arrest the most vulnerable, then to break their spirits in detention centres infamous for their brutality, i.e., more job security for the shinbusters and mostbads.

      When the appearance of physical violence is removed from the equation, the world will have no more excuses to be silent and passive. Moreover, upon witnessing the determination to learn and to live in a non-violent society may induce more of the world to untie its purse strings, even to send their best to help out with the training, teaching and rebuilding. Vide MW’s recent articles re Palestine’s computer geeks and (so many) geekettes, scientists and artists.

  6. HarryLaw
    March 30, 2017, 11:51 am

    These are not wars, they are premeditated massacres, during the last Israeli assault thousands of Gazans were killed and caused approx $8 billion dollars damage to Gazan infastructure, including 20,000 homes. In response Hamas fired approx 7,000 “rockets” into Israel [Professor Finkelstein called them ‘roman candles’] these rockets [which had no navigational aids], were quite useless, since all they succeeded in doing was blowing up the desert. The aim of a war is to win militarily by causing the enemy such severe economic loss [while preserving your own] that your opponent sues for peace. Hamas cannot even hit Israels premier economic target Ben Gurion airport 20 sq k which at least could have the effect of severely disrupting Israel’s economy. Hezbollah on the other hand have over 100,000 rockets and drones that, [according to Nasrallah] can reach every part of Israel [including Dimona] and Israel’s military airports [Israel’s main airbase Ramat David is less than 50 k from Lebanon’s border] many of these rockets and drones have been supplied by Iran and have the latest GPS guidance systems. Hezbollah also have naval [including undersea] capabilities which threatens any ship entering Israeli ports, and also Israel’s vulnerable gas rigs and storage facilities [Yakhont anti ship missiles].
    For these reasons it would be foolish for Israel to start a war with Hezbollah, here I am not saying the ‘Dahiya doctrine’ does not apply or that Israel’s Generals will not attempt to use it, it’s just that the doctrine of MAD [mutually assured destruction is more appropriate].

  7. HarryLaw
    March 30, 2017, 2:35 pm

    “The Yakhont missiles would represent a serious threat to Israeli interests in the Mediterranean; endangering both Israeli commercial vessels sailing in shipping lanes off the Lebanese coast and the ability of Israeli Navy ships to operate in and around Lebanese waters.

    Most significantly, the missiles would give Hezbollah the ability to strike Israel’s gas production platforms in the Mediterranean, a threat Israel reportedly intends to counter by installing maritime versions of the Iron Dome missile defense system on naval vessels as part of the Israeli Navy’s efforts to secure the country’s natural gas fields”.
    Of course the iron dome system can only stop 5% of Hamas type rockets according to Professor Postol at MIT. http://thebulletin.org/evidence-shows-iron-dome-not-working7318 The Yakhont missile has a range of 300 kilometers, the capacity to carry a 200-kilogram warhead and the unique ability of being able to cruise several metres above the water surface, making it difficult to detect and intercept.

    • catalan
      March 30, 2017, 4:59 pm

      “The Yakhont missile has a range of 300 kilometers, the capacity to carry a 200-kilogram warhead and the unique ability of being able to cruise several metres above the water surface, making it difficult to detect and intercept. ” – HarryLaw
      I could not agree more! The next war between Israel and Lebanon (Hizbollah) will be an utter disaster, a shameful defeat for Israel, with its nuclear plant, airport and military destroyed. It would also be another glorious win for Hizbollah.
      So I am not sure what the Lebanese are waiting for. Why not just do it, finish the job, liberate Palestine?. After all they are officially at war. Either way, given that they have wars every 7 or 8 years, it’s only a matter of time. I guess it’s game over for Israel.

      • MHughes976
        March 30, 2017, 6:15 pm

        There’s a report Daniel Bymsn of Brookingd to a Congrssiinsl Committee on March 22 2016 which has a heading about ‘growing threat’ from Hizb. But the actual words of the report refer to the ‘remarkable quiet’ of the frontier and to the existence of a local balance of power to which both parties are getting used. Bynam considers that Hizb has a lot to lose: it isn’t only a military organisation. Also that the Syrian War has had big effects.

      • talknic
        March 30, 2017, 8:52 pm

        @ catalan March 30, 2017, 4:59 pm

        “So I am not sure what the Lebanese are waiting for. Why not just do it, finish the job, liberate Palestine?”

        Simple
        A) Israel has far superior military technology. They’re not war mongers. Unlike Israel they’ve never started a war and;

        B) Unlike Israel, they’ve actually adhered to the law and had “respect for and acknowledgement of the sovereignty, territorial integrity and political independence of every State in the area and their right to live in peace within secure and recognized boundaries free from threats or acts of force;” ( The meaning of “recognized boundaries” can be clearly seen in the Egypt/Israel Peace Treaty which cites UNSC res 242 where Israel was required to withdraw from all Egyptian territories to Egypt’s recognized boundaries)
        BWT The Lebanese Military did not engage in 2006. The Lebanese resistance, rightfully, has. http://wp.me/pDB7k-uD

        “After all they are officially at war.”

        Israel could withdraw from all non-Israeli territories as it did with Egypt. There’s actually no legal, logical, military, moral or ethical reason why it doesn’t

        “Either way, given that they have wars every 7 or 8 years, it’s only a matter of time”

        None started or caused by Lebanon

        ” I guess it’s game over for Israel”

        Israel could adhere to the law for once. Never been attempted. The Zionist Movement is Israel’s and Jewish folk’s curse. Go whine to to them. They’ve been the reason for so many missed opportunities http://wp.me/pDB7k-pE

  8. catalan
    March 30, 2017, 11:06 pm

    “The Zionist Movement is Israel’s and Jewish folk’s curse. Go whine to to them -” talknic
    Why would I “whine” to the Zionist movement? What is its address and phone? At any rate, of all people I have nothing to “whine” about. I have a job, money, American citizenship and decent health.
    I feel very blessed and if anything, I try to constantly feel gratitude rather than whine.

    • talknic
      April 3, 2017, 1:30 am

      @ catalan March 30, 2017, 11:06 pm

      “Why would I “whine” to the Zionist movement?”

      I’m well aware you wouldn’t. They’d disown you

      ” What is its address and phone?”

      Cute.

      “At any rate, of all people I have nothing to “whine” about. I have a job, money, American citizenship and decent health.”

      So why are you here whining? http://mondoweiss.net/profile/catalan/

  9. catalan
    April 3, 2017, 10:48 am

    “So why are you here whining?” Talknic
    I am sorry if I have come across as whining. I am extremely grateful for all I have as a wealthy American Jew. From my view of the situation, it is the Palestinians who are in a horrific predicament and this will remain so throughout my lifetime.

    • Sibiriak
      April 3, 2017, 12:33 pm

      catalan: … it is the Palestinians who are in a horrific predicament and this will remain so throughout my lifetime.
      ——————–

      Your compassion and moral outrage are palpable.

      • catalan
        April 3, 2017, 2:08 pm

        “Your compassion and moral outrage are palpable” Sibiriak.
        And your moral superiority over me is obvious. So think of it that way. You are just a better human being than I am. Because you post things in an anti Israel blog that are anti Israel (how original!) What other basis do we have to judge others and ourselves? Everyone knows that the most moral people are those that are most outraged. After all, when we go to the dentist, or the car mechanic, or the tax preparer, or an attorney, we judge them by the amount of outrage they display. Outrage comes really handy when you need help. Such trifles as being a good parent, or doing quality work, or giving donations, are nothing compared to the immense benefit to humanity of sheer outrage. Stay outraged, my friend, you might just help ecraser l’infame du jour.

      • amigo
        April 3, 2017, 3:58 pm

        “Everyone knows that the most moral people are those that are most outraged. – See more at: http://mondoweiss.net/2017/03/will-assassination-lead/#comment-176225

        Anyone who is moral does not get outraged with those they do not respect , so you should have few , if any concerns .On the bright side , if you do get in trouble , you can always buy your way out.

      • Mooser
        April 3, 2017, 4:23 pm

        “catalan” perhaps you should read some of this. Shouldn’t take much, but I wanted to give you plenty of choice.

      • catalan
        April 3, 2017, 6:02 pm

        Shouldn’t take much, but I wanted to give you plenty of choice. Mooser
        Thanks mooser, always appreciate a free psych evaluation. Here is one for you:
        https://roadlesstravelled.me/2016/06/30/safety-in-numbers-the-new-mob-mentality/

    • Mooser
      April 3, 2017, 1:58 pm

      .” I am extremely grateful for all I have as a wealthy American Jew.”

      Are you comfortable, “catalan”? Are you comfortable?

    • talknic
      April 3, 2017, 3:14 pm

      @ catalan

      thanks for again showing readers the vile nature of an apologist for Zionist colonization

      you’re doing a great job

      keep up th’ good work

      ‘wealthy American Jew’ cute stuff. As if anyone here believes a proven liar

      • oldgeezer
        April 3, 2017, 8:57 pm

        @talknic

        Catalan acts as an apologist for zionist criminals sometimes. And he has shown himself to be a zionist on others.

        I think his overriding interest is himself and he would sell anyone and anything for his personal interests.

        He even tries to convince others that doi g so is normal.

        Luckily for humanity (and even zionists) he’s wrong. He is not alone in the world but he is on the freak fringes.

        Hey catalan… no you aren’t a good parent when you’re raising kids with twisted venal values.

      • catalan
        April 4, 2017, 9:17 am

        Oldgeezer,
        You have convinced me: the path to a better world is paved with anonymous insults of strangers. If so, I need to find me a forum where the majority agrees with me and I can share in the fun. Sounds awesome and I didn’t think that this is so beneficial.

      • Mooser
        April 4, 2017, 12:22 pm

        “You have convinced me: the path to a better world is paved with anonymous insults of strangers”

        “Anonymous insults of strangers”? How the hell are we “strangers”? You’ve been around here for years “catalan”!

      • RoHa
        April 5, 2017, 3:35 am

        Well, some of us are stranger than others, Mooser. Not you, of course.

      • RoHa
        April 5, 2017, 4:45 am

        Though I’m not sure our kindness can be depended upon.

      • Mooser
        April 5, 2017, 1:15 pm

        “Though I’m not sure our kindness can be depended upon.”

        Our charity, compassion and forbearance can always be depended upon. Look at the way we treat “catalan”.

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