Tonight, Hamas official Ismail Radwan called for a third intifada on Al-Aqsa TV and other media outlets: “Our people in the West Bank, Gaza and inside [Israel], tomorrow is the day of rage, the day of confrontation, and the day of renewing the intifada.”
Hamas is attempting to ride popular sentiment and ignite a fire which the Palestinian Authority, Israel’s biggest asset in sustaining the occupation, cannot control.
A whole generation of Palestinian youth have grown under Israeli occupation in the post-second intifada era, along with the PA’s “security coordination” with Israel, and sentiment against the US-funded PA is widespread. While the PA typically collaborates to repress Palestinian demonstrations, as it did with brute force in the beginning of the latest protests, officials have opted to let them continue for fear the demonstrators may turn on it, finally eroding and collapsing the PA.
Meanwhile, support for Hamas has steadily increased as its strategy of military confrontation resonates with a majority of Palestinians. The election of Hamas in Bir Zeit University – the West Bank’s most liberal university – served as a bellwether for a political shift occurring among the young and educated Palestinian generation. The vote also indicated a major reaffirmation of Palestinian support for armed resistance.
However, as strong as Hamas present itself on the ground, it has never been more weak and isolated abroad. Hamas’ relationship with Iran has severed, leaving only Qatar and Turkey as regional allies.
On the military side Hamas is projecting weakness to Israel as well. Despite calls for resumed operations on Israeli targets after airstrikes killed a pregnant woman and her baby girl early Sunday morning, none of the armed factions made statements that operations would resume in any capacity. As Hamas’ Basem Naim, Head of Council on International Relations explained to me in an interview, “Hamas is not interested in escalation.”
Still, Al-Qassam, Hamas’ armed wing, and other resistance factions have continued to prepare for another inevitable Israeli assault, expanding the vast networks of tunnels throughout the Gaza Strip.
In the meantime, Israeli snipers continue to fire live ammunition and explosive dum dum rounds at protesters in Gaza. Hundreds of demonstrators have been injured in the last week and at least eleven killed including three boys from ages 13-15. Similar to the PA, Hamas security forces have, for the most part, not impeded the demonstrations, which it often does.
Tonight, after Hamas called for an intifada, additional Israeli forces deployed to Gaza’s borders.
Mass demonstrations are expected tomorrow and Israeli forces will presumably continue to shoot to kill. The futility and bloody reality of Israel’s deadly deterrence policy will likely be on full display.
Last Friday, an estimated 1,000 demonstrators, mostly from from the Gaza area, marched down a dirt road and through a wide, open field to the Nahal Oz crossing. Before they were able to reach the fence, Israeli forces shot them like sitting ducks on an open pond.
On Tuesday, youth from the northern areas of the Gaza Strip marched to the Erez crossing. Unlike the open area of the Nahal Oz crossing, the terrain at the massive terminal traps protesters between a rugged desert overlooked by a remote control machine gun and a kilometers-long iron cage that serves as the crossing’s entry/exit point, effectively reducing the protestors to fish in a barrel for Israeli soldiers. At least three heavily-armed soldiers were stationed, untouchable, on an elevated platform behind a concrete wall in front of a metal fence dozens of meters high where they fired directly down on defenseless, crouching protesters who could throw stones and an occasional molotov cocktail.
By staying quiet military while attempting to depose Israel’s occupation subcontractor in the West Bank, Hamas may end up the beneficiary of the current uprisings. However, as Israeli troops amass, the situation can easily escalate into a military confrontation – a possibility Palestinian armed factions have quietly prepared for. While the political factions continue to posture, Israel remains in ultimate control of the situation and continues to pour gas on the flames, leading the entire land into deeper violence and chaos.