Gaza Fights Back

Will Israel make good its threat to assassinate Hamas leader Yahya Sinwar? 

By Abdel Bari Atwan

The Gaza Strip is back in the news headlines due to the determination of the leadership of the Hamas movement and its military wing to have its say and to apply in practice the theory of meeting fire with fire in confronting the Israeli occupation.

It is unclear how long the ceasefire which the movement announced had been concluded on Friday evening will last. This followed a period of escalated Israeli aggression that resulted in four Palestinian deaths and the killing of an Israeli soldier. What is clear, however, is that the Israeli leadership is in a dilemma, hence its threats to assassinate Hamas’ Gaza Strip leader Yahya as-Sinwar.

It is true that the balance of power overwhelmingly favours the occupation state, largely due to its supremacy in the air. But it is also true that the resistance  groups in the Gaza Strip have developed creative ways of offsetting this imbalance, such as the use of  incendiary kites and balloons and managing to penetrate the border fortifications to target Israeli sniper positions.

Hamas’ successful sniping of an Israeli soldier two days ago was highly significant, as it has been a long time since the resistance has been able to reach these troops. It prompted the Israeli leadership to threaten to launch a devastating military assault on the Strip, and to kill Sinwar who is deemed to be the main link between Hamas’ military and political wings and is described as one of the movement’s leading hawksß.

The Israeli leadership will not dare invade the Gaza Strip again, as a new invasion will not succeed in achieving what three previous invasions between 2008 and 2014 failed to. And murdering Sinwar may cost Israel even more dearly than price it paid for assassinating his namesake Yahya Ayyash more than two decades ago.

Israeli army spokesman Avichay Adereei threatened on Saturday to get Sinwar killed. He tweeted that there would be no immunity for anyone involved in terror and identified Sinwar by name. But these threats above all reflect a sense of panic and frustration at Hamas’ growing ability to fight back and confront the occupation in both political and military terms on the border in recent weeks.

Sinwar is said to directly supervise the March of Return demonstrations, as well as the units that launch the cross-border kites, balloons and drones. He seems to be more preoccupied with his military leadership role than his political one these days, as evidenced by the fact that he was not part of the Hamas delegation that went to Cairo for talks with Egyptian intelligence chief Gen. Abbas Kamel. The Israelis are unlikely to have threatened to eliminate him were they not convinced of his key role in escalating resistance to the occupation in all its forms in the Gaza Strip.

It is natural for Hamas to take these threats to assassinate Sinwar and other leading figures seriously, even after reaching the cease-fire deal. The Israeli military has along history of reneging on agreements when it seeks the head of a top figure like Sinwar.

When Ayyash was killed, Hamas vowed – and made good on its pledge – to carry out four revenge attacks, which resulted in the deaths of 35 Israelis. One can only wonder what the response would be should its intelligence operatives make good on its threat against Sinwar.

The situation in the Gaza Strip will remain open to all eventualities, and it is doubtful that the current cease-fire will hold — not because Hamas does not want to abide by it, but because Netanyahu is unsettled. He is reeling from the multiple defeats he has been dealt: whether in Syria where the army has retaken the south and ejected Israel’s clients and border guards, or in Gaza due to the political and military resurgence of the resistance movement, which has in turn brought the Palestine Question, and specifically the right of return, back to the centre of international and Arab public attention.