Analysis: Terror group’s main goal remains the destruction of Israel, however instead of fighting ‘the occupation’ directly from the Palestinian enclave, and risk more devastation for the Strip, it prefers to ignite the PA

On Tuesday morning, shortly after three Palestinians were killed in a counterterrorism operation in the West Bank city of Nablus, a Hamas spokesman in Gaza, Hazem Qassem, said, “it is clear that we are in a new phase of the conflict with the occupation, the main goal of which is taking the fight to the West Bank.”

This statement is not particularly surprising. It is no secret that Hamas has been attempting for quite some time to incite the Palestinians in the West Bank to carry out terror attacks against Israeli targets.

העימותים בשכם
Israeli security forces in Nablus


What is more surprising is the fact that a little over a day after the ceasefire between Israel and the Islamic Jihad in Gaza was brokered by Egypt, Qassem refrained from using the word “Gaza” in his long statement about vowing to continue the fight of “the resistance”.

The general approach Hamas has adopted recently is very similar to the segregation policy Israel imposed on Gaza over a decade ago – only in reverse.
In other words, Hamas wants to maintain peace in the Palestinian enclave, while in the West Bank the goal is to generate as much tension and violence as possible, which they believe will weaken the Palestinian Authority – as part of its preparations for “the day after” Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.

For the time being, Israel isn’t even at the top of Hamas’ priorities. Its main goal is to weaken the PA and Abbas’ Fatah faction as much as possible, while boosting its own popularity in every city, village, or refugee camp in the West Bank.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas during a joint press conference with Emmanuel Macron in Paris on Wednesday
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas during a press conference with Emmanuel Macron in Paris (Photo: Reuters)


During the latest flare-up between the Islamic Jihad and Israel, Hamas seemingly took on the role of the observer enjoying the spectacle. Palestinian sources in Gaza, however, told Ynet that “there was a lot of pressure coming from Hamas for the Islamic Jihad to agree to the ceasefire. Otherwise, why would they have stopped?”

According to the same sources, the trigger for that was Islamic Jihad’s errant rocket launches, which killed over a dozen Palestinians in the three-day campaign.

In the first such incident on Saturday night, an Islamic Jihad rocket hit a group of civilians in the Jabalia refugee camp, killing six, including four children. The next day, in the same area, another misfired rocket killed five children and teenagers. In the third incident – which was probably the “straw that broke Hamas’ back” – a rocket hit a Hamas policeman and his three children, killing them in the area of the Bureij refugee camp in the center of the Strip.

From that moment, Hamas’ leadership, including that residing abroad, made it clear to Gaza’s second largest terror group it must agree to the truce.

ירי רקטות מעזה
Rockets being launched from Gaza (Photo: AP)


Can Hamas become a partner in keeping the Gaza border quiet? Some officials in Israel believe so. However, those officials must understand that Hamas didn’t change its ultimate goal – destruction of Israel. It only changed its set of priorities and destroying Israel is no longer at the top – for now.

Hamas feels that at the moment there is an extraordinary opportunity for them to reach economic understandings with Israel without having to make any political concessions – which the PA has failed to do in the West Bank.

Gaza rulers “smell blood” in the West Bank, where the weakened PA is embroiled in corruption and internal battles over who will be Abbas’ successor. The PA is also losing its sovereignty in areas of Nablus and Jenin, which have turned into terror hotbeds.

Hamas sees all of this as an opportunity to amplify the anarchy (fauda in Arabic), which they hope will result in the downfall of Abbas and his regime.

פעילי חמאס חמושים בתגובה להפגנות בשייח ג'ראח
Hamas operatives (Photo: Reuters)


But Hamas is not the only contributing factor to the current reality. The Israeli policy that nurtures the relationship with Hamas in Gaza (not directly, of course), while ignoring the deteriorating ties with the PA will only worsen the situation.

The recent, almost daily, clashes between Israeli forces and Palestinian gunmen in Jenin, Hebron and Nablus is what “the day after” Abbas will look like.

According to security establishment’s data, in 2021 there were 104 significant terror attacks in the West Bank. While in 2022, some 97 attacks have already been recorded. In 2015, the number of significant terror attacks stood at 216 in the West Bank, but only 12 were shootings. In the first half of this year, on the other hand, 41 shooting attacks have already been recorded.

הלוויתו של המחבל איברהים אל-נבולסי בשכם
Thousands at a funeral of a Palestinian militant in Nablus (Photo: Reuters)


These numbers show that militants from various terror organizations in the West Bank that disappeared throughout the years are now back, and they are more dangerous than before. Those are the same armed Palestinians who rained chaos in the West Bank and inside Israel between 2001-2007, and carried out hundreds of deadly terror attacks.

Now, it seems, the fauda is back.

As reported by Ynetnews