In the past few weeks several articles have been published by prominent figures in Hamas…
In the past few weeks several articles have been published by prominent figures in Hamas hinting at a possible change–or at least rethinking and reevaluation–of its terrorist tactics.
Yet another of these articles was published in the October 1998 issue of the monthly Filastin al-Muslimah, the principal organ of Hamas, published in London. The article, this time under the very clear title: “A new method of military resistance in Palestine,” is unsigned. An anonymous article in this monthly usually means either that it reflects the views of the Hamas leadership rather than those of an individual member, or that it was sent from inside the Territories and its author does not want to be exposed to pressures from the Palestinian Authority. It should be noted that the present article was written before the killing of the Awadallah brothers and the threats of Hamas to carry out large-scale operations in revenge.
This article attempts to leave vague the identity of the group responsible for the above-mentioned operations, while at the same time, making it quite clear–through various transparent hints–that Hamas was responsible, or at least that the operations were carried out by Hamas members. However, it may hint at another new phase in Hamas: a “green light” to the various Hamas groups in the West Bank, mainly in the Hebron area, to initiate independent operations. One reason for this change may be due to the difficult situation of Hamas activists there and the possible increase of surveillance by Palestinian security forces. We should remember that a number of developments have put Hamas in a very difficult situation: the killing of Muhi al-Din al-Sharif in March 1998; the subsequent arrests of Hamas political and military leaders; the killing of the Awadallah brothers in September 1998; the discovery of some of its “laboratories” and the pressure on the Palestinian Authority to escalate its cooperation with Israel.
In these circumstances (and perhaps influenced by possible internal reevaluations), the movement is currently promoting operations that will on one hand continue to grant Hamas its raison d`etre, especially with the renewal of the political talks between Israel and the Palestinian Authority. On the other hand such operation gain the sympathy of large circles in the Palestinian society–a very important element in the considerations of the Islamic movement.
The attempt to present two new kinds of operations here may also show that Hamas is dedicating much thought to the effects of its activities–on both the Israeli and Palestinian societies. There are hidden elements in the article that may give the impression that every operation is planned to attract the sympathy of parts of society without creating alienation from others. The anonymous author is deliberately indicating at the end of the article that there was no car bomb or suicide operation, as if to say that the new methods are more sophisticated: one was an heroic operation against one person in Hebron and the other in Tel-Aviv caused fewer casualties than did past operations.
What does all this portend? It is preto indicate categorically that this is going to be from now on the nature of the operations of Hamas, at least in the immediate future, till another next reevaluation. We should remember also Hamas’ need for a large scale revenge bombing in the style of the “old” operations, particularly after the ambiguous circumstances of the killing of the Awadallah brothers. However the present article may suggest a trend: courageous operations against Jewish settlers in places of dispute with Israel that may increase the popularity of Hamas, such as in the old part of Hebron. The article did not mention another operation, carried out on October 1st, 1998, by a hand grenade thrown at a group of Israeli soldiers in the same area, which resulted in the wounding of 10 soldiers and 4 Palestinian inhabitants. The article was probably written before this operation, but this operation may be along the lines of the new method it presents.
The article gives the impression that the main concern of Hamas nowadays is to hide its movements and leave them vague, due to the pressure they are confronting from both Israel and the Palestinian Authority. Therefore, they are willing to commit operations without taking responsibility, based on the (correct) assumption that the Palestinian public will recognized the hand of Hamas. The reevaluation is not only a result of looking for new ways of struggle but–and especially–a consequence of confusion among its ranks.
The ongoing pressure of the Palestinian security services on Hamas is therefore a key point and a very crucial factor in countering the terror of Hamas. This is a barrier that the Islamic movement is facing difficulties in getting past.