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Why Is Hamas Still Shooting?

Earlier today and not long after Israel had agreed to extend the temporary cease-fire that existed in Gaza, a new barrage of rockets was fired from the Hamas-run strip into Israel. Hamas’s latest rupture of a cease-fire caused Israel to pull its negotiators out of the talks in Cairo where Egyptian and American interlocutors have attempted to craft a compromise solution that would allow an agreement to end the shooting. But before the U.S. starts pressuring Israel to send its diplomats back to the table, Americans should realize that the reason why Hamas is still firing missiles has not a little to do with their expectations about the international reaction to their behavior that have been confirmed by the Obama administration.

Like the thousands launched in the last month as the latest fighting raged, those fired today were either shot down by Iron Dome or exploded harmlessly in empty fields. But the massive nature of this provocation makes it clear that the rockets were not the act of isolated or rogue groups in Gaza but a concerted effort by Hamas to pressure both Israel and the other parties to the talks to give in to their demands to lift the blockade of the strip without the Islamists agreeing to any real limits on their ability to re-arm.

Some observers, like reporters from the New York Times, think the back and forth between Hamas and Israel is some kind of pantomime show with no real purpose. As the Times piece noted, both sides know they won’t get what they want in the talks. But it needs to be understood that so long as Hamas believes the international community will be so concerned about the plight of the people of Gaza–whose lives have been devastated by the war the terror group launched–that they will eventually be able to corner the Israelis and force them and the Egyptians to loosen the blockade, the violence will continue.

The willingness of Hamas to keep firing despite their complete military defeat at the hands of the Israelis illustrates a key point about the asymmetrical warfare in which the two sides have been engaged.

Hamas rocket barrages have been a fiasco as almost none of the thousands of rockets fired have found their targets. Their enormous investment in building dozens of tunnels aimed at facilitating cross-border terror attacks has been thrown away. Indeed, their decision to launch an ill-timed war this summer not only undid years of work before the tunnels could be exploited, it also led to their planning for a coup in the West Bank against Mahmoud Abbas and the Palestinian Authority to be discovered in advance of that plot being set in motion.

And yet the reality that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu must face is that despite the victories won by Israel’s Iron Dome missile defense system and the Israel Defense Forces’ successful incursion into Gaza, Hamas is not only undeterred from launching more rockets; it also doesn’t consider itself to have been defeated.

By understandably halting that offensive without toppling Hamas because of the great cost such a battle would exact from his country, Netanyahu has tacitly accepted that this last month would not be the last battle fought with Hamas. But the question before Israel is not whether Netanyahu will order an all-out offensive designed to rid the strip of its Hamas tyrants once and for all. That decision has already been made and Netanyahu has already made clear that Israel won’t or can’t pay such a price in blood and international pressure that a re-occupation of the strip would entail.

Instead, the question yet to be answered is whether international pressure—and in particular pressure from the United States—will force the Israelis to allow a loosening of the blockade so as to help Gaza rebuild and Hamas to re-arm. By keeping the rocket barrages going even though it knows that they will do little or no damage to Israel, Hamas is counting on that pressure being increased. More rockets will force more Israeli counter-strikes and those will, without doubt, worsen the situation of the Palestinians in Gaza and therefore increase the agitation going on around the globe against Israel’s measures of self-defense.

That is why if the Obama administration is serious about crafting a cease-fire that means anything, it must signal to Hamas that it must abandon its hopes for a political victory in Cairo that will overshadow its military defeat. Yet while still insisting that it disdains Hamas, the administration’s determination to pick fights with Israel and to force it to back down on demands for the demilitarization of the strip have unintended consequences. By pushing for Israel to halt the fighting and for it to give in to some of Hamas’s demands, the U.S. has once again set in motion a series of events that will only lead to more violence.

Netanyahu is determined not to unnecessarily exacerbate the relationship with the U.S. and President Obama’s brutal attempts to force it to stop fighting by halting weapon shipments have reduced Israel’s room to maneuver. But he should resist pressure to return to Cairo. As bad as Hamas’s intermittent missile barrages may be, agreeing to a formal cease-fire that would open up the floodgates for the resupply of the group’s arsenal via shipments from Iran would be far worse. Hamas is still firing in no small part to convince Obama to crack down even harder on Israel. The president should refuse to play along. But if he does, Israel must not agree to a deal that will make the next round of fighting with Hamas just as bad, if not worse, than the last one.



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5 Responses to “Why Is Hamas Still Shooting?”

  1. MARC SALZBERGER says:

    Hamas Is Still Sooting Because It Can.

    And because Israel can do nothing about it.

    Which is why now is the time for Israel to cut a narrow No Man’s Land along part or all of its 51 km border with Gaza. It need only be a single meter deep for every rocket most recently fired out of Gaza. And for all future exploding missives, the zone could be deepened another meter and another.

    Implemented now, this week, the direct connection with Hamas’ provocation, its violation of the cease fire would be unmistakable; no less Israel’s desperation, its lack of an alternative, short of shooting back and causing Gaza more injuries and rubble.

    At any other time the world would explode in fury and rage. But not given Hamas’ current behavior. Now such a none violent, measured reply would seem justified and humane. Yet Hamas would find it far more objectionable than Palestinian deaths. Moreover, Israel would gain a way to punish proportionately, but also a way to reward cooperation by contracting the zone.

  2. JONATHAN KEILER says:

    Hamas has been militarily defeated only if you define defeat as who lost more people, or who suffered more damage. But of course, history shows that the winner of a military conflict often suffers greater losses than the loser, e.g., Vietnam, the USSR in WW2.

    Victory of defeat is better defined as which side met its objectives. In the case of the most recent Gaza war the answer is neither side. Israel fought mainly to send a message to Hamas “quiet for quiet” (and belatedly to destroy tunnels) and only succeeded (at least partially) with the second objective. Hamas fought to gain concessions from Israel, and international sympathy (by cynically subjecting Gaza to Israeli strikes) and has also been partially successful in its second objective.

    Hamas by firing rockets is sending its own message to Israel, that it will not get “quiet for quiet” until Hamas win concessions, on ports, fishing rights, etc.

    By any reasonable definition the fight so far is a draw. To get its quiet, Israel will either have to give Hamas some of what it wants, or do what Tobin says it has decided it will not do, which is move into Gaza and defeat Hamas. So a draw it is, and will remain.

  3. BEVELYN PARK says:

    Marc Salzberger’s solution is the best solution I have seen proposed in the many articles I have read on the past and current Hamas-Israel wars. It’s clean, it’s clear and it would be successful because it would hurt Hamas–and that’s the best objective of all.

  4. COL HOWARD LAITIN says:

    The next round will be worse. Iran is already working with Hamas on improved geo-guidance and maneuvering trajectories to overcome IRON DOME. Better guidance, better missiles and saturation launches will overcome missile-defense.

    The Hamas launchers will not locatable — They have small profile and they’re very transportable.

    Israel must establish a ratio of physical destruction in Gaza for each missile launch against Israel. On day one, one for 1. On day 2, 2-for-1. On day 3, 4 for one. On day 4, 8 for 1. Etc.When the Hamas rockets stop Israel, the United States and the European Union will know that Israel’s response was proportionate. That is defined by the amount of force necessary to accomplish the mission. Any less force is a waste of human lives. Any greater force is a waste of human lives. Cut off the head of the snake and you kill the snake. Mowed grass, go tit-for-tat and you lose many more casualties then a forceful, successful conclusion.

  5. EMILE TUBIANA says:

    Since Obama’s Cairo speech I always wrote that he does not understand the Middle East, the Arabs or the Iranians. I was good friends with Amir Abbas Hoveyda, the former Iranian Prime Minister under the Shah and with the Tunisian Prime Minister under Bourguiba. We always used to discuss about the Middle East, as I myself was born in North Africa and I am well acquainted with the Middle East and their language.

    The first mistake Obama made in Cairo was that he was received by the Muslim Brotherhood and not by Mubarak, who is an extraordinary man and was able to keep the Middle East quiet for 30 years. Obama may have learned the Koran, but from his speech I realized that he does not know the Arabs, let aside the Iranians who are very smart.

    Now Obama makes another grave mistake by forcing Netanyahu to follow his steps, for which he is not an expert, as he follows his entourage’s advice, and they are even less versed about the Middle East. Already, Mahmoud Abbas was getting along with Israel better than with the Hamas. By forcing the “negotiations” on Israel and Abbas and wanting to include the Hamas, Obama has spoiled the little understanding that existed between Israel and the Palestinians. We can see it as proof of this that now Abbas is siding with Israel, Egypt, Saudi Arabia and the UAE and not with Hamas. Obama is too young to have the wisdom for his job. He may be a good lawyer, but as President he is not able to bring about any policy success, be it nationally or abroad.

    Even if it may mean to cut the “good” relationship with the US, Israel must look out for its security first, and Obama’s interventions are harmful for Israel.




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