Hamas appears to be attempting to signal that Israel has failed to eliminate them from Gaza’s largest former population centers. Despite ongoing military operations in the southern portion of the Strip, uniformed and civilian “police” units and other civil servants have shown up in what’s left of Gaza City in recent days. A Hamas spokesperson claimed that partial salary payments were being made to workers, though it’s unclear what sort of operations they are supposedly conducting. Israel has already responded with renewed rocket strikes in Gaza City, but this remains a disturbing sign that Hamas may be more resilient than many had hoped. So is this a sign that Hamas continues to thrive despite the ongoing assault, or simply a public relations move intended to push Israel into some sort of compromise? (Associated Press)
Hamas has begun deploying police forces and making partial salary payments to some of its civil servants in Gaza City in recent days, resurfacing in areas from which Israel had withdrawn the bulk of its troops a month ago, four residents and a senior official in the militant group said Saturday.
Signs of a Hamas resurgence in the Gaza Strip’s largest city underscore the group’s resilience despite Israel’s deadly air and ground campaign against it over the past four months. Israel has said it’s determined to crush Hamas militarily and prevent it from returning to power in Gaza, an enclave it has ruled since 2007.
In recent days, Israeli forces renewed strikes in the western and northwestern parts of Gaza City, including in areas where some of the salary distributions were reported to have taken place.
Local residents told reporters that they had seen uniformed police officers at the police station adjacent to Shifa Hospital, the site of contentious fighting earlier in the war. It is alleged that payments of $200 had been made to some civil servants, allowing them to return to work. Of course, most of Gaza City is rubble at this point, and the population has largely fled to the south, so it’s unclear what purpose they would be serving.
This may be mostly for show, but it’s still a disturbing development. Israel claims to have already killed or captured at least 9,000 Hamas fighters. How many could there be left? And where are they getting cash to hand out to civil servants? The obvious answer would be Iran, but their ability to move freely in the area has clearly been diminished by the Israeli invasion.
Even if these reports are accurate, these are not uniformed Hamas fighters that are showing up. They are civil servants from the “civilian” portion of the Hamas government. Yet this serves as a reminder that most if not all of the Palestinian “civilians” in Gaza are supporters of Hamas. Israel has clearly crippled Hamas’ militant capabilities, but there will be many people in the Strip willing to step up and take the place of those that have been killed or captured.
Flooding and sealing the terror tunnels was an excellent strategic choice, though many remain to be dealt with. But all that’s really doing is driving Hamas to the surface where they can blend in with the supposed civilian population. Israel has been establishing a swath of “no man’s land” around the border of the Gaza Strip which will make it far more difficult for the enemy to launch a ground attack into Israeli territory, particularly with the tunnels being sealed. But there are still more than a million Palestinians and hidden Hamas fighters remaining. This war could drag on for another year without eliminating all of them. Eventually, Israel will be forced to answer the ongoing question of what sort of government can be established to replace Hamas when this is over. Unfortunately, no clear answers have emerged.