It only took a few hours after the suicide bombing earlier this week that killed three Palestinian policemen in the Gaza Strip for Hamas security officers to arrest the mastermind behind the horrific crime. Others linked directly to the suicide bombers were also picked up.
Despite the condemnation of the Palestinian Authority and Mahmoud Abbas, Hamas is generally regarded as one of the first groups to confront the threat of extremist ideology in the besieged territory. It was, after all, Hamas which eliminated Abdel Latif Moussa’s Salafi Jihadist group ten years ago. Moussa had announced the establishment of an independent emirate in a speech at the Sheikh Al-Islam Ibn Taymiyah Mosque in 2009, after his group — Jund Ansar Allah — declared Hamas members to be non-believers.
Having failed to get rid of Hamas despite waging three military offensives against the Gaza Strip since 2008, Israel has been looking at ways to destabilise the security of the enclave from within, specifically through plans to infiltrate and direct the actions of extremist groups. The resultant bombings would, in effect, be Israeli bombings.
This scenario is given credence by the fact that this week’s suicide bombers targeted a traffic police checkpoint, which is relatively insignificant in terms of security and would probably not warrant the sacrifice of one’s life. The main objective was clearly for the attack to happen so that it would impose new and unexpected priorities for the resistance movement, thus affecting its ability to challenge the Israeli occupation.
Intelligence suggests that the plan was to carry out large-scale bombings in heavily-populated areas where members of the security services live and work, as well as Palestine Police transport. Israel cannot afford to repeat the scale of its 2008 war scenario for simple financial reasons.
Looking at the operations carried out by the militant groups, we find that it is the Israelis who benefit the most from, for example, the assassination of former prisoner Mazen Faqha, the attack on ex-Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah’s convoy, or the attempt to kill Deputy Interior Minister Tawfik Abu Naim, who is also a former prisoner.
In terms of timing and the regional context, it is Israel which stands to benefit most from the latest bombings, given the current tension between Israel and Lebanon’s Hezbollah, and the Palestinian resistance movement’s talk of engaging in the next confrontation.
Hence, Israel wanted to be able to point to Gaza and say that the security situation is not calm enough, in the hope of diverting the attention of Hamas and removing it from the equation in a military confrontation on the nominal border with southern Lebanon. It has to be said that the Israelis are very skilled at creating confusion and chaos, as well as carrying out security strikes to achieve their strategic objectives.
Over the years, the relationship between Hamas and militant groups has gone through various stages, from dialogue to security crackdowns, but understandings have soon collapsed, usually as a result of regional state or Zionist interference. However, it is clear that Hamas has the military capacity and capabilities to confront the members of the extremist groups, control them and, most importantly, do this with popular support for its own direct approach to confronting the Zionist enemy rather than fellow Palestinians. If we want to know who is really behind the bombings in Gaza, look for who benefits from them.
This article first appeared in Arabic in the Palestinian Information Centre on 30 August 2019