Tough choices for Hamas over Israeli annexation plans

A Palestinian boy wearing a headband attends a protest against Israel’s annexation plan, in Gaza. (Reuters)
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Updated 29 June 2020

Tough choices for Hamas over Israeli annexation plans

  • Despite a 2018 truce, Hamas and Israel still trade fire from time to time, with rockets or incendiary balloons launched from Gaza and reprisal strikes by Israel

GAZA CITY: Hamas has warned that Israeli annexation in the occupied West Bank would be a “declaration of war,” but the Islamist group must weigh the cost of a new fight, analysts say.
Recent weeks have seen almost daily protests in the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip against US President Donald Trump’s Middle East peace plan.
The proposals envisage Israel annexing its West Bank settlements and the Jordan Valley, Palestinian territory occupied since 1967 and located around 50 km from the enclave of Gaza.
The Israeli government is expected to decide from July 1 on the implementation of the Trump plan. As the clock ticks, Hamas, which has fought three wars against the Jewish state since 2007, is seeking to define its strategy in the face of the latest challenge.
“There is no doubt that Hamas’ options are complex because any response to the annexation will have consequences for the Gaza Strip,” said Palestinian analyst Adnan Abu Amer.
Despite a 2018 truce, Hamas and Israel still trade fire from time to time, with rockets or incendiary balloons launched from Gaza and reprisal strikes by Israel.
“Tensions at the border fence may resume, with the launch of incendiary and explosive devices,” said Mukhaimar Abu Saada, professor of political science at Gaza’s Al-Azhar University.
But he ruled out “the option of military activities” against Israel by Hamas, which rules over a territory already impoverished and under a crippling Israeli blockade.
The movement “does not want Gaza to pay the price, and wants to wait to see what is going on, organize popular protests and not have to engage in confrontation with Israel,” he added.
On Friday Israeli air force jets struck Hamas positions in Gaza after rockets were fired from the territory toward Israel for the first time since early May.
The previous day, Hamas’s military wing had warned that annexation would prompt a war.

FASTFACT

As the clock ticks, Hamas, which has fought three wars against the Jewish state since 2007, is seeking to define its strategy in the face of the latest challenge.

“The resistance considers the decision to annex the West Bank and the Jordan Valley to be a declaration of war on our people,” said spokesman Abu Ubaida.
And an official told AFP that Hamas was in talks with other factions in the coastal enclave to “coordinate the resistance and resume the ‘return marches’.”
On Sunday the deputy head of Hamas’s political wing, Khalil Al-Hayya, said that “total resistance and armed struggle (were) necessary to face the enemy’s plan,” calling for a “Day of Rage” on July 1.
In March 2018, the Palestinians launched weekly protests along Gaza’s border with Israel to demand “the right of return” for Palestinians who were chased out or fled from their lands when Israel was created in 1948.
They also demanded the lifting of the strict Israeli blockade imposed over a decade ago on Gaza purportedly to contain Hamas.
Attendance at the rallies waned late last year, then restrictions related to the new coronavirus pandemic added further complications.
If Israel goes ahead with its annexation plan, Hamas may take a “more pragmatic” attitude and perhaps allow other factions to fire rockets at Israel or engage in clashes along the border, said analyst Abu Amer.
But it would do everything to prevent a major response from Israel, he added.
Abu Amer said that Hamas wants armed attacks against Israel in the West Bank instead, in order to spare the Gaza Strip.
But for that, there would need to be a dialogue between Hamas and the rival Fatah party of West Bank-based Palestinian Authority (PA) president Mahmoud Abbas.
The two parties have been at loggerheads since the Islamist movement wrested control of the Gaza Strip from the PA in 2007 after a near-civil war, a year after winning parliamentary elections.
Since then, all efforts at inter-Palestinian reconciliation have failed.
In mid-June, a senior Hamas official, Salah Al-Bardawil, called for Palestinian political unity.
“We call on our people to turn this ordeal into an opportunity to get the Palestinian project back on track,” he said.
Abu Amer, however, said an agreement between the PA and Hamas is very slim, even “impossible, because of the lack of confidence” on both sides.
“The Palestinian Authority continues to hunt down and arrest Hamas activists in the West Bank on a daily basis,” fearing Hamas will resume operations in the West Bank and oust it, as it did in Gaza, he said.


Iraq’s foreign minister makes first visit to Iran

Updated 26 September 2020

Iraq’s foreign minister makes first visit to Iran

  • Iran sees neighboring Iraq as a possible route to bypass US sanctions that President Donald Trump re-imposed in 2018

TEHRAN: Iraq’s foreign minister arrived Saturday in Tehran for bilateral talks with senior Iranian officials, according to the state-run news agency.
IRNA reported that Fuad Hussein planned to meet his Iranian counterpart Mohammad Javad Zarif and President Hassan Rouhani, in what marked his first visit to the Iranian capital.
Zarif visited Baghdad in mid-July, when he met with Hussein and Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa Al-Kadhimi. It was Zarif’s first visit to Iraq since a US airstrike in January killed a top Iranian general, Qassim Soleimani, outside Baghdad’s international airport. The strike catapulted Iraq to the brink of a US-Iran proxy war that could have destabilized the Middle East.
After Zarif’s trip, the Iraqi premier visited Iran in July.
The report did not elaborate on the main reasons behind the top Iraqi diplomat’s two-day trip to Tehran.
Iran sees neighboring Iraq as a possible route to bypass US sanctions that President Donald Trump re-imposed in 2018 after pulling the US out of the 2015 nuclear deal between Tehran and world powers.
Last year, Iran’s exports to Iraq amounted to nearly $9 billion, the official IRNA news agency reported on Tuesday. It said the two nations will discuss increasing the amount to $20 billion.
Before the current global pandemic, some 5 million Iranian pilgrims annually brought in nearly $5 billion visiting Iraq’s Shiite holy sites.
Iran has seen the worst outbreak in the region, with more than 443,000 thousand confirmed cases and at least 25,300 deaths.
A news website affiliated with Iranian state TV, yjc.ir, reported that Iran canceled all its flights to Iraqi cities until the religious holiday of Arbaeen, due to concerns over the coronavirus outbreak. The holiday marks the end of the forty days of mourning that follow annually on the death anniversary of the seventh-century Muslim leader Hussein, who was killed at the Battle of Karbala during the tumultuous first century of Islam’s history.
Iran fought an eight-year war with Iraq that killed nearly 1 million people on both sides, after former Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein invaded in the early 1980s.