Hamas Wants to Maintaining its Rule in Gaza
The IDF will utilize the ceasefire to refresh its troops, refurbish operational plans for the southern part of the Gaza Strip, and uncover tunnels and explosives for later destruction. Hamas is expected to play the card of the hostages, extending the ceasefire further, thereby maintaining its rule in Gaza. If successful, this could significantly undermine Israeli deterrence, even posing an existential threat. Negotiations are anticipated regarding about 120 young men and women who have been kidnapped.
The upcoming days of ceasefire, likely more than four, are set to be tense, benefiting Hamas, whose aim is to hurt Israelis and deepen internal divisions. However, this is not the organization’s primary goal. They are mainly focused on extending the ceasefire as long as possible until it becomes permanent, using the international community, including the USA. This strategy offers Hamas two significant strategic advantages. First, if Israel does not continue fighting and fails to take control of terrorist and governance hubs in Gaza, Hamas will retain its control over the area and its people. If this occurs, Israel would not have achieved its primary war goal – undermining Hamas’ military and civil governance. The implications for the Gaza surrounding areas and Israel, in general, are clear.
GRAPHIC WARNING October 7th Raw Video Footage
Hamas Needs a Win
Hamas and its Iranian and Hezbollah patrons’ second goal is ideological: to declare victory in the war against the IDF that began on October 7 and ended without Hamas and Islamic Jihad being defeated. If the ceasefire, which began today (Friday), becomes permanent, their claim will be valid. The IDF has not yet taken control of two primary Hamas strongholds in northern Gaza – Jabalia and Shuja’iyya – and the organization still freely controls southern Gaza, where all its primary military strongholds and the hostages are located.
The claim that this is Hamas’ goal is not speculative. The Prime Minister of Qatar and his Foreign Minister, who are mediating the hostage deal and are Hamas supporters, have explicitly stated their intention to extend the ceasefire as much as possible and make it permanent. Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amir Abdollahian, who visited Qatar yesterday and met with its leaders, likely came to ensure this negotiation endpoint. Meanwhile, Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi has explicitly declared Hamas victorious as the IDF ceased fire without achieving any of its war objectives. If the ceasefire becomes permanent, Raisi will be right. This would be considered a Hamas victory throughout the Muslim world and even in the West, significantly damaging Israeli deterrence to the point of being an existential threat.
Hamas and its patrons’ basic assumption is sound: the longer the ceasefire lasts, the greater the pressure on Israel from the USA and other Western entities to stop fighting and settle for the immense destruction already caused to Gaza and security arrangements on the border that would improve the feelings of Gaza surrounding area residents. Egypt, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, and other regional countries will also pressure in this direction to calm their streets, where Islamist demonstrations in support of Hamas are constantly taking place.
Hamas Will Leverage the Hostages
Hamas will use the hostages and captives like a poker player uses his cards. Currently, sources close to the negotiations say Hamas admits to having only 50 hostages and another 20-30 in the hands of “other elements” that it could collect if its people are allowed to go out into the field during the ceasefire. This totals 70-80 Israelis, including babies, children, teenage boys and girls under 17, and elderly men and women in their 70s and 80s. Additionally, although Hamas does not provide information, it holds about 120 young men and women in their 20s and 30s, over whom it apparently intends to conduct separate negotiations that would extend the ceasefire by dozens of days and also release a significant number of security prisoners from Israeli jails.
The Hamas leadership has no interest in violating the ceasefire, but it does not control all its activities in northern Gaza. Experience shows that those still in Jabalia and Shuja’iyya have not yet surrendered, but a significant part of them is expected to blend into the remaining civilian population there and try to escape with them to southern Gaza. Therefore, Hamas’ military resistance to IDF forces at the end of the ceasefire will not be strong in northern Gaza, but at least some of these escapees will reinforce Hamas’ strongholds in the south. Additionally, the rules of engagement have been changed so that the IDF will not use live fire against residents unless there is a threat to life, even those trying to return to northern Gaza.
Violations of Cease Fire
Violations of the ceasefire are expected from time to time, and it’s very possible that these will not be at the initiative of the Hamas leadership, but rather as a result of local activists currently hiding in tunnels who did not hear about it or who came to the surface and encountered IDF forces by accident. There’s no need to rush to renew the fighting as a result of such local violations, because the fate of the hostages is more important. Only if there are significant violations, such as rocket fire on Israel, will there be a need to reconsider the course and find a way to remind Hamas, not in words, that it is living on borrowed time and that the survival of it and the activists who violate the ceasefire is not guaranteed.
It can be assumed that the ceasefire will not particularly hinder the IDF from renewing the fighting, even if it lasts four days for the release of additional hostages. On the contrary, the IDF can send forces for rest, continue to expose fighting tunnels, rocket launchers, and explosives, and do the main job, which is the destruction of Hamas’ military and governmental infrastructures. The explosion of the tunnels, which could be interpreted as a violation of the ceasefire, can be done after the fighting resumes. The main thing is to expose the infrastructures and prepare them for destruction in the meantime.
The ceasefire also allows the IDF to prepare and plan its moves in southern Gaza better, more creatively, and surprisingly. Intelligence gathering will not be significantly harmed as a result of the ban on flying in the skies of the Strip for most of the hours of the day in the north and all hours of the day in the south. Every intelligence gathering means and method has alternatives.
The main problem will be mental. The reservists, whose motivation and determination to eradicate Hamas drove most of them forward with a strength I have not seen in any of Israel’s wars, will now remember their children, home problems, and livelihoods that have been affected. This could affect motivation, although from what I have seen in the field, this is not a real danger to the loss of the IDF’s fighting spirit.
Undermining the Collective Mental Resilience
The big unknown is what will happen if Hamas announces that it is ready to negotiate on those 120 young men and women in its hands and demands to extend the ceasefire in a way that turns it into a long-term ceasefire. This will be the big dilemma facing the State of Israel. Hamas is trying to undermine the collective mental resilience of the citizens of the State of Israel by cynically playing the card of the hostages. If we value life, we must be strong and not show Hamas, its supporters in Iran, and their emissaries that their efforts to bring about a mental breakdown are bearing fruit. Remember: a strong and threatening State of Israel will be able to release the hostages – all of them – faster and without paying an unimaginable strategic price.