Israeli Op in Gaza Damaged Hamas' Capabilities But Not Its Spirit of Resistance, Says Expert

© AFP 2023 / -A picture taken on May 13, 2021 shows a ball of fire engulfing the Al-Walid building which was destroyed in an Israeli airstrike on Gaza city early in the morning.
A picture taken on May 13, 2021 shows a ball of fire engulfing the Al-Walid building which was destroyed in an Israeli airstrike on Gaza city early in the morning.  - Sputnik International, 1920, 10.05.2022
During the Guardian of the Walls campaign, Israel struck more than 1,500 of the Gaza Strip's military targets, including launch sites, command and control centres. It also dealt a severe blow to the Palestinian enclave's tunnels, but a local analyst says Hamas is now working on rebuilding what was destroyed.
A year ago, Israel launched an operation codenamed 'Guardian of the Walls' in response to a barrage of rockets fired from the Gaza Strip.
During the 12-day military campaign, Israel struck more than 1,500 terror targets belonging to Hamas and the Palestinian Islamic Jihad that destroyed launch sites, command and control centres as well as weapon depots. The strikes also devastated the Islamic groups' tunnel system, harming militants' ability to carry out offensive and defensive operations.
Smoke rises after an Israeli air strike in Gaza City near Barcelona Park and multiple government places, one of the biggest air strikes on the Gaza Strip, early on May 12, 2021. - Sputnik International, 1920, 12.05.2021
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Licking the Wounds

But Mkhaimar Abusada, a Gaza-based political analyst, says that Israel only managed to destroy some 5 percent of Hamas' capabilities and that the Islamic group, which controls the Strip, is now in the process of replenishing what was wiped out.

"Hamas wasted no time in reconstructing its tunnels and its military infrastructure. We don't really know what has been achieved but we do know that they are working tirelessly to rebuild what had been destroyed."

The tactics are not new to Hamas. Since 2007, when they forcibly took over the enclave, and until 2020, the group faced three rounds of military face-offs with Israel. During each of those confrontations Israel destroyed much of Gaza and shattered the group's military capabilities. But every time, Hamas managed to rise from the ashes, growing stronger than before.
Now, Abusada believes, it might be the case once more.
Palestinian supporters of Hamas Islamist movement and of Fatah party wave their faction's flags during a rally to support the Palestinian political unity deal, in the West Bank city of Jenin. (File) - Sputnik International, 1920, 09.05.2022
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In recent weeks reports have emerged that Hamas has been trying out its new rockets and that it was rebuilding the so-called Tunnel Metro, a labyrinthine system of underground passages used to smuggle people, goods and weapons. It also serves as a means to infiltrate Israeli territory to kidnap soldiers and civilians or carry out other terror acts.
Israel has been trying to stop that. Since 2016, the Jewish state has been working on the construction of a 65-kilometers-long underground wall, made of steel and concrete, that surrounds the Gaza Strip and prevents militants from digging tunnels. But that didn't seem to deter the enclave's Islamists, who continue to reconstruct old tunnels and build new ones.

Cash Injections

It is not really clear how Hamas has managed to fund pricey projects, some of which cost $3 million to construct. The economic situation in the enclave has never been stable but years of the Israeli blockade coupled with the coronavirus pandemic have brought Gaza to its knees.
The deteriorating ties with Turkey -- triggered by its recent rapprochement with Israel -- have also taken a toll on the Strip's resources. But Abusada says the Islamic group has its finances in place.
"The warming Israel-Turkey relations won't have any impact on the financial support of Hamas, primarily because it only provided Gaza with humanitarian support," said the expert.

"The assistance that goes to the military capabilities of Hamas comes from Qatar. It was Doha that pledged millions of dollars into the reconstruction of the enclave. And it was they who pay the salaries of Hamas employees," he added.

Those cash injections have emboldened Hamas. In his recent speech, Yahya Sinwar, the leader of the group in the Gaza Strip, said the movement will not hesitate to use any force if Israel violates the Palestinians' rights on Al-Aqsa, a mosque in Jerusalem that is one of the Muslims' holiest sites.
Abusada says Hamas is well aware that the balance of power is not on their side and that another confrontation with Israel would inflict more pain on the Palestinian people. It would also lead to the destruction of the enclave. Yet, he is also warning that if Hamas is pushed into a corner, it might have no choice but to fight back.
Masked militants from the Izzedine al-Qassam Brigades, a military wing of Hamas, march with their rifles along the main road of the Nusseirat refugee camp, central Gaza Strip, Thursday, 28 October 2021. - Sputnik International, 1920, 08.05.2022
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"For many Palestinians, this has been the worst and the most violent Ramadan since 1967. Many have been injured amid clashes with the Israelis. Many others have been arrested," said the pundit referring to clashes between Palestinian worshippers and Israeli security forces that erupted on Temple Mount amid alleged Israeli violations of the holy site in Jerusalem.
"Ramadan might be over but this is not the end of it. The situation is inflammable and everything can explode at any given moment," he concluded.
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