Alternate headline: Yesterday’s question answered. The sudden accuracy of Israeli attacks on Hamas leadership didn’t escape the notice of those who have survived the latest round of retaliatory air strikes after Hamas violated yet another cease-fire. After three top commanders got killed in Gaza, Hamas went on a mole hunt … and executed 18 accused “collaborators.” Seven of them were killed outside a mosque, in front of worshipers:
Another eleven were killed outside of an abandoned police station:
Hamas conducted both events publicly to send a clear message to Gazans about who’s in charge:
In the public execution, militants wearing masks and dressed in black gunned down the suspects, whose faces were covered and hands bound, as worshippers emerged from the Omari mosque on Palestine Square, one of Gaza’s busiest districts.
“The resistance has begun an operation called ‘strangling the necks’, targeting collaborators who aid the (Israeli) occupation, kill our people and destroy houses,” a pro-Hamas website said.
A so-called conviction letter signed by the “Palestinian Resistance” was posted on a wall near to where the bodies of alleged collaborators lay. The notice read:
“They provided the enemy with information about the whereabouts of fighters, tunnels of resistance, bombs, houses of fighters and places of rockets, and the occupation bombarded these areas killing a number of fighters… Therefore, the ruling of revolutionary justice was handed upon him.”
The problem for Hamas is that “the beatings will continue until morale improves” is supposed to be a joke. Summary executions conducted in public might make Gazans more fearful of Hamas leadership, but not necessarily more loyal. The message proclaims “justice,” but this is nothing more than revenge — and it’s not clear to anyone who these alleged collaborators were, let alone if they were actually guilty of any “crime” at all. Gazans have already become disenchanted with Hamas for its determination to conduct a war on their backs rather than cut a face-saving deal of some sort, and rounding up and killing the so-called usual suspects won’t endear them any more to Hamas and its dictatorial grip on the enclave.
This indicates a new level of desperation for Hamas, and the New York Times notices it as well:
Hamas is the party that keeps extending this summer’s bloody battle in the Gaza Strip, repeatedly breaking temporary truces and vowing to endlessly fire rockets into Israel until its demands are met. But the latest round of fighting appears to have given Israel the upper hand in a conflict that has already outlasted all expectations and is increasingly becoming a war of attrition. …
Israel’s advantage has never looked more lopsided. In contrast to the earlier phase of the war, Israel this week deployed its extensive intelligence capabilities and overwhelming firepower in targeted bombings with limited civilian casualties less likely to raise the world’s ire. …
The long-term impact of the strikes against the Hamas commanders, which followed an attempted assassination of the head of the armed wing on Tuesday night, may be limited. Hamas waged its fiercest fight ever this summer despite Israel’s 2012 hit on the director of day-to-day military operations.
But in killing Hamas militant leaders responsible for years of headline-grabbing attacks, including the 2006 abduction of Sgt. Gilad Shalit, Israel dealt a profound psychological blow to the enemy while giving the home front something clear to celebrate.
“These are senior people,” said Michael Herzog, a retired Israeli brigadier general and fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy. “People in Gaza know exactly who they are, people in Israel know exactly who they are. In our bilateral context, it resonates strongly.”
Hamas had counted on world pressure to force Israel into concessions to end the conflict, a strategy Hamas has used in the past to some significant effect. This time, however, global attention has been diverted in a particularly damaging way to ISIS and the genocides conducted in Iraq and Syria. The cognitive difference of proclaiming the ideology of ISIS as perverse while demanding Israel engage with Hamas diplomatically is too much for most of the global community. That has left Hamas twisting in the wind, as Egypt and Israel have successfully boxed out two of Hamas’ few allies in Turkey and Qatar from interfering in negotiations, and put even more scrutiny on the fact that it’s Hamas that violates the cease-fire agreements and not Israel.
If Gazans want peace, they will have to jettison Hamas. Hamas knows this, which is why they’re resorting to summary executions on the streets to keep the Gazans afraid to resist them. That will only work for so long, and that time is getting progressively shorter and shorter.