Operation Cast Lead caused severe damage to Hamas’s military, security, administrative and civilian structures in the Gaza Strip, as well as to the infrastructure and public installations from or near which Hamas operated during the fighting. In the six months since the fighting ended, Hamas has made an effort to restore its internal security forces and military-terrorist wing (the Izz al-Din al-Qassam Brigades) to their previous strength and to upgrade their capabilities. At the same time, Hamas strives to control and supervise the rebuilding process, while not allowing the Palestinian Authority to gain a foothold.

1) Internal Rivalry Between Hamas and Fatah

The internal Palestinian rivalry between Hamas and Fatah: The rivalry did not abate after Operation Cast Lead but rather increased, and no real progress has been made so far at the internal Palestinian dialogue held in Cairo. The separation process between the Gaza Strip and Judea and Samaria, which intensified after Hamas took over the Gaza Strip in June 2007, continued after Operation Cast Lead. Two separateadministrative entities have taken hold, each ruled by a different establishment, each with its own policies and economy (although funds from the Palestinian Authority continue flowing into the Gaza Strip). One of the results is a fierce struggle between Hamas and the Palestinian Authority for the generous amounts of financial aid ($4.5 billion) promised to the Gaza Strip at the Sharm el-Sheikh conference, in effectpreventing the money from being used to rebuild the Gaza Strip infrastructure.

2) Hamas’s anti-Israel Ideology and Strategies Continue

Hamas’s belligerent ideology and strategies have remained the same:

Hamas continues to adhere to its rigid fundamental positions, including the use of terrorism (“resistance”), refusal to recognize Israel and to accept previous agreements reached between Israel and the PLO. With regard to practical matters, Hamas continues its intransigence, for example the issue of Gilad Shalit, which is extremely sensitive for Israel. One result is Hamas’s continued isolation in the Arab world and in the international arena, and so far no practical arrangements have been made between Israel, Egypt, the Palestinian Authority and Hamas which would normalize the movements of civilians and merchandise through the Gaza Strip crossings and make it possible for the raw materials needed for rebuilding to enter (such as steel and concrete, prevented by Israel). The continued restrictions on passage through the crossings and the difficulties posed by Egypt on operating the tunnel industry (especially after a Hezbollah network was uncovered in the region) also make it hard to rebuild the infrastructure and Hamas’s military capabilities damaged during the war.

3)Hamas’s Restrained Rocket Attacks

The aforementioned difficulties not withstanding, to restore normal life and advance rebuilding Hamas has adopted a policy of restrained attacks in recent months which it tries to enforce (although not entirely successfully) on rogue terrorist networks, especially those affiliated with the global jihad. The policy is accompanied by presenting a Smiley face to the Obama administration with the overall objective of achieving a time-out, even if only a tactical one, to give Hamas the time to strengthen its hold over the Gaza Strip, find solutions for the everyday problems of the populace, and restore and even upgrade the securityand military forces damaged by Operation Cast Lead.

4) Hamas Military Network Buildup

With regard to the military networks: Hamas is rebuilding and strives to upgrade its military-terrorist wing (the Izz al-Din al-Qassam Brigades). That includes replacing the weapons lost with new ones (including advanced weapons) by smuggling them in through the tunnels (despite Egypt’s intensive counter-activities). So far Hamas has smuggled in dozens of standard rockets, hundreds of mortar shells, dozens of anti-tank and anti-aircraft missiles, and tens of tons of standard explosives and raw materials for the manufacture of homemade weapons. The smuggling allows Hamas to extend the range of its rockets and to improve its anti-tank and anti-aircraft capabilities. In addition, the tunnel system in the Rafah region is in use again and is a vital channel for smuggling weapons (as well as food, equipment and fuel). Weapons are being manufactured again, and military training and instruction have been renewed (although for the time being theIzz al-Din al-Qassam Brigades are keeping a lower profile than they did before Operation Cast Lead).

With regard to security systems: Hamas is particularly concerned about restoring its internal security forces, which were severely damaged by the fighting, and to strengthen its control over the Gaza Strip. Five months after the end of Operation Cast Lead, Hamas succeeded in restoring the forces’ daily functioning, as can be seen by their increased deployment and visibility. The oppression of Hamas opponents (primarily Fatah) has been renewed to ensure that they do not try to regroup. In addition, new operatives are being recruited and an emergency exercise was being held to simulate emergency deployment and dealing with an Israel attack (a lesson learned from the blow delivered by the IDF at the beginning of Operation Cast Lead). Headquarters have been assigned temporary quarters, most of them in civilian locations, to find solutions, even temporary, for the problems involved in restoring the apparatuses which were attacked.

5) Hamas Administration and Control

With regard to administration and control: Hamas is making an enormous effort to establish its political control by suppressing its opponents. Fatah activists have been detained and executed and Hamas has increased its control of various civilian systems (education, health, unions, NGOS, clans). One of the ways it strengthens its control is by a process of Islamization, turning radical Islam into an obligation whose influence on Gazan daily life is increasing.

Two of the manifestations of Islamization after Operation Cast Lead were the establishment of a new national Islamic bank and of an Islamic insurance company, which promote Hamas’s objective of controlling the economy of the Gaza Strip (although their activities are limited at this stage). In addition, local reconciliation committees were established to operate according to Islamic religious law, and are controlled by Hamas (in competition with the traditional reconciliation committees), laws were passed to keep Internet surfers from logging on to sites considered immoral, the markets were closed on Fridays and religious themes were imposed on youngsters’ summer camps. All of the above have enabled Hamas toretain its control of the Gaza Strip, and today there is no internal threat to thestability of its regime.

6) Hamas’s Control of Gaza Strip Economy

With regard to the Gaza Strip’s economy: In the months since Operation Cast Lead, Hamas has transferred humanitarian assistance and funds to many sectors of the population which were harmed during the fighting. That has helped stabilize the situation and prevented an immediate humanitarian crisis, but it has not provided fundamental solutions for rebuilding housing and public institutions. Administrative functions and symbols of power have not been restored (for example, constructing a building for the Palestinian Legislative Council). At this stage it can be said that duringthe period since Operation Cast Lead Hamas has not managed to put intomotion significant processes for rebuilding the Gaza Strip (beyond immediate repairs to the infrastructure such as water and electricity).

In the absence of progress in physical rebuilding and because of public criticism, Hamas has tried to market the idea of a “resistance economy” to the Gazans. That involves constructing an economy which supports Hamas’s terrorist strategy and is based on the resources of the Gaza Strip to reduce dependence on external aid to a minimum. In practical terms, it means building mud huts for the homeless, employing the unemployed in local agriculture, growing food demanded by the local market while banning the cultivation of export growths, such as strawberries and flowers. The degree to which the idea can be implemented is questionable, but it is a useful propaganda tool to show that Hamas is coping with the economic constraints of the Gaza Strip.

To read the entire IICC June report on the Hamas buildup following Operation Cast Lead, click on the following link: http://www.terrorism-info.org.il/malam_multimedia/English/eng_n/pdf/hamas_e074.pdf.


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