Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Reaping The Whirlwind

"Hamas could decide that Fuqaha was assassinated by Israel and retaliate, and then we will retaliate to the retaliation and we could be in another clash very quickly."
Amos Yadlin, former director, Israeli military intelligence

"We will make the enemy regret the day that he thought he could begin [to carry out assassinations]."
"We swear to God, our Muslim nation and our people, that the enemy will pay a price for this crime that is equal in size to the assassination of our martyr leader. He who plays with fire will be burned by it."

The Kassam Brigades, Hamas, Gaza

"It is possible to prevent the next round of violence in the Gaza Strip. The reality of life in Gaza is very harsh. Hamas is trapped in a dead end and trying to break out of it. Right now, life in Gaza is just about intolerable. Instead of waiting for the next round, which will end with new understandings, I would recommend sitting down today to see what can be done to create some kind of new horizon, which would be worthwhile to work toward, for Gaza's benefit. It is important to release some pressure and improve the economy."
Ram Ben-Barak, (former deputy director) Mossad, director general, Ministry of Intelligence

"I couldn't believe it at all. It was a shock. He received death threats all the time since his release in 2011, but he never paid any attention to it."
Nahed Asida, wife of Mazen Fuqaha
Members of Hamas’s armed wing carried the body of Mazen Fuqaha at his funeral in Gaza City last week. Credit Mohammed Salem/Reuters
Perhaps he should have paid attention. He might have done well to pay attention when members of Israeli intelligence visited his father repeatedly, to warn his father that his son Mazen Fuqaha was playing a dangerous game. Mr. Fuqaha appears to have been a slow learner. He was involved in plotting violent attacks against Israel, spending nine years in an Israeli prison for planning a variety of suicide bombs killing Israelis.

Among the thousand Palestinian prisoners freed in the usual lopsided agreement with Hamas for the release of one Israeli soldier, Gilad Shalit, Fuqaha chose to return to plotting violence on behalf of Hamas against Israel. He had been forbidden to return to the West Bank, so he established himself in the Gaza strip to continue his work for Hamas. And from there he took orders as a Hamas field operative from Turkey-based Salah al-Arouri, a senior commander of Hamas's military wing.

A masked member of Hamas stands in front of a banner depicting Turkey's Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan during a protest in the central Gaza Strip against Israel's interception of Gaza-bound ships. (photo by REUTERS/Ibraheem Abu Mustafa)

Mazen Fuqaha, himself a senior commander of the military wing, managed Hamas's military operations in the West Bank. He had returned from an outing with his family, and was in the garage of his home when he was shot four times in the head from behind by a sharpshooter using a silencer. Although Hamas reacted swiftly, shutting down the entrance to Israel from Gaza, and warning Palestinian fishermen not to go out on their boats, hoping to stop Fuqaha's assassin from leaving Gaza, they failed.
 
That is, if indeed it was Israeli agents who committed the task, and not another Islamist groups with whom Hamas is in conflict in Gaza. Let alone the possibility that within Hamas itself the man might have had enemies, since it is not unknown for elite Hamas commanders to be killed by opponents within the organization, or by those who suspect a commander of being less than loyal to the Hamas cause of Israel's destruction.
 
Whoever it was who killed Fuqaha, it is acknowledged that he was in possession of intimate details of the man's movements and knew exactly where to find him, when to be there at the right time and place, and how best to dispatch him and to fortuitously leave without being apprehended. Someone with very concise information. So, in their suspicions that this was an Israeli secret operation of startlingly unexpected success, Hamas is now searching for potential betrayers. 
 
And Hamas makes quick work of those they suspect of aiding Israel from among Gaza's Palestinians.
 
This has come at an inconvenient time for Hamas. It is not yet interested in another military operation between itself and the IDF. It still has not succeeded in replacing all of the munitions it had lost during the last brief conflict. But it is diligently working on it. No longer quite as able to transport rocket parts through the tunnels leading from Egypt's Sinai through to Gaza, Hamas has taken to designing and producing more powerful, sophisticated rockets of its own. 

gaza rocketA rocket is launched from the northern Gaza Strip towards Israel. (photo credit:REUTERS)
 
The tension has certainly been ramped up since Hamas closed the civilian border crossing with Israel, leaving Israeli troops on high alert. The Erez crossing represents the checkpoint used on a frequent basis by Gazan Palestinians looking for health care in Israeli hospitals. Aid workers and foreign journalists commonly use the crossing when travelling from Israel into Gaza. The checkpoints that Hamas set up across the strip now seek to discover anyone who might have collaborated with Israel, giving the intelligence required to expedite his death.
 

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