Hamas is considering restarting the regular violent riots it had orchestrated on the Israel-Gaza Strip border in recent years, the Hebrew news site Walla reported on Tuesday.
The so-called “Great March of Return” protests began in March 2018 and followed a consistent pattern in which Hamas would bring thousands of rioters to the border area every Friday, where they would demonstrate, attempt to provoke and attack IDF soldiers and infiltrate into southern Israel to commit terror attacks.
The riots were also intended to produce images of Palestinian casualties in order to use the media to damage Israel’s global standing. Furthermore, the unrest provided cover for flying explosive and incendiary devices into Israeli territory on kites and balloons.
At the time the riots began, Hamas leader in Gaza Yahya Sinwar said, “We will take down the border and tear out their hearts from their bodies.”
In recent months, the violence has become less intense, amid rumors of a long-term truce talks brokered by Egypt.
According to Walla, however, Sinwar may now renew the riots in hopes of forcing concessions out of Israel and pushing the Egyptians to support his hardline demands.
Sinwar, the report said, considered the riots a success, as they put Hamas back on the political map and forced Israel to negotiate. The riots were only quelled because Hamas hoped they had accomplished their goal of bringing political and economic benefits to Gaza.
This was undermined, however, when Ismail Haniyeh — the head of the Hamas Political Bureau — traveled to Tehran last month for the funeral of Iranian Quds Force commander Qassem Soleimani.
Egypt, which views Iran as a regional adversary, was outraged by the visit, and its relations with Hamas have cooled considerably as a result. Haniyeh has remained abroad for now because Egypt has refused to authorize his return to Gaza.
Therefore, Sinwar believes that restarting the riots could bring Egypt back into Hamas’ corner. In addition, Sinwar thinks that with Egypt out of the picture, Israel might feel free to assassinate him as it did Islamic Jihad commander Baha Abu al-Ata three months ago. So he wants to escalate the tensions on the border without provoking a massive Israeli response.
The Algemeiner reported on Sunday that terrorist groups in Gaza already feared more assassinations, with Islamic Jihad leaders going underground after the group launched several rocket barrages into southern Israel.
It was also revealed that IDF retaliatory strikes against Hamas following the rocket fire dealt a blow to the terror group that was much more severe than was generally known.
The Algemeiner (c) 2019 . Benjamin Kerstein