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How Hamas aims to trap Israel in Gaza quagmire

Hamas has prepared for a long, drawn-out war in the Gaza Strip and believes it can hold up Israel’s advance long enough to force its arch enemy to agree to a ceasefire, two sources close to the organization’s leadership said.

Hamas, which rules Gaza, has stockpiled weapons, missiles, food and medical supplies, according to the people, who declined to be named due to the sensitivity of the situation. The group is confident its thousands of fighters can survive for months in a city of tunnels carved deep beneath the Palestinian enclave and frustrate Israeli forces with urban guerrilla tactics, the people told Reuters.

Ultimately, Hamas believes international pressure for Israel to end the siege, as civilian casualties mount, could force a ceasefire and a negotiated settlement that would see the militant group emerge with a tangible concession such as the release of thousands of Palestinian prisoners in exchange for Israeli hostages, the sources said.

The group has made it clear to the US and Israel at indirect, Qatar-mediated hostage negotiations that it wants to force such a prisoner release in exchange for hostages, according to four Hamas officials, a regional official and a person familiar with the White House’s thinking.

Longer term, Hamas has said it wants to end Israel’s 17-year blockade of Gaza, as well as to halt Israeli settlement expansion and what Palestinians see as heavy-handed actions by Israeli security forces at the al-Aqsa mosque, the most sacred Muslim shrine in Jerusalem.

On Thursday, UN experts called for a humanitarian ceasefire in Gaza, saying Palestinians there were at “grave risk of genocide”. Many experts see a spiraling crisis, with no clear endgame in sight for either side.

“The mission to destroy Hamas is not easily achieved,” said Marwan Al-Muasher, Jordan’s former foreign minister and deputy prime minister who now works for the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace in Washington.

“There is no military solution to this conflict. We are in some dark times. This war is not going to be short.”

Israel has deployed overwhelming aerial firepower since the Oct. 7 attack, which saw Hamas gunmen burst out of the Gaza Strip, killing 1,400 Israelis and taking 239 hostages.

The Gazan death toll has surpassed 9,000, with every day of violence fuelling protests around the world over for the plight of more than 2 million Gazans trapped in the tiny enclave, many without water, food or power. Israeli airstrikes hit a crowded refugee camp in the Gaza on Tuesday, killing at least 50 Palestinians and a Hamas commander.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu vows to wipe out Hamas and has rejected calls for a ceasefire. Israeli officials say they’re under no illusions about what may lie ahead and accuse the militants of hiding behind civilians.

The country has braced itself for a “long and painful war”, said Danny Danon, a former Israeli ambassador to the UN and ex-member of the Knesset foreign affairs and defense committee.

“We know at the end that we will prevail and that we will defeat Hamas,” he told Reuters. “The question will be the price, and we have to be very cautious and very careful and understand that it’s a very complex urban area to maneuver.”

The United States has said now is not the time for a general ceasefire, though says pauses in hostilities are needed to deliver humanitarian aid.

Adeeb Ziadeh, a Palestinian expert in international affairs at Qatar University who has studied Hamas, said the group must have had a longer-term plan to follow its assault on Israel.—Reuters

Samia Nakhoul, Laila Bassam and Matt Spetalnick, "How Hamas aims to trap Israel in Gaza quagmire," Business recorder. 2023-11-05.
Keywords: Social sciences , Medical supplies , Painful war , Palestinians , Defense , Marwan Al-Muasher , Danny Danon , Benjamin Netanyahu , Israel , Qatar , United States , US

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