Why did Hamas sit on the fence? 

Although the Hamas movement sat on the fence during the "Shield and Arrow" operation in the Gaza Strip, its popularity on the Palestinian street was not harmed and it even won the elections in the major universities in the West Bank. Hamas claims that the Gaza street opposes rounds of fighting against Israel that damage the infrastructure of the Gaza Strip and that Hamas will launch a battle against Israel only if there is a threat to the Al-Aqsa Mosque.


The Hamas leadership is satisfied with the recent developments in the Gaza Strip and Judea and Samaria, the Islamic Jihad, its political opponent, was suffered a heavy blow by Israel in Operation Shield and Arrow and although the military wing of Hamas did not participate in the fighting against Israel, its position was not harmed on the Palestinian street. 

This is evidenced by the results of the student council elections in the West Bank universities, the popularity of Hamas outweighs the popularity of the Fatah movement which is the backbone of the Palestinian Authority. 

In the last two weeks, the Hamas movement won the student council elections at Al-Najah University in Nablus and Bir Zeit University in Ramallah and in fact inflicted  a heavy blow to the Palestinian Authority and its political plan for negotiations with Israel despite the arrests made by the Palestinian security forces among Hamas supporters. 

Its victory reflects the Palestinian young  generation  support  for the ideology of resistance to Israel through armed struggle. 

Although the Hamas movement sat on the fence in the last round of fighting in the Gaza Strip between the IDF and the Islamic Jihad, it is not seen on the streets of Gaza as having given up the armed struggle against Israel, but as having shown pragmatism and responsibility towards the residents of the Gaza Strip. 

The Hamas movement rejected the slight criticism leveled at it by Islamic Jihad activists for not participating in the fighting and explained through its media and social networks that it was constantly represented in the joint headquarter of the Palestinian factions in the Gaza Strip and did everything that was required of it. 

On May 21th, the Hamas website “Al-Risala Net” published an article written by Khaled Sadek, one of the movement’s activists, in which he explained the reasons why Hamas sat on the fence during Operation Shield and Arrow. 


In his article he emphasized the following points. 

  1. The criticism of Hamas for not participating in the fighting is an attempt to drive a wedge between the resistance factions with the aim of failure.


  1. Between Hamas and Islamic Jihad there is a dialogue and the joint military headquarter of the Palestinian factions, which includes military arms of 12 factions, provided popular defense during the fighting against Israel and also logistical assistance.


Several Palestinian factions also launched rockets at Israel and during the fighting seven of their fighters were killed. 

  1. A public entry of the Hamas movement into the battle against Israel would have given justification to the enemy to attack residential towers in the Gaza Strip, government offices, universities, police stations, mosques and infrastructure.


  1. The Hamas movement demonstrated responsibility regarding the management of the affairs of the Gaza Strip in order to provide stability to its population in the shadow of the siege imposed on the Strip and after more than 15 years of restoring the infrastructure and ruins of the residents who were particularly affected by the “Guardian of the Walls” operation.


Hamas preferred not to give an excuse to the enemy to destroy the infrastructure of the Gaza Strip and increase its bank of targets. 

  1. The military wing of the Islamic Jihad did not ask the military wing of Hamas to participate in the fighting against Israel and it conducted the fighting without its help.


  1. Hamas conducts the campaign against Israel according to a strategy and a mature vision agreed upon by all Palestinian factions, it carefully examines how many victims the Palestinian people will pay in every battle against the Israeli enemy, it estimates that Israel is on the verge of collapse.


 Only one thing will push Hamas into an open battle against Israel, and that is if the Al-Aqsa Mosque is in danger of being divided and Israel tries to take it over. 


From what Khaled Sadek writes, it can be concluded that the many rounds of fighting in the Gaza Strip from 2007 to the present have exhausted the Hamas movement and caused great damage to the infrastructure of the Gaza Strip, Hamas is well aware of the moods of the Gazan street today, which is fed up with wars against Israel and damage to the infrastructure of the Gaza Strip and daily life. 

The trigger that leads to escalation on the Gaza border is what is happening on the Temple Mount. If Israel allays the Palestinians’ concerns about the future of the Al-Aqsa Mosque, meaning that it is not in any danger and the status quo is maintained on the Temple Mount, this may help maintain calm in the Gaza Strip. 

Yoni Ben Menachem Senior Middle East Analyst

About Yoni Ben Menachem

Yoni Ben Menachem is a Middle East senior analyst ,a journalist and
the former CEO of the Israel Broadcasting Authority(IBA). He has
decades of experience in written and video journalism. Ben
Menachem’s path in the media world began as a producer for
Japanese television in the Middle East. After that, he held many key
positions in the media The Israeli: CEO of the Israel Broadcasting
Authority, director of “Kol Israel” Radio, reporter on West Bank and
Gaza Strip affairs, political reporter and commentator, commentator
on Middle East affairs and editor-in-chief and presenter of the
program “Middle East Magazine”. 

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