Defense sources: Even if Hamas agrees to truce, its armed wing may resist
Group decisions divided among branches in Gaza, Syria; Hamas leader: We reject permanent truce with Israel.
Israel's defense establishment believes that Hamas' armed wing is likely to resist any cease-fire agreement over the embattled Gaza Strip, regardless of what the Islamist group's political leadership decides.
Hamas, which comprises a military wing, as well as political leaderships in Gaza and Syria, does not make decisions as a unified body. Rather, the organization' separate branches hold their own discussions.
Israel's security forces assess that Hamas' armed wing will push for an extension of the battles in Gaza, despite the serious casualties and damages to its infrastructure that it has suffered since Israel's offensive on the Gaza Strip began 12 days ago.
According to this assessment, Hamas' armed wing will not accept the Egyptian and French brokered truce proposal, which calls for an end to the smuggling of weapons and militants from Sinai.
In the past, the group's armed wing has been subservient to the political leadership in Gaza and Damascus, but recent power shifts within the organization have changed that dynamic.
Israel's assault on the lines of communication between the group's different branches has resulted in a series of technical setbacks, preventing the group from being able to make coordinated decisions.
Israeli officials have come to the conclusion that the majority of senior Hamas leaders have gone into hiding, fearing assassination. Day-to-day decisions on fighting now seem to have been left to junior-level gunmen in the organization.
Although the armed wing was initially structured to be a military organization, IDF incursions into the Strip have again turned the body into an underground organization governed by secrecy and compartmentalization.
During armed clashes, the armed wing deploys small squads of gunmen which operate independently of larger bodies, though Hamas has tried recently to coordinate the firing of Qassam rockets between different cells.
Hamas has long delegated its combat command in the field to the lower command levels and different fighting theaters at different times.
Signs of of anarchy have prevailed in the embattled coastal territory of late, against the backdrop of serious losses to the Hamas leadership, which Israel says "no longer has any offices to meet in" - referring to the severe damages the Israel Air Force and ground troops have inflicted on the Islamist group's infrastructure.
The armed wing has lost commanders in charge of Qassam fire as well as more senior battle commanders in the IDF attacks. Most of the group's commanders on the battalion and company level stored weaponry in their homes, most of which were destroyed in IAF air strikes.
The losses suffered by Hamas have created serious problems for the group among the religious population. From the Israeli point-of-view, the armed wing has not been able to defend itself against IDF strikes and has instead been forced to make do with harassing IDF troops.
"Hamas has purported that their forces haven't suffered heavy losses, at a time when the population is suffering. This is long-term damage to their image."
Security sources have identified 290 of the some 600 Palestinians killed in the fighting so far. At least 200 of these fatalities have been named as members of the terror organization or as people somehow involved in militant activity. Palestinians, however, have say the majority of those killed were civilians.
Hamas leader: We reject a permanent truce with Israel
Meanwhile, the deputy head of Hamas's political bureau on Wednesday said his group is studying peace initiatives to end the violence in Gaza Strip but rejects permanent truce with Israel.
Exiled Hamas leader Moussa Abou Marzouk said there will be no talks about a permanent cease-fire and that as long as there is an Israeli occupation, there will be resistance.
Marzouk spoke to The Associated Press Wednesday - one day after Egypt and France proposed a plan for ending the fighting in Gaza.
Abu Marzouk said Hamas received proposals from France, Turkey, Syria and Egypt to bring about a cease-fire.
He said Hamas stands by its demands for an immediate end to Israel's offensive, Israeli withdrawal from Gaza and opening of the border with the strip.
Also Wednesday, Osama Hamdan, a Hamas representative in Lebanon close to the group's leadership in Syria, told al-Jazeera television that Hamas would not accept any initiative that does not include the withdrawal of the Israeli army from Gaza and the opening of all of the territory's border crossings.
"Any proposal that does not include these bases is unacceptable and no one should bother by presenting such proposals," he said.
"The idea of an international force is rejected and such forces which will come to Gaza to protect Israel will be dealt with as enemy forces," he said.