Israel Not Capable of Ruling Gaza and Dealing With Its Problems, Says IDF General

Maj. Gen. Sami Turgeman: Hamas has a conventional military structure, though its targets of action are those of a terrorist organization.

Gili Cohen
Gili Cohen
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A Palestinian youth carries an RPG launcher during a graduation ceremony as part of a summer camp organised by Hamas' military wing, July 25, 2015.Credit: AFP
Gili Cohen
Gili Cohen

Israel is not capable of being the sovereign authority in the Gaza Strip and dealing with the enclave's problems, the officer commanding Southern Command, Maj. Gen. Sami Turgeman, said on Monday.

There can be only one sovereign in Gaza, Hamas or Israel, "otherwise there will be chaos," Turgeman said, during an address at a conference of the Institute for Counter-terrorism at the Herzliya Interdisciplinary Center.

It was doubtful, he added, whether Israel had the capability to deal with the internal problems of the Strip, such as soaring unemployment, the high number of children under the age of 14 and depleted infrastructure.

"Alone? We're not capable of it," Turgeman said.

Hamas is involved in a dispute between its political and military wings – a dispute that was sharpened by last year's war, the general said.

The head of its military wing, Mohammed Deif "is investing most of his resources in underground infrastructure, the destruction and the tunnels," he said. "Deif sees things through the prism of the military, of deploying force – he wants to win wars."

As described by southern command, Hamas has become a military organization, with standardized training and military activities, such as patrols and observation points. "It is building its power and military structure, is organized according to military logic, including attack and defense, with land, sea and air capabilities," Turgeman said.

"We see a conventional military structure, though its targets of action are those of a terrorist organization."

Hamas, he added, is "totally dependent on Israel for the existence of the Strip and its governance." On the other hand, the calm of the Israeli areas surrounding Gaza "is also in its hands, due to its rule and sovereignty over Gaza."

Hamas is also dealing currently with the rise of Salafism in the Strip, Turgeman said. It is concerned that Salafist groups are undermining its control and sovereignty over Gaza,

"There have been several exceptional instances in which the Salafists have used force against Hamas, which undermines the calm that has been achieved," he said. "Hamas has been deterred, restrained and restraining, which is not in the interest of the Salafists."

"It sees how Hamas operatives are going over to the Salafists, which for Hamas is both an ideological threat and a threat to its ability to keep order. Therefore, we see how Hamas is using all its intelligence capabilities against those groups. It is taking preventative measures and arrests to suppress the Salafist awakening."