Hamas Footage Hints at Extent of Group's Role in Gaza Clashes

Video shows part of last week's Gaza border clash, in which two Golani Brigade soldiers were killed.

The military wing of Hamas released a video Wednesday showing part of last week's Gaza border skirmish between the IDF and Palestinian militants, in which a Golani Brigade officer and soldier were killed.

The Hamas footage does not clearly show the moment in which a grenade carried by Maj. Eliraz Peretz was detonated by Palestinian fire. The footage does show paramedics tending to the wounded, but the tape was shot from a distance and does not give a detailed view of the incident.

Hamas used the footage to once again claim credit for the clash. Other groups have also claimed responsibility, and the Israel Defense Forces believes the militants were member of the Islamic Jihad, while Hamas was only involved in firing mortar shells after the exchange began.

However, the fact the Hamas appears to have had a cameraman stationed in the area ahead of the incident might indicate it had a bigger part in its planning than originally thought.

The footage released Wednesday underscores Hamas' strong desire to present some achievements for the Gazan public, as it struggles to preserve internal order and security in the Strip.

Hamas is also trying to reclaim its role in the armed fight against Israel, although since the conclusion of Cast Lead in January 2009, the organization has mostly steered clear of the IDF.

The organization's internal security units are frequently deployed to curb rocket fire into Israel by smaller Islamist groups.

Hamas also took the opportunity to accuse the Palestinian Authority of trying to destabilize the Gaza Strip, through strikes, freezing of bank accounts and alleged responsibility for a series of explosions that occurred there recently.

Much of the current friction between the IDF and Palestinian militants happens in the narrow "buffer zone" along the outside of the Gaza border. Although Hamas has reservations about rocket fire, fearing it could lead to a new Israeli incursion into the Strip, it still sets off frequent buffer zone skirmishes, which the Palestinians see as defensive actions.

Israel, however, finds it difficult to accept movement of armed groups along the fence, since they pose a risk to Israeli forces on the other side.

The Palestinians can set off IEDs next to the fence, or plant landmines in case of armor and infantry forces entering Gaza in the future.

In the wake of the last incident, the IDF will likely take a more aggressive line along the buffer zone and forcibly prevent Palestinian entry into the area. There are fears a local skirmish might cause a serious escalation, as fighting in the area was among the main escalating factor prior to Operation Cast Lead in December 2008.

On Tuesday, a 17-year-old Palestinian was killed in the area of Dahaniyeh, near Rafah. Palestinians claim he was hit by IDF gunfire, but the army insisted it had no knowledge of the incident.

Meanwhile, Palestinian organizations began a public campaign against the closing of the fence area to movement, and on Tuesday youths demonstrated against lack of access to agricultural lands in the buffer zone.

Palestinian leftist organizations participated in the protest, using one of the few opportunities the iron rule of Hamas affords them for public action.