Israel Wants Hamas to Take Responsibility for Curbing Islamic Jihad in Gaza Strip

The IDF understands that the longer the operation continues, the harder it will be for Hamas to remain on the sidelines

Yaniv Kubovich
Yaniv Kubovich
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Hamas fighters
Hamas fightersCredit: AP
Yaniv Kubovich
Yaniv Kubovich

Defense officials have expressed satisfaction with the achievements of Operation Breaking Dawn so far, but they are trying to determine an endpoint that would preserve deterrence with Islamic Jihad and keep the organization from creating an equivalence between the Gaza Strip and the West Bank, as it has tried to do since the operation began.

Israel wants the fighting to end with Hamas, which the Israel Defense Forces regards as the sovereign in the Strip, taking responsibility for restraining Islamic Jihad and getting the organization to accept its authority in the territory. To this end the IDF is striking Islamic Jihad military targets and imposing “civil sanctions” over the entire Strip, including keeping goods from entering and Gazans from leaving to work in Israel. The assumption is that these measures will lead Gazans to apply pressure on Hamas and Islamic Jihad.

The IDF understands that the longer the operation continues, the harder it will be for Hamas to remain on the sidelines. Possible scenarios that have been raised include an error by Israel that results in the deaths of many noncombatants, challenging the ability of Hamas to contain the fighting. Similarly, the IDF recognizes that an incident involving Israeli casualties would require a harsh response, further escalating the situation.

The defense establishment is in constant touch with all of the mediators who have been trying to end the fighting. The parties are struggling to reach an understanding, in part because the mediation efforts are going through Hamas rather than being conducted between Israel and Islamic Jihad directly. An additional complication is the doubt regarding the ability to force Islamic Jihad to comply with whatever understandings are reached in the end.

Defense officials believe that Iran’s claims of orchestrating the escalation are false.

The IDF noticed recently that Islamic Jihad plans to carry out an attack against civilians or soldiers on the Gaza border or nearby communities. The threat level was determined to be moderate, and the organization’s conduct on the ground was monitored. Senior defense officials say that Islamic Jihad saw the arrest last week of the organization’s leader in Jenin, Bassam al-Saadi, as an opportunity to carry out an attack.

In addition to closing roads and imposing a partial lockdown of the border area, mediation efforts were initiated in an attempt to prevent the planned attack. When the army realized that Islamic Jihad was not about to back down, a decision was made to initiate a strike on the organization and senior figures in it. Defense officials believe that the anticipated visits by Jews to the Temple Mount in Jerusalem for Tisha B’Av Saturday night and Sunday will not affect events in Gaza, but they are prepared for an exception incident that could upend expectations.

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