Did Israel Eliminate Hamas After Six Months of War?

Children stand in the rubble of a collapsed building in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip on April 9, 2024. (Photo by AFP)
Children stand in the rubble of a collapsed building in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip on April 9, 2024. (Photo by AFP)
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Did Israel Eliminate Hamas After Six Months of War?

Children stand in the rubble of a collapsed building in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip on April 9, 2024. (Photo by AFP)
Children stand in the rubble of a collapsed building in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip on April 9, 2024. (Photo by AFP)

After six months of bloody fighting in the Gaza Strip, it remains unclear if Israel has achieved its goal of wiping out Hamas and its control of the Palestinian enclave.

As the conflict continues and Israel withdraws from some parts of Gaza, the crucial question arises: Will Hamas be ousted? Can Israel step in to fill the void?

Before the pullback, Israel promised a new government, but doubts grew when Hamas quickly regained power in certain areas.

Residents in Gaza who spoke to Asharq Al-Awsat doubt Hamas will go unless it willingly hands over control to the Palestinian Authority, which won’t be easy.

The Palestinian group has managed to keep its administrative structure intact during the ongoing conflict.

It continues to oversee security, police, ministries, and institutions, even paying partial salaries to its employees.

Despite Israeli attacks on its economic assets, Hamas has distributed financial advances to its members.

According to sources within the Hamas government, the movement’s financial arm has worked to ensure salaries for government employees and operatives, despite Israeli strikes on money storage sites.

Employees, like A.S. from the Hamas police force, receive constant instructions to maintain security. The internal security apparatus has arrested collaborators with Israeli forces.

A.S. and their colleagues have also received limited financial disbursements since the onset of the conflict.

“We receive semi-daily instructions focused on maintaining security, monitoring markets and commodity prices, and ensuring protection for aid entering for distribution to citizens,” A.S. told Asharq Al-Awsat.

Hamas activists, operating individually, are gradually regaining control in Gaza, challenging Israel’s objectives. However, Israel finds it difficult to target Hamas’ entire security apparatus.

Although the group has suffered significant losses, including headquarters and personnel, it remains standing. Israel claims to have killed many Hamas members but faces skepticism from Palestinians.

Ridwan Maqbul, a political science graduate from Al-Azhar University in Gaza, believes Hamas’ leadership still maintains control and scoffs at the idea of a tribal alternative government.



Netanyahu Dissolved His War Cabinet. How Will That Affect Ceasefire Efforts?

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks during a press conference at the Sheba Tel-HaShomer Medical Center, in Ramat Gan on June 8, 2024 amid the ongoing conflict in the Palestinian territory between Israel and Hamas. (AFP)
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks during a press conference at the Sheba Tel-HaShomer Medical Center, in Ramat Gan on June 8, 2024 amid the ongoing conflict in the Palestinian territory between Israel and Hamas. (AFP)
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Netanyahu Dissolved His War Cabinet. How Will That Affect Ceasefire Efforts?

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks during a press conference at the Sheba Tel-HaShomer Medical Center, in Ramat Gan on June 8, 2024 amid the ongoing conflict in the Palestinian territory between Israel and Hamas. (AFP)
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks during a press conference at the Sheba Tel-HaShomer Medical Center, in Ramat Gan on June 8, 2024 amid the ongoing conflict in the Palestinian territory between Israel and Hamas. (AFP)

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu disbanded his war cabinet Monday, a move that consolidates his influence over the Israel-Hamas war and likely diminishes the odds of a ceasefire in the Gaza Strip anytime soon.

Netanyahu announced the step days after his chief political rival, Benny Gantz, withdrew from the three-member war cabinet. Gantz, a retired general and member of parliament, was widely seen as a more moderate voice.

Major war policies will now be solely approved by Netanyahu's security cabinet — a larger body that is dominated by hard-liners who oppose the US-backed ceasefire proposal and want to press ahead with the war.

Netanyahu is expected to consult on some decisions with close allies in ad-hoc meetings, said an Israeli official who spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to brief the media.

These closed-door meetings could blunt some of the influence of the hard-liners. But Netanyahu himself has shown little enthusiasm for the ceasefire plan and his reliance on the full security cabinet could give him cover to prolong a decision.

Here’s key background about the war cabinet, and what disbanding it means for ceasefire prospects:

Why did Gantz join and then quit the war cabinet? The war cabinet was formed after the Oct. 7 Hamas attack on Israel when Gantz, an opposition party leader, joined with Netanyahu and Defense Minister Yoav Gallant in a show of unity.

At the time, Gantz demanded that a small decision-making body steer the war in a bid to sideline far-right members of Netanyahu’s government.

But Gantz left the cabinet earlier this month after months of mounting tensions over Israel’s strategy in Gaza.

He said he was fed up with a lack of progress bringing home the dozens of Israeli hostages held by Hamas. He accused Netanyahu of drawing out the war to avoid new elections and a corruption trial. He called on Netanyahu to endorse a plan that — among other points — would rescue the captives and end Hamas rule in Gaza.

When Netanyahu did not express support for the plan, Gantz announced his departure. He said that “fateful strategic decisions” in the cabinet were being “met with hesitancy and procrastination due to political considerations.”

How will Israel's wartime policies likely be changed? The disbanding of the war cabinet only further distances Netanyahu from centrist politicians more open to a ceasefire deal with Hamas.

Months of ceasefire talks have failed to find common ground between Hamas and Israeli leaders. Both Israel and Hamas have been reluctant to fully endorse a US-backed plan that would return hostages, clear the way for an end to the war, and commence a rebuilding effort of the decimated territory.

Netanyahu will now rely on the members of his security cabinet, some of whom oppose ceasefire deals and have voiced support for reoccupying Gaza.

After Gantz's departure, Israel's ultranationalist national security minister, Itamar Ben-Gvir, demanded inclusion in a renewed war cabinet. Monday's move could help keep Ben-Gvir at a distance, but it cannot sideline him altogether.

The move also gives Netanyahu leeway to draw out the war to stay in power. Netanyahu's critics accuse him of delaying because an end to the war would mean an investigation into the government's failures on Oct. 7 and raise the likelihood of new elections when the prime minister's popularity is low.

“It means that he will make all the decisions himself, or with people that he trusts who don’t challenge him,” said Gideon Rahat, chairman of the political science department at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. “And his interest is in having a slow-attrition war.”