Hamas movement, which has been ruling Gaza since 2007, has left the Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) alone in confronting Israel’s attacks on the enclave.
This is not the first time that Hamas distances itself from such a confrontation, a tactic that Israel succeeded in imposing on the Strip twice, the first in 2019 and the second in the current ongoing war.
A flare-up with the PIJ came in 2019, following Israel’s killing of the commander in al-Quds Brigades, Baha Abu al-Ata. Hamas did not join the fray in that conflict.
Al-Quds Brigades is the armed wing of the group.
The Israeli army announced then that it was not targeting Hamas, urging the group not to take sides.
Ahead of Israel’s war on the PIJ, Hamas and Egypt pressured the group to avoid any military escalation.
Both sides called on the PIJ not to be triggered by Israel’s misleading narrative, in which it accused the Islamic Jihad of seeking revenge following the humiliating arrest of its senior leader, Bassam al-Saadi, in the West Bank last week.
Tel Aviv later launched a sudden attack killing several PIJ officials.
While Israel seems to have embarrassed the mediators, including Hamas, it was keen not to provoke it to ensure it remains on the sidelines for reasons related to power.
There is a significant difference between the PIJ and Hamas, which enjoys greater influence and acquires more military equipment, number of fighters, and developed arms.
However, will Hamas remain on the sidelines? It is still early to decide. Political Analyst Talal Awkal said the movement can not distance itself any longer.
He told Asharq Al-Awsat that Palestine seems to be following a specific tactic in its aggression, which has been recently launched.
“The factions decided they will not respond all together by using force.” Awkal explained, adding that they believe it will be a long war of attrition and that even the PIJ still hasn’t used its basic power.
“I think we are facing a gradual use of force and a response that expands to include the participation of the rest of the factions.”
He warned of the moral and political consequences of Hamas’ decision to remain distant and leave the PIJ alone in the confrontation with Israel.
“Last year, the resistance’s rhetoric was different, unified and loud and called for uniting efforts,” Awkal stressed, noting that there is no guarantee that the battle will remain against the Islamic Jihad only and within the enclave’s borders.
Al-Quds Brigades issued a statement on Saturday saying that as part of the Unity of Battlefields operation, it launched an attack, along with the National Resistance Brigades, the Mujahideen Brigades and the al-Aqsa Martyrs' Brigades, targeting five Israeli settlements by salvo of rockets.
This statement could be aimed at pressuring Hamas to participate with the rest of the factions in the fight against Israel or showing that the factions are gradually taking part in the battle.
Israel is aware that Hamas’ participation will be the decisive factor that will determine the nature and duration of the battle.