Hamas’ military wing sparked the war between Israel and the Gaza Strip, a report said.
A leading U.S. think tank asserted that the Izzedin Kassam Brigades took the decision to escalate rocket and other attacks against the Jewish state in July 2014. In a report, the Middle East Media Research Institute said Izzedin Kassam failed to seek approval for the war on Israel from Hamas’ Executive Council.
“Apparently, Hamas’ decision to launch a rocket offensive against Israel was made on the local level by Hamas’ military arm, the Izzedin Kassam Brigades, perhaps without consulting with the movement’s political wing either within or outside the Gaza Strip,” the report, titled “Why Did Hamas Launch Its Current Rocket Offensive Against Israel?” said.
The report, dated July 15, asserted that Izzedin Kassam decided on its own to fire its first long-range rocket, the R-160, a variant of the Syrian-origin M-302. Authors Yigal Carmon and Yael Yehoshua said the Islamist military wing wanted to retaliate for the Israeli discovery and destruction of a tunnel on July 5 that infiltrated the Jewish state. Five Hamas operatives were killed in the Israeli operation.
“The discovery and destruction of this tunnel and the strategic planning behind it — in addition to the deaths of activists from its military arm inside the tunnel — apparently pushed the military arm into responding with a widescale rocket barrage, including long-range rockets, aimed at striking areas across and deep inside Israel, and thus provoking a wide-scale Israeli reaction,” the report said.
The report also cited the decline of Hamas over the last few years, including the siege by neighboring Egypt. Carmon and Ms. Yehoshua asserted that Hamas was criticized for its decision to form a unity Palestinian Authority government, which led to the termination of salaries for 40,000 Hamas civil servants in the Gaza Strip.
Hamas was also said to have been jeopardized by Iran’s refusal of a reconciliation. The report said the Teheran regime, particularly supreme leader Ali Khamenei, accused Hamas of abandoning the war against Israel by enforcing an Egyptian-arranged ceasefire in 2012. Qatar has failed to compensate for the loss of Iranian funding for Hamas.
The report, citing open sources, told of Iran’s refusal to host Hamas Executive Council chairman Khaled Masha’al. Instead, Masha’al agreed to meet an Iranian diplomat in Qatar in May 2014 in what was said to have been a tense session.
A month after the Masha’al meeting, the Iranian website Tabnak posted an article that addressed the Hamas chief. Tabnak, said to reflect the Teheran regime, asked Masha’al how he expected Iran to restore trust in Hamas after it supported the Sunni revolt in Syria in 2011.
“How can we trust an organization that enjoyed Iranian support for years and then described Turkey and Qatar as its saviors?” Tabnak said.
The report said Hamas has been losing supporters in both the Arab and Muslim world. Carmon and Ms. Yehoshua said the abduction and killing of three Jewish teenagers on June 12 also prompted Hamas to escalate attacks on Israel from the Gaza Strip.
“Hamas’ vacillations in its loyalty to the resistance axis — abandoning Iran and Syria and then attempting to rejoin them — have lost it its credibility both among those loyal to the resistance axis and among its opponents, and have reduced its status in the eyes of the general Arab and Muslim public,” the report said.
Hamas Targets Israel’s Top Airport
Hamas has been firing rockets toward Israel’s leading airport, sparking widespread cancellations by foreign airlines.
Officials said Hamas was firing rockets within two kilometers of Ben-Gurion International Airport. Several rockets landed near the airport on July 22 and two people were injured. One of the rockets also damaged a house in the town of Yehud.
Within hours, European and U.S. airlines cancelled all flights to Israel. Israel operates a much smaller international airport in the southern city of Eilat, which too has come under Palestinian rocket fire from neighboring Egypt.
“The notice was issued in response to a rocket strike which landed approximately one mile from Ben Gurion International Airport on the morning of July 22, 2014,” the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration said.
In one case, a U.S. passenger jet located within one hour of Israel abandoned flight plans and flew instead to Paris. Officials said none of these planes were equipped with missile protection systems.
The Israeli Transportation Ministry has protested the suspension of Western airlines operations. The ministry said this marked a “prize to terror.”
“Transport Minister Yisrael Katz this evening called American companies to explain to them that the takeoff and landing at Ben Gurion airport presented no security problem for the aircraft and the passengers,” the Israeli Civil Aviation Authority said. “There is no reason for American ompanies to cancel their flights.”
On July 21, the State Department warned Americans against traveling to Israel. The department also intensified restrictions on staffers of the U.S. embassy and consulate.
“Travelers should avoid areas of Israel in the vicinity of the Gaza Strip due to the real risks presented by small arms fire, anti-tank weapons, rockets, and mortars, as attacks from Gaza can come with little or no warning,” the State Department said.