Hamas, the militant Palestinian Islamist group that controls Gaza, has begun to reassert itself in areas where Israeli troops had withdrawn over the past few weeks.
Hamas Deploys Police and Distributes Funds
As Israeli troops have pulled back from parts of northern Gaza City in recent days, Hamas has started deploying police units and distributing money in those areas in an apparent attempt to restore its authority.
On Friday, Hamas-run police were seen patrolling streets in the northern Gaza neighborhoods of Shejaiya and Tel al-Hawa. Both areas had seen intense fighting earlier in the conflict between Hamas militants and the Israeli military. With Israeli troops now gone, Hamas moved quickly to re-exert control.
“We have ended the security chaos that prevailed before the victory,” Hamas police spokesman Ayman Batniji told reporters. “We urge all citizens to abide by the law.”
Hamas also started disbursing payments to destitute families and day laborers whose livelihoods were disrupted by the fighting. At post offices, long lines formed as public employees waited to collect pay checks they haven’t received in months due to the war.
“We are here standing in the queue to get our salaries after facing many difficulties,” said Marwan al-Jarousha, a Palestinian public servant.
The swift actions by Hamas underscore how the militant group seeks to consolidate its grip on the Gaza Strip, even as Egyptian mediators try to cement a broader truce that would prevent further fighting with Israel.
Hamas Supporters Celebrate “Victory”
In tandem with Hamas’ resurgence, thousands of the group’s supporters have taken to the streets in recent days to celebrate what they have proclaimed as victory over Israel.
On Tuesday, cheering crowds gathered in neighborhoods across Gaza City that were pummeled by Israeli airstrikes during the conflict. Many people waved green Hamas flags and pictures of top militant commanders killed in fighting.
“This is a new phase in the conflict with the enemy,” said Osama Hamdan, a leading Hamas figure. “Our people succeeded in forcing the army of the enemy out of the Gaza Strip.”
The boisterous rallies aim to cement Hamas’ argument that the fighting forced Israel to accept the group’s terms for an Egyptian-brokered cease-fire. Israel and Hamas differ on what was agreed to, and tensions remain high.
No Clear Winner Despite Both Sides Claiming Victory
Nearly four months of fighting between Israel and Hamas has ravaged the Gaza Strip, killed more than 200 Palestinians and wounded over 1,500 Israelis. It has also caused tremendous damage on both sides that will leave deep scars for years to come.
Yet as the guns fell silent after 11 weeks of aerial bombardments and rocket attacks, neither Israel nor Hamas can claim victory despite both sides trying to spin the narrative in their favor.
Israel said early on that eliminating Hamas’ elaborate tunnel network and rocket capabilities was a central goal of its operation. The Israeli military insists these capabilities were seriously degraded. But Hamas’ rocket fire continued up until the final moments before the cease-fire took effect, showing the group still has the ability to strike deep into Israel.
For its part, Hamas points to the scenes of celebration in Gaza after Israeli troops withdrew from parts of the territory. Its leaders say Palestinians achieved their demand that Israel lift the blockade that has gutted Gaza’s economy.
But Israel has only agreed to ease restrictions, not remove them. And it has said their troops pulled back simply to boost peace prospects, not because Hamas forced it to. Thousands of Israeli forces remain massed along the Gaza frontier, prepared to respond to any attacks.
With both sides seeking to return to normal civilian life, continued posturing seems aimed at shoring up public support after a grueling conflict.
|Eliminate Hamas’ tunnel network and rocket capabilities
|Lift Israeli blockade on Gaza
|Inflicted damage but capabilities not fully removed
|Continued rocket attacks until ceasefire
|Eased some restrictions but blockade remains
|Gained symbolic win with Israeli withdrawal
|Still retains military upper hand
|Economy remains crippled by Israeli policies
Rebuilding Gaza Faces Immense Challenges
As Hamas moves to reestablish its authority in Gaza, it faces monumental challenges ahead in rebuilding the territory after nearly four months of intense Israeli bombardment.
The recent fighting has left swaths of Gaza in ruins, displacing over 120,000 people from their homes. The United Nations estimates almost 3,000 housing units in Gaza were destroyed and 37,000 were damaged. Bombardments of roads, energy facilities and water pipes have also taken a heavy toll.
The World Bank puts the overall damage from the fighting at around $380 million. With Gaza’s economy already suffering from years of Israeli restrictions and rule by Hamas, prospects for recovery look exceedingly dim.
Donor nations are convening next month in Norway to discuss rebuilding Gaza. But aid groups acknowledge that funds alone will not be enough without concrete action by Israel to ease its blockade and allow major reconstruction projects to move forward.
Hamas also faces distrust among many Palestinians in Gaza. Some residents privately complain that the militant rulers escalated tensions with Israel without regard for the disastrous consequences.
Overall, Hamas remains firmly entrenched in Gaza even as the territory lies in ruins. The militants still possess a vast arsenal of rockets and mortars and dozens of attack tunnels reaching into Israel. While weakened, their fighting force still remains intact.
With so much devastation and economic misery, many fear it’s only a matter of time before violence ignites once more. Both Hamas and Israel’s leaders face heavy pressures that could push them back to the battlefield. For now, an uneasy calm prevails.
What Lies Ahead
Nearly four months of the heaviest fighting between Israel and Hamas since 2021 has wreaked devastation across Gaza and disrupted life for millions of Israelis. Though guns have gone silent for now after multiple failed truces, major uncertainties lie ahead.
Egypt plans to invite Israeli and Palestinian delegations to Cairo in the coming weeks as it pushes for a longer-term cease-fire. Previous attempts to cement a deal have repeatedly broken down over disagreements about easing Gaza border restrictions. With both sides weakened, Egypt is hoping that this time may be different. But the gaps remain wide. Hamas says Israel must lift its blockade for real progress, while Israel wants Gaza fully demilitarized. All parties realize though that a lack of agreement greatly heightens risks of another round of bloodshed.
If fighting remains halted, the focus will shift to Gaza’s reconstruction following intense Israeli bombardment of roads, energy facilities and residential buildings. Donor countries are readying to provide aid, but without loosening of Israeli restrictions it may do little to revive Gaza’s economy or allow major rebuilding initiatives. Living conditions in Gaza could deteriorate further, emboldening militants. However, Israeli officials remain deeply wary of allowing dual-use construction materials into Gaza that could potentially assist militants in replenishing their arsenal. Though donor funding could alleviate immediate needs, alleviating Gaza’s economic and humanitarian crisis ultimately requires difficult political decisions by Israel that past governments have proven unable to make.
A tenuous calm prevails for now. But any outbreak of violence could rapidly escalate given the amount of firepower still possessed by both sides. Israel retains formidable air power and mobile artillery that could unleash punishing strikes across Gaza within hours. At the same time, Hamas and other militant factions in Gaza still have thousands of rockets capable of striking deep into Israeli cities like Tel Aviv. Both Israeli and Hamas leaders face internal pressures and future flashpoints on Jerusalem’s al-Aqsa Mosque compound or Gaza border protests could trigger renewed clashes. With so much animosity and distrust accrued over years of bloody fighting, the current quiet seems unlikely to hold for the long term absent a sea change in relations between the bitter enemies.
So in summary, while fighting has halted after more than three months, the future direction of the conflict between Israel and Hamas remains highly uncertain. Diplomatic initiatives, economic recovery efforts and lingering military threats will all help determine whether the current ceasefire ushers in a period of greater calm or proves to be merely a pause before the next war. The coming weeks and months will prove crucial.
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