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Sunday, June 11, 2006

Day of the Kassams: Hamas Analysis by Elliot Chodoff

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The following is a commentary on the boiling rivalry in the Middle East between the terrorists of Hamas and of Fatah. It was written by friends (Elliot Chodoff) at the Middle East on Target think tank, who graciously allow us to reprint the columns.

Read on for an expert perspective on Hamas' bombardment of Israelis with Qassam (spelt Kassam by Chodoff) rockets, and the relation to the situation of the Arabs popularly but erroneously known as "Palestinians." (The error is that the term doesn't only apply to Arabs. Jews can also be Palestinians, if they were living in British-mandate Palestine and had Palestinian passports.)

Day of the Kassams

by Elliot Chodoff

At last count, 25 Kassam rockets have landed in Southern Israel since Saturday night, seriously wounding one Israeli. Many more have been fired that have landed in Palestinian territory, as these weapons are far from accurate and their terrorist shooters are poorly trained at best.

The escalation in rocket fire, combined with an unprecedented 97 terrorist attack warnings recorded by Israeli security services, follows the Hamas declaration of the termination of the cease fire announced some 16 months ago. [They are] Ostensibly responding to the explosion on a Gaza beach that killed 7 Palestinians on Friday, and the elimination of Jamal Abu Samhadana, who topped Israel’s Most Wanted Terrorist list, by an IAF [Israeli Air Force] air strike on Thursday night.

It matters little to Hamas and the rest of the Palestinian terrorist organizations that the Gaza beach explosion was most likely an errant Kassam (which should lay to rest the oft repeated claim in the Western media, that the Kassam is a "primitive" – and therefore not dangerous – weapon) and not an IDF [Israeli Defense Force; the umbrella name for all of Israel's military] fired shell. Nor does the fact that Samhadana was a terrorist wanted by Israel for years of lethal attacks against civilians in any way reduce the calls for revenge by the terrorist organizations that see him as a hero and martyr. The time is ripe for escalation of violence, and any excuse will do the trick for Hamas.

Two related issues are the underlying causes of the increase in terrorist violence today. The first is the threat of civil war between Hamas and Fatah that has threatened to erupt over the past few weeks. On again off again surges in internecine violence, particularly in Gaza, have left casualties and threats of revenge as the two groups maneuver for power, their traditional positions having been reversed with Hamas' recent electoral victory. Fatah, now in opposition, maintains an advantage in firepower, as Hamas holds the position of legislative authority.

The second issue was introduced recently as Fatah jockeys to regain its lost position. The delicate balance of power and authority was upset by PA Chairman Abu Mazen's threat to hold a referendum, against Hamas' wishes, on a plan to establish sovereignty in the West Bank and Gaza, tacitly recognizing some of the prior agreements with Israel. Tacit recognition of anything related to Israel is anathema to Hamas, and the referendum threat is a direct challenge to its authority. An attempt by Abu Mazen and his Fatah followers to implement the referendum is likely to be violently opposed by Hamas and could be the spark that would ignite the primed powder keg in the West Bank and Gaza.

The Hamas solution, as is frequently the case with terrorist organizations, is to escalate the violence against Israel. From the Hamas perspective, violence now produces a win-win situation. The simple act of ending the cease fire and launching dozens of rockets puts the organization back in the headlines as the primary fighter against the Jewish State, avenging the deaths blamed on Israel, regardless of [who] the true perpetrators [are]. If a large number of Israelis are killed or injured, so much the better. And if the attacks instigate an IDF military response, which is sure to be the case if civilian casualties mount or life in the town of Sderot continues to be disrupted, the conflict between Fatah and Hamas will be papered over as no group can afford to remain on the sidelines of an IDF operation.

In the long run a Fatah-Hamas battle may be inevitable, but the current escalation may delay that eruption as Israeli security requirements necessitate IDF intervention despite the political consequences on the Palestinian side of the fence.

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