Will Hamas Be Dislodged From Gaza? – OpEd


It now seems clear that on October 7 Hamas, no doubt urged on by Iran, bit off a good deal more than it could chew.

Its leaders in Gaza (Yahya Sinwar and Mohammed Deif), together with its leaders-in-exile living in luxury in Qatar (Ismail Haniyeh and Khaled Meshaal), may have been led by Iran to expect a widespread uprising of the Arab world in support of their massive killing spree in Israel. They may have envisaged their invasion advancing into the country supported by uprisings in the West Bank, an invasion by Hezbollah in the north, perhaps joined by Syrian troops up in the Golan, irregular Jordanian fighters in the east and even Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood militias from the west.  Perhaps Iran already had in mind, and promised them, a crushing blow on Israel by launching a direct aerial attack, reversing its long-standing policy of using only proxies in its anti-Israel operations.

This scenario, mouth-wateringly tempting for Hamas, simply failed to materialize.  Action of some sort did manifest itself, but on nothing like the scale or with the coordination that would have been politically or militarily meaningful.

Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah, informed  of Hamas’s plans only half an hour before the attack began on October 7, soon dissociated himself from the assault.  All the same, since October 7 Hezbollah’s continuous skirmishes over the Israel-Lebanon border have been stepped up, and 60,000 Israelis evacuated from their homes are still unable to return.  On June 4 Reuters reported that large swaths of northern Israel were engulfed by wild fires set off by rockets launched by Hezbollah. It’s far from an invasion, but it needs to be quelled.

Immediately after October 7 the Houthi rebels, ensconced in areas of west Yemen, declared war on Israel.  This was scarcely surprising, since the Houthi flag has “Death to Israel” and “A curse on the Jews”, emblazoned across it, in addition to the statutory “Death to America”.  Then, responding to a call from Iran’s Supreme Leader, Ali Khamenei, they initiated a program of harassing international shipping in the Red Sea.  On May 29 the official Iranian news agency confirmed that Iran has supplied the Houthis with Ghadr rockets, described as Iran’s first anti-ship ballistic missiles. 

In response American and British fighter jets and US ships have hit a wide range of underground facilities, missile launchers, command and control sites, a Houthi vessel and other facilities.   The  Houthis, however, have ten years of battle experience behind them, are riding high in Arab public opinion, and will likely maintain their effort against the combined US-UK forces for some time.

Meanwhile on April 13 Iran decided to ratchet up Hamas’s flagging effort by launching a first-ever direct aerial assault on Israel.  Around midnight it sent some 170 drones, over 30 cruise missiles, and more than 120 ballistic missiles the 1,000 kilometers toward Israel.  The Iranian leadership no doubt expected a massive military and propaganda triumph.  In the event  the operation was a miserable failure.  To supplement Israel’s Iron Dome defense, America and Britain sent jet fighters to help shoot down the missiles.  At the same time, surprisingly, Jordan refused to allow Iran to use its air space for the operation, while several Gulf States, among them Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, passed on intelligence about Iran’s plans.  As a result about 99% of the aerial armada never reached Israel. 

By June 1 reality must surely have begun to dawn on both Iran and its proxies.  They were, in the time-honored phrase, on a hiding to nothing.  Like the sorcerer’s apprentice. Hamas had conjured up a situation way beyond what it had expected or could control.  All but four of its 24 battalions had been dismantled, and the four remaining operational battalions are in the southern city of Rafah, and are now in the IDF’s sights.

So the announcement by US President Joe Biden on June 1 of a ceasefire proposal that could lead to the end of the war must –  whatever the public posturings may indicate –be under serious consideration by Hamas.  The four-and-a-half page plan had been sent to Hamas for review the previous day. 

Biden said the plan encompassed three phases.  The first, which would last for six weeks, would include a “full and complete” ceasefire, the withdrawal of Israeli forces from “all populated areas” of Gaza and the “release of a number of hostages including women, the elderly, the wounded in exchange for release of hundreds of Palestinian prisoners.”  Palestinian civilians will return to their homes, while humanitarian assistance will increase to 600 trucks carrying aid into Gaza daily.

For Hamas a guaranteed breathing space of six weeks would come as a welcome relief, especially since Israel would be withdrawing from populated areas at the same time. However also built into the first phase is the obligation for Israel and Hamas to undertake talks designed to get to the next stage of the proposal. 

The possibility of the talks stalling  has been built into the plan.

“The proposal,” said Biden, “says…the ceasefire will still continue for as long as negotiations continue,” adding that the US, Qatar and Egypt will ensure that talks continue during this period until “all agreements are reached” to start the second phase.

Of course, Hamas could decide to stick with the “temporary“ ceasefire indefinitely.  But if they did, they would forego the second phase, which would see Israeli forces withdraw completely from Gaza accompanied by the release of all remaining hostages who are alive.

In the third phase, said Biden “a major reconstruction plan for Gaza would commence,” and the remains of hostages who have been killed would be returned to their families.  In the deal to rebuild Gaza, Arab nations and the international community will participate “without Hamas in power,” as he put it earlier.  That suits Biden as much as it does Israel, for he knows that Hamas will have no truck with the two-state solution that he espouses so fervently. 

Hamas initially said that it viewed the proposal “positively”, but by June 4 the media were reporting that Hamas was apparently stalling.  It would not enhance its public image to be seen to be grasping too eagerly at the proposal.

Doubtless the Hamas leaders have their own “day after” aspirations.  They may reconcile themselves to losing the governance of Gaza, but probably envisage basing themselves elsewhere and continuing the fight from there.  It is morally certain they have no intention of abandoning their core objective of overthrowing Israel and eliminating the Jewish presence from the Middle East. 

Neville Teller

Neville Teller's latest book is ""Trump and the Holy Land: 2016-2020". He has written about the Middle East for more than 30 years, has published five books on the subject, and blogs at "A Mid-East Journal". Born in London and a graduate of Oxford University, he is also a long-time dramatist, writer and abridger for BBC radio and for the UK audiobook industry. He was made an MBE in the Queen's Birthday Honours, 2006 "for services to broadcasting and to drama."

2 thoughts on “Will Hamas Be Dislodged From Gaza? – OpEd

  • June 15, 2024 at 3:36 am

    the outcomes are a Palestinian state or ongoing war.
    luckily there is money in war, especially for Israeli settlers and religious crazies.
    no shortage of crazies on the Aza side too

  • June 18, 2024 at 7:49 am

    I think the writer is way off base. His assessment of Hamas’s current strength is in direct contradiction of US Intelligence assessments that believe Hamas has retained 70% of its force and is having no trouble with recruitment. As to Hamas’s “limited” remaining forces being in southern Gaza where they are being hunted down by Israel, that fails to explain why areas in central and northern Gaza, supposedly cleared of Hamas forces are still engaged with the IDF in those areas. There’s been no evidence produced that Iran or Hezbollah either had direct notice of the October 7 attacks prior to the 7th or any coordination. Additionally, there’s been nothing to indicate that Hamas anticipated a great uprising in the West Bank, an area with minimal Hamas presence and very limited armed resistance. Further, the assessment that Hamas anticipated a coordinated attack on Israel by other Arab countries as well as Iran and Hezbollah, is also unsupported by any evidence. As the Palestinians have been left under occupation for 58 years with no material support for lifting the occupation coming from Arab states, the same states that have been succumbing to the US bribes of military and foreign aid for recognizing Israel, it’s difficult to believe that they would suddenly change course and attack Israel at Hamas’s behest, knowing full well that the US would enter the fray. The statement that Iran changed its policy of only attacking Israel through proxies and launched a direct attack, as if this action was initiated by Iran. The writer failed to mention that Israel launched an unprovoked attack on the Iranian consulate in Syria, in direct violation of international law. Israel has launched a number of unprovoked attacks directly on Iran over the years including, bombing Iranian nuclear facilities, targeted assassinations of multiple Iranian nuclear scientists, and cyberattacks (suspected to have been in coordination with the US). Israel has been attempting to draw the US into a direct conflict with Iran for years, seeking to secure their hegemony in the area. In my opinion, Iran played their hand well. They had to retaliate but clearly have no desire to escalate conflict in the area (a policy that both Israel and the US should adopt). They made a show of force which essentially guaranteed that there would be little or no loss of life (again a policy that Israel and the US should adopt rather than dropping endless numbers of 2,000 lbs bombs on one of the most densely populated areas on the planet, guaranteeing horrific loss of life). Using mostly older, slower munitions there was ample time for Israel and the western cowboys to safely intervene though there is evidence, not distributed on western MSM, that they did damage an Israeli military installation. The attack cost Iran very little while costing Israel and the cowboys millions of dollars. I would call that far from humiliating for Iran. They made it next to impossible for Israel to justify a massive retaliation, spent very little money, and caused Israel and its allies to spend many, many multiples of that amount. Goals achieved.
    Israel, and in particular Netanyahu, has always rejected a two state solution, going so far as to vow it will never happen. It seems disingenuous at best to attribute that refusal to Hamas. Hamas leadership has shown themselves to be far better organized and far better negotiators than Israel whose coalition is faltering, military is revolting, and who has no strategy for “winning” or even a realistic end goal. Most analysts see Israel fighting a war of attrition with no reasonable means of “eliminating Hamas” and certainly no credible plan to garner the release of hostages. Their “daring” and much celebrated success of freeing 4 hostages while killing 3 other hostages and 274 Palestinians through the commission of the war crime of perfidy, hiding fighters in a false humanitarian aid truck pales beside the release of over 100 hostages through a week long truce in November. I fail to see any reason to celebrate the commission of a war crime and the slaughter of 274 Palestinians and 3 hostages. Im pleased for those 4 hostages and their families. Their pain has been terrible. I would be far more pleased to see the remaining hostages freed without the unnecessary slaughter of Palestinians and hostages.
    As if enough humanitarian aid workers haven’t already been murdered in this siege, the highest number of deaths in any conflict since the formation of the UN. Now, they will be at far greater risk. Using the US “humanitarian pier” which was always a ridiculous photo op, having limited benefit to the people of Gaza, has given evidence to the theory that the true intention for the pier was military in nature.
    Underestimating Hamas is a dangerous mindset. You don’t have to like them or their methods but underestimate them at your peril. It’s been 9 months of brutal genocide inflicted by one of the strongest, best equipped militaries in the world who is supported militarily and politically by the largest and best equipped military in the world and yet, Israel still hasn’t been able to truly remove them from any area in Gaza and they are tough, intelligent negotiators who have presented clear goals for a permanent end to this genocide. Rather than quoting Hamas statements from years ago it’s necessary to look at what they are saying and demanding NOW. They want an end to the brutal occupation and blockade of Gaza and self determination, not some vague promises of a “peace process” (they know exactly what that means – delay, delay delay while Israel takes more land and builds more settlements). They’ve given up too much, paid far too high a price in human lives to simply quit now and return to a life that will be far worse than it was before. It’s time for the US and its allies to end their complicity in and aid of this genocide and take the necessary steps to force Israel to relinquish all land occupied after 1967 and FINALLY allow the Palestinian people the self determination and human dignity that they, and all people deserve. That is the only way to secure peace and security for both Israelis and Palestinians.


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