The transient weekend war over Gaza had a grimly acquainted consequence: dozens of Palestinians killed, together with militant leaders in addition to kids, and rankings of houses broken or destroyed, maximum by way of Israeli airstrikes however some from Palestinian misfires.
But something used to be other from the standard combating: Hamas, the de facto civilian executive in Gaza, remained at the sidelines. A smaller Islamist team, the Palestinian Islamic Jihad, took the lead in firing rockets — greater than 1,000 of them — and bore the brunt of Israeli airstrikes, which started on Friday to pre-empt what Israel mentioned used to be an coming near near Islamic Jihad assault.
Though no longer remarkable, Hamas’s choice showed the complicated and moving function that the motion has assumed since seizing regulate of the Gaza Strip in 2007. It additionally showcased the frictions amongst Palestinian Islamist militants about how highest to struggle Israel, and highlighted each the affect of Iran — which backs each Hamas and Islamic Jihad — and the bounds of that make stronger.
Hamas continues to be an army power that opposes Israel’s life, and is regarded as a terrorist team by way of Israel and the United States. But not like Islamic Jihad, it is usually a ruling management and a social motion. Though authoritarian, Hamas is delicate to public opinion within the enclave and should additionally deal, if handiest not directly, with Israel to appease essentially the most restrictive facets of a 15-year Israeli-Egyptian blockade that used to be enforced after the crowd took energy and has decimated residing prerequisites in Gaza.
By keeping fireplace over the weekend, Hamas confirmed sensitivity to Palestinian fatigue on the prospect of but any other war of words with Israel, a minimum of the 6th all the way through Hamas’ tenure. It additionally instructed that Hamas used to be cautious of shedding a number of small however vital financial measures that Israel has introduced Gaza because the remaining main war of words in May 2021, together with 14,000 Israeli paintings lets in that boosted the strip’s financial system.
In a briefing for journalists on Monday, a senior Israeli authentic, talking anonymously as a way to speak about the problem extra freely, mentioned that the Israeli coverage of providing extra paintings lets in during the last yr had performed a vital function in retaining Hamas clear of this spherical of combating. The authentic mentioned this could inspire Israel to step up the manner sooner or later.
While nobody expects the elemental dynamics in Gaza to switch, let on my own the broader Israeli-Palestinian war, some analysts, diplomats and officers hope that the perceived luck of this trade-off will inspire Israel to ease extra restrictions sooner or later, additional lowering the possibility of violence.
“Hamas doesn’t want war at this moment,” mentioned Hugh Lovatt, a professional on Palestinian politics on the European Council on Foreign Relations, a analysis team. “There is a more pragmatic relationship between Hamas and Israel that has developed. To a certain extent, it might be mutual.”
Publicly, Hamas and Islamic Jihad have expressed solidarity with each other during and after the weekend conflict, and promised to join forces again in the future, much as they did during earlier rounds of fighting in 2008, 2014 and 2021.
Fundamentally, both groups have a similar goal and ideology. They have roots in the Muslim Brotherhood, the global Islamist movement, and seek an end to Israel and its replacement by an Islamic Palestinian state.
Muhammad al-Hindi, an Islamic Jihad official, told a Turkish broadcaster on Sunday that there was no rift between the two groups. “Our relationship with Hamas has gotten stronger and more solid,” Mr. al-Hindi mentioned. “We entered battles in combination and we can input battles aspect by way of aspect, in combination.”
In a statement posted on its website on Saturday, Hamas said it remained “united” with Islamic Jihad, adding that “the warring parties of all info are confronting this aggression as one.”
But the two groups’ divergent behavior during the conflict reflects their differing current priorities as well as historical back stories.
Founded more than four decades ago, Islamic Jihad is older, smaller, and predominantly concerned with violent opposition to Israel. It has little interest even in participating in Palestinian political structures.
Hamas, formed in 1987, is comparatively more pragmatic — a social and political movement as well as a militant one.
It opposed efforts led by the Palestine Liberation Organization, the internationally recognized representative of the Palestinians, to seek a peace deal with Israel in the 1990s, mounting a lethal terrorism campaign to derail that process.
But Hamas nevertheless participates in Palestinian elections, winning the last legislative election in 2006. It worked within governments in the Palestinian Authority, even after wresting Gaza from the authority’s control. And in recent years, it indicated a willingness to negotiate a long-term truce with Israel, while stopping short of its legitimacy.
“Ideologically they are not really much different — they both believe Israel has no right to exist in Palestine,” said Azzam Tamimi, an expert on political Islam and an academic affiliated with the Muslim Brotherhood. “But Hamas sees itself as a pacesetter of society, no longer only a resistance motion.”
Both Hamas and Islamic Jihad receive financial and logistical support from Iran. But their different approaches in recent days highlight how Islamic Jihad — whose leader, Ziad al-Nakhala, was visiting Tehran during the conflict — is more susceptible to Iranian influence than Hamas.
During the Syrian civil war, Islamic Jihad never broke with Iran’s close ally, Syria, despite the Syrian government’s war against rebels who were, like Islamic Jihad and Hamas, Sunni Islamists. Hamas, however, severed ties with Damascus a decade ago, in solidarity with the Syrian Muslim Brotherhood, and only recently restored them.
“Islamic Jihad decided from the beginning that the Iranian revolution was a model, a beacon of some sort,” said Mr. Tamimi. Hamas, he added, “has all the time insisted that the connection with Iran will have to be at the foundation of cooperation no longer tied to any strings.”
Islamic Jihad’s battle with Israel could bolster its popularity among some Palestinians, but past polling suggests it could have the opposite effect in Gaza itself — particularly after some of the group’s rockets appeared to misfire and fell on civilian areas in the strip, video seemed to show. After a similar round of fighting in 2019, in which Hamas also stayed outside the fray, nearly half of Gazans felt Hamas was right to do so, and only a third disagreed.
Some Israelis hope that Hamas, trying to maintain favor in Gaza, will continue to stay out of future conflicts if given more economic incentives to do so.
“I want to speak directly to the residents of the Gaza Strip and tell them: There is another way,” the Israeli prime minister, Yair Lapid, said in a speech Monday evening. “We know how to protect ourselves from anyone who threatens us, but we also know how to provide employment, a livelihood and a life of dignity to those who wish to live by our side in peace.”
Yonatan Touval, an analyst at Mitvim, an Israeli research group, said the situation even presented “a chance for advancing far-reaching preparations between the 2 facets — initially the ones involving the rebuilding of Gaza.”
But few expect small economic gestures to fundamentally change Hamas’s broader outlook, particularly while the blockade remains in place. Israel’s granting of 14,000 work permits has boosted the incomes of thousands of families, but doesn’t alter the lives of the majority. In the crowded enclave of 2 million, nearly half of working age adults are unemployed and only one in 10 Gazans has access to clean water.
“Absent a more sustainable long term political vision for Gaza,” said Mr. Lovatt, the analyst, “the cease-fire association with Israel will in the long run one day hit the bounds of what it can give Gaza and Hamas.”
Isabel Kershner and Hiba Yazbek contributed reporting.