With Israel & Hamas Locking Horns Again, a Gaza-Based Expert Says Full-Fledged War Still Unlikely

© REUTERS / Amir CohenИзраильская противоракетная система "Железный купол" перехватывает ракеты, запущенные из сектора Газа в направлении Израиля
Израильская противоракетная система Железный купол перехватывает ракеты, запущенные из сектора Газа в направлении Израиля - Sputnik International, 1920, 14.09.2021
The Jewish state has entered its holiday season and cannot occupy itself with another round of hostilities with the Islamic group that controls the Gaza Strip. Hamas, on the other hand, is still licking its wounds from the previous confrontation.
Four months after Israel's Guardian of the Walls operation in Gaza, tensions between the sides are brewing again. And now it seems that the Jewish state is preparing itself for yet another confrontation with Hamas, the Islamic group that controls the enclave.

Tensions Run High

Recently, it was reported that during his trip to Washington, Prime Minister Naftali Bennett asked the American leader Joe Biden to replenish the Iron Dome Defence System with interception missiles after their stock was depleted following the recent escalation with Gaza.
Some Israeli analysts saw it as an indication that another round of hostilities was just around the corner.
The escape of six Palestinian prisoners from the Gilboa facility in northern Israel has also added fuel to the fire.
Their escape prompted Israel to tighten its security around other prisoners serving terms on charges of terrorism, a move that was seen as harming their conditions.
As a result, hundreds of Palestinians took to the streets of cities across the West Bank on Friday, clashing with the IDF. Jerusalem registered a number of stabbing incidents, and shortly after four fugitives have been captured, the militants of the Gaza Strip launched several rockets into Israel's southern communities, prompting an Israeli response.

On the Brink of War?

Mkhaimer Abu Seada, a political analyst from Gaza, has been following the recent developments with great concern. And he thinks that Hamas is not interested in yet another full-fledged conflict with Israel.
The previous round has left the Strip devastated. Many roads, hospitals, police stations, schools and residential buildings have been either partially or fully destroyed, and the general mood on the street is that another confrontation could deal a blow to Gaza from which it will hardly recover.
"What Hamas is trying to achieve is to bring the situation in the Strip to what it was before the Guardian of the Walls operation. They are also trying to get out of Israel concessions that would improve the lives of ordinary Palestinians".
Israel has already extended some of those concessions. In recent weeks, Israeli authorities opened the crossing with Gaza allowing some products and necessities in. The fishing zone was expanded too, and some Gazans have been given a permit to enter Israel for work and medical services.

But Abu Seada says this is hardly enough for Hamas. "Their frustration is mounting because the Qatari money hasn't reached Gaza yet. They are also angry, as Israel that did allow some concrete in doesn't allow the entry of steel into the enclave."

To vent their frustration, Hamas, says Abu Seada is resorting to its old tricks. Only recently, the weekly riots at the fence that separates Israel from Gaza have resumed. The activists of the group continue to send incendiary balloons into the Jewish state, where nightly disturbances of the country’s southern communities have become a regular occurrence.
"They are stretching the rope in a bid to get more concessions, knowing that Israel will not want to escalate tensions now either".
Many Jewish holidays are celebrated in September, and for many Israelis it is a time for family and getting together. Bennett and his security people are saying they are ready for any scenario but the chances that they will open a full-fledged war in the middle of the holiday season are slim.
"What happens after the holidays will largely depend on the behaviour of Hamas," said Abu Seada. "Israel might go into a confrontation if tensions continue to be high," he added.

Mediation Efforts

However, since the hostilities of May there have been many efforts to bridge the gap between the two sides. The mediation has been carried out by Qatar and Egypt, with the latter holding multiple meetings with both Israeli and Palestinians delegations to reach a long-lasting truce.
Parallel to that, Egypt has been exerting efforts into what seems to be as the revival of the Israeli-Palestinian peace process. Lately, President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi met with the head of the Palestinian Authority Mahmoud Abbas and Jordanian leader King Abdallah II. Yesterday, he also held a bilateral meeting with PM Bennett.

However, Abu Seada is certain these efforts are unlikely to yield any tangible results. "I don't think that there will be a revival of the peace process. Bennett is weak, and so is Abbas. But there might be a hudna [Arabic for truce - ed.] between Israel and Hamas and that will involve a prisoners' swap."

Hamas has already stated that any negotiations in this regard will include the names of the six prisoners who escaped from the Gilboa last week. But it is unlikely that Bennett, known for his hawkish views, will be willing to budge.
"The gaps between the two sides are still too wide, and I am not sure Bennett will be ready to pay the price that [former prime minister Benjamin] Netanyahu did, when he swapped the Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit for more than 1,000 Palestinian prisoners."
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