With Hamas's confidence waxing, Khaled Meshaal arrives in Gaza
The Hamas leader's return to Palestinian territory, his first visit since 1967, coincides with the party's increased sway after an eight-day conflict with Israel and UN recognition of Palestine.
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Israel says its airstrikes did substantial damage to Hamas in November, killing Ahmed al-Jaabari, its military chief, and diminishing its supply of weapons, reports the Telegraph. But according to The Associated Press, Hamas leaders declared victory in Gaza after the truce was brokered in November. “While Israel said it inflicted heavy damage on the militants, Gaza's Hamas rulers claimed that Israel's decision not to send ground troops into the territory, as it had four years ago, was a sign of a new Hamas deterrent power.”Skip to next paragraph
Latin America Editor
Whitney Eulich is the Monitor's Latin America editor, overseeing regional coverage for CSMonitor.com and the weekly magazine. She also curates the Latin America Monitor Blog.
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A spokesman for Israel’s foreign ministry told Bloomberg today that “it doesn’t matter who they are, Hamas still stands for violence, bloodshed, extremism and racism.”
But the November Israeli-Palestinian face-off highlighted a change in the regional attitude toward Hamas, one that The Christian Science Monitor’s Egypt correspondent writes may be attributed to the aftermath of last year’s Arab uprisings. Political parties such as Hamas now have more support from Arab leaders, and the role Egypt’s Mohamed Morsi, the Turkish prime minister, Qatari emir, and Hamas’ exiled Meshaal played in brokering the cease-fire last month is one example of this.
…[I]n the post-“Arab spring” Middle East, the region looks much different, and Hamas has found a new swell of support as it faces Israel. Mr. Mubarak, ousted in a popular uprising in 2011, has been replaced by an elected president from the Muslim Brotherhood. Instead of a mostly sealed Gaza-Egypt border, it has become difficult to keep track of all the solidarity trips made to Gaza by Arab officials. ...
The uprisings that displaced pro-Western autocrats who toed the US line on Israel have brought to power Islamist governments more friendly to Hamas, as well as more sensitive to public opinion typically supportive of the Palestinian cause. This has reshaped the regional dynamics, leaving Israel increasingly isolated. These new governments, along with Turkey and Qatar, have formed a vocal block of opposition to Israel's assault on Gaza.
“This is a significant change in the Arab reaction,” says Khalil Al Anani, a scholar at Durham University in Britain. The new Arab nations ready to take a stronger stance against Israel could change Israel’s calculations in favor of more restraint.
“It shows that Gaza is not alone. This will put pressure on Israel, and they [Arab states] can move further if they want, by lobbying internationally and putting a spotlight on Israel and its lack of interest in peace," he says.
“The visit of Mashaal to Gaza is one of the fruits of the victory Hamas has achieved during the eight-day war on Gaza,” Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri said, according to Bloomberg. “Gaza is freed now and will receive whoever visitors it wants.”
Hamas was founded Dec. 14, 1987, after the first Palestinian uprising against Israeli occupation. This weekend’s celebrations were moved up to coincide with the first intifada, or uprising, against Israel, reports the Times.
According to the BBC, “Under its charter, Hamas is committed to the destruction of Israel. But the group has also offered a 10-year truce in return for a complete Israeli withdrawal from territories it occupied in 1967.”
Meshaal, who reportedly kissed the ground upon entering Gaza from Egypt, is expected to speak at tomorrow’s rally. He also plans to visit the homes of fallen Hamas members including Mr. Jabari and Hamas’ spiritual leader Sheik Ahmed Yassin.