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Terrorism & Security

Israeli general hints at another Gaza campaign

Israel and Gaza traded fire this week as Israel began discussing the possibility of another incursion to reestablish 'deterrence.'

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Although Hamas continues to reject Israel's existence, it has attempted to keep a tense peace with Israel by trying to rein in rocket fire from more radical groups in the Gaza Strip, The New York Times reports. The efforts mean little to some Israeli military officials.

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"We shoot when we're being shot at," one security official told Reuters Friday. "It's clear that Hamas does not have an interest in fanning the flames at this time, but it's not dousing them either."

According to a Haaretz report yesterday, in late November Hamas leader Khaled Meshal has ordered the group's military wing to cease attacks on Israeli targets. Israeli officials say they've detected no change in the group's behavior, nor have they received official word of Mr. Meshal's order. They attributed the decision to convenience, not a change of heart. Hamas in Gaza scoffed at Meshal's decision.

Hamas' leadership in Gaza said it was surprised by Meshal's statement and that "the only way to liberate the occupied lands is through the armed struggle." The Hamas interior minister in Gaza, Fathi Hamad, added that the group's "internal leadership" does not necessarily intend to abide by Meshal's policy.

In an analysis for Haaretz, military affairs reporter Avi Issacharoff writes that Meshal's decision is based on practicalities, not a true change in strategy or goals. He also notes that efforts to rein in rocket fire have earned Hamas in Gaza significant criticism, and prompted many defections to the more radical group Islamic Jihad, which continues to fire rockets.

The historical decision to modify the character of the Palestinian struggle – alongside Hamas' agreement to join the Palestine Liberation Organization (and in large measure to accept the written agreements with Israel ) – does not necessarily attest to a strategic shift in terms of goals. It's possible that Meshal and his aides realize that for now they need to forgo terrorist attacks in favor of new and more effective ways of achieving their goals: Indeed, Meshal and his colleagues admit that they have not completely abandoned the armed struggle and that they reserve the right to resist the Israeli occupation "using all means." Meshal also emphasized that Hamas does not intend to disarm or to stop the organization's huge arms buildup in Gaza.

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