YES, HAMAS IS GOING TO GIVE UP THE VIOLENCE AND KISS AND MAKE UP WITH ISRAEL! I CAN SEE IT NOW, HAMAS’ LEADER ARM IN ARM WITH ISRAEL’S PRIME MINISTER SINGING KUMBAYA, FAWNING OVER EACH OTHER IN MUTUAL ADORATION AND AFFECTION, HUGS AND FLOWERS FOR EVERYONE…SURELY NO ONE IS STUPID ENOUGH TO BELIEVE THIS FOR A SECOND? BUT OF COURSE OUR LEADERS WILL APPLAUDE THIS NEW FOUND LOVE AS A POSITIVE STEP IN THE FORCED PEACE AGREEMENTS THAT KEEP GETTING SHOVED DOWN ISRAEL’S THROAT…
Hamas set to reject violence: report
Peter Goodspeed Dec 16, 2011 – 12:30 AM ET | Last Updated: Dec 16, 2011 12:37 AM ET
SAID KHATIB/AFP/Getty Images
A Palestinian boy appears behind flags of the Islamist movement Hamas during celebrations for the 24th anniversary of its foundation in Gaza City on Dec. 14.
In the Middle East what happens in the shadows is frequently more important than what occurs in bright daylight and Wednesday’s 24th anniversary celebrations in Gaza of the founding of Hamas were no exception.
The dusty Palestinian enclave by the sea was an ocean of green flags as more than 300,000 people attended a Hamas rally in the centre of Gaza City.
Masked men, armed with AK-47s, formed a ceremonial guard for Gaza’s de facto prime minister, Ismail Haniyeh, who mounted a stage shaped like a ship and decorated with a model of Jerusalem’s Al-Aqsa mosque, as a 10-man vocal group led the crowd in chanting, “We will not recognize Israel.”
Beneath the surface, however, something else may be going on.
The same day as Hamas’s Gaza celebration, IHS Jane’s, the well-respected defence and security intelligence analysis agency, published an exclusive report claiming Hamas was on the brink of renouncing armed resistance and moving to a policy of non-violent resistance to Israel.
“The move is part of a general realignment of Hamas’s strategy and allies in the wake of the Arab Spring, especially the impending electoral success of Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood,” said David Hartwell, Jane’s senior Middle East and North Africa analyst.
“Sources in the movement told Jane’s in December that Hamas is downgrading its ties with Syria and Iran, forging new relationships with Egypt, Qatar and Turkey, and perhaps most significantly of all, renouncing armed resistance to Israel and moving to a policy of non-violent resistance.
“Many of these changes are a direct result of the Arab Spring that has swept the region in 2011.”
According to Jane’s, the new strategic alliances Hamas has forged with Arab populist movements, led by Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood, have triggered a major strategic debate within the Gaza-based terrorist group.
MAHMUD HAMS/AFP/Getty Images
A Palestinian boy dressed as a member of the Ezzedine al-Qassam Brigades, the armed wing of Hamas, holds a toy gun as he attends celebrations for the 24th anniversary of its foundation in Gaza City on Wednesday.
As people power revolutions swept the Arab world, Hamas found itself being forced to change by governments in Egypt, Qatar and Turkey, who want the Palestinian Islamist group to abandon armed resistance in favour of reconciliation with its rival Fatah.
Palestinian reconciliation was the focus of negotiations between Khaled Meshaal, the Hamas political chief, and Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian Authority President, in Cairo Nov. 24.
“Although no public announcement has been made, senior security sources within Hamas have confirmed to IHS Jane’s that the group has accepted for the first time since its establishment in 1987 to move from armed to non-violent resistance,” the Jane’s report says.
Mr. Meshaal is said to have agreed to end armed resistance at the Cairo meeting and signed an agreement with Fatah to that effect.
The move is supposed to be part of new campaign of popular Palestinian resistance that will take advantage of the emotions and ambitions unleashed by the Arab Spring by focusing on civil disobedience and protest marches.
Without being overtly violent, the campaign could mark the start of a third intifada against Israel.
After the Cairo meetings, Mr. Meshaal hailed a new era of partnership with Fatah and said “popular resistance will be increased and organized.”
“There is an agreement on its style, on greater efficiency and the formation of a framework to direct it,” the joint agreement with Fatah said.
“We believe in armed resistance but popular resistance is a program which is common to all the factions,” Mr. Meshaal added.
The Jane’s report insists the Hamas move to abandon violent resistance is a strategic not a tactical shift. Senior Hamas security officials say a joint committee of Palestinian experts are trying to draw up ideas for non-violent resistance in the West Bank.
For the time being, however, Jane’s says Hamas “may operate a twin-track policy of not completely renouncing violence, but also embracing non-violent resistance.”
“In this scenario, the group would then be able to keep its political and military options open,” Mr. Hartwell said.
Judging from Wednesday’s celebrations, it looks as if little has changed during Hamas’s quarter-century of existence.
“We affirm that armed resistance is our strategic option and the only way to liberate our land, from the [Mediterranean] sea to the River [Jordan],” Mr. Haniyeh told the crowd.
“God willing, Hamas will lead the people … to the uprising until we liberate Palestine, all of Palestine,” the Hamas leader added.
The group’s armed wing, the al-Qassam Brigades, marked the anniversary by publishing statistics of its achievements over the years – 11,093 rockets fired into southern Israel, 1,117 armed attacks, 87 suicide bombings, 1,365 Israelis killed, 1,848 Hamas “martyrs.”
MAHMUD HAMS/AFP/Getty Images
Palestinian and Hamas flags flutter as thousands of supporters gather in Gaza City.
In fact, Hamas may have had little choice in moving to abandon violence — at least temporarily. The Arab Spring, with its popular uprisings, has transformed the political dynamics of the Middle East and led to a breach between Hamas and former sponsors Syria and Iran.
With Syria’s Alawite-led regime massacring mainly Sunni protesters, Hamas chose to distance itself from President Bashar al-Assad.
Most Hamas leaders-in-exile who were previously based in Damascus have refused to back the Assad regime publicly and have quietly moved out, resettling in Sunni-dominated Egypt, Jordan and Gaza.
Jane’s says a small representative office of only two low-ranking Hamas members will remain in Syria. Mr. Meshaal is expected to move to Cairo and some of his lieutenants will go to Qatar.
That has created funding problems for Hamas, since Iran, infuriated by Hamas’s refusal to endorse Mr. Assad, is reported to have stopped bankrolling the group for the past eight months.
In the past, Iran used Syria to funnel weapons to Hamas’s military wing in Gaza and provided Hamas terrorists with training in tactics and intelligence.
Talk of a Hamas policy change also comes amid suggestions by Israeli military officials they may be contemplating a fresh assault on Gaza, three years after Operation Cast Lead killed 1,300 Palestinians in 2008-09.
Cut loose by its sponsors and eager to be seen as part of the surge in popularity being experienced by the Muslim Brotherhood and its allies in countries like Egypt, Tunisia and Libya, Hamas leaders may be seeking to re-brand themselves.
The flags of Egypt, Tunisia and Libya flanked the stage in Gaza City during Wednesday’s celebrations.
Syria’s flag was nowhere to be seen.
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