Hizbullah Coordinating Attacks With Hamas
The Iranian-backed Hizbullah group has reopened an operational room with Hamas to coordinate regional militant developments, including attacks against Israel, according to informed Middle Eastern defense officials.
The operational room, commissioned at the direction of Iran, is located in Lebanon and is coordinating with the Hamas command and control in the Gaza Strip, the defense officials said.
Further, the defense officials said they are aware of Hizbullah plans to bring more weapons into the Gaza Strip in the coming days.
In another alarming development, the defense officials said the Iranian-backed Islamic Jihad terrorist organization is not answering to Hamas and is shooting rockets into Israel at times without the approval of Hamas leaders. The move could complicate any ceasefire achieved between Israel and Hamas, and it gives Iran more discretion over the Gazan Palestinian arena.
The reopening of an operational room between Hizbullah and Hamas signifies the rapprochement of cooperation between Iran and Hamas under the current crisis in Gaza. In the last two years, Iran tempered its relationship with Hamas because the Islamist group failed to significantly aid Syria, an ally of Iran, which has been facing a Sunni-led militant insurgency.
On the ground, the strengthening of Hamas-Iran ties could lead to two major developments vis-à-vis Israel.
First, Israel could face more coordinated rocket attacks from both Hamas in Gaza and Hizbullah in Lebanon. On Friday, one Katyusha rocket was fired into northern Israel, prompting fears of the opening of a second front against the Israeli homefront. On Monday, two more rockets were reportedly launched from Lebanon.
Second, Hamas may be more hardened in its truce talks with Israel.
According to sources, Iran opposes a truce and has even been attempting to use jihadist surrogates in the Gaza Strip to cause a mass casualty event in Israel that would provoke an Israeli ground operation.
Hamas Leaders Use Hospital As Shield
Some Hamas leaders are believed to be hiding in bunkers underneath the largest hospital in the Gaza Strip, according to informed Middle Eastern security officials.
The officials said they believe the Hamas members are using the Al-Shifa Hospital complex in Gaza not only as a hiding place but also as a sanctuary command center for some of the Islamist group’s operations targeting Israel.
The Hamas members believe they are safe underneath the hospital and have built tunnels in recent years to move in and out of the complex, the officials said.
The Shifa Hospital, located in the North Rimal district of Gaza, is one of the main receiving centers for those wounded in the current Israel Air Force bombardments of Gaza City.
Ironically, it was Israel in the 1980s that refurbished the hospital as part of an outreach effort to improve relations with Palestinians. Part of the Israeli reconstruction included a large underground cement basement with room for offices.
The facility was originally a British Army barracks in the 1940s before becoming a hospital. It was transformed by Egypt in the 1950s into a larger complex with more medical offerings.
My Analysis Of The Current Situation
In the dysfunctional, Alice-Through-the-Looking-Glass world of the so-called Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the sustained rocket fire from the Gaza Strip may be less about Hamas’s war on Israel and more about the Islamist group trying to regain its swiftly sliding power in the region.
Following the ouster of its ideological partner in neighboring Egypt, the Muslim Brotherhood, Hamas has been feeling increasingly isolated, with Egypt’s new military regime engaged in a serious effort to close its border with the terrorist-saturated Gaza Strip.
The profitable smuggling routes along the Sinai-Gaza border have dried up.