Photo Credit: Abed Rahim Khatib/Flash90
Hamas and PA security officials at the Rafah border crossing, November 1, 2017.

Hamas, its security services and its military wing—the Al-Qassam Brigades, have mobilized their ranks for fear of Israel launching a surprise military or security strike as the Israeli army began large-scale military maneuvers along the Gaza border, the London-based daily Asharq Al-Awsat reported Monday.

It seems that Hamas is afraid of repeated Israeli scenarios, including the sudden assassination of a senior leader of the Qassam Brigades or the political arm of Hamas, as happened in 2012 against Qassam commander in Gaza Ahmed al-Jaabari, which caused the outbreak of the second Gaza war; or a similar scenario to the assassination of an agent by the Israeli Shin Bet in May last year, which eliminated the Gilad Shalit-deal released prisoner Mazen Fakaha.

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Among the likely scenarios is Israel’s assassination of Ismail Haniyeh, head of the movement’s political bureau, after the United States has added him to its terrorist list which, in effect, according to Asharq Al-Awsat, “a prelude to the attempt to liquidate him.”

Asharq Al-Awsat’s sources are saying that since the recent increase in Israeli maneuvers, Hamas has stepped up the alertness of its members and its security and military forces. It has drawn up urgent, defensive contingency plans including several scenarios to confront an Israeli attempt to attack the terror group, as Israel has done in three wars in Gaza in recent years.

Hamas, which governs the Gaza Strip, is also concerned about its chances against an Israeli strike in light of the slowdown of the reconciliation talks with the Palestinian Authority.

The sources pointed out that strategic meetings were held within the Hamas movement and the different security elements to implement these scenarios, including a plan to enhance field communication in real time between soldiers and commanders, as well as between sectors, at the military, security, and political level, and dealing with the plight of civilians during a military confrontation with the IDF.

Other sources told Asharq Al-Awsat that Hamas had set up checkpoints in various areas of the Gaza Strip and tightened its control over the land and sea borders, noting that the security forces were on constant alert and reporting on the situation in real time.

Hamas leaders are moving around Gaza under tight security these days, especially since Israeli reconnaissance planes hardly ever leave the Gaza Strip’s skies.

Despite these measures, which have raised the fears of Gaza’s civilians of a new confrontation, Hamas officials have confirmed that they would not take the initiative to start the next war.

An official told Asharq Al-Awsat that he ruled out the expectation that Israel is seeking a new confrontation, at least for the time being.

Israeli military sources have revealed that the IDF has provided Netanyahu with a thorough security assessment of the current situation in the Gaza Strip, and warned against the deterioration of the humanitarian crisis in Gaza which has reached an unprecedented low, with the collapse of both the economic and humanitarian systems. At the moment, according to the IDF, Hamas has been unable to provide for the delivery of food and medicine to the Gaza population to prevent an uprising.

Should such instability become an immediate threat, Hamas may not have a choice but to fire the first shot inviting a war.

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