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    the strategy behind Hamas’s violent bid for a ‘continuous’ state of conflict

    Certain factions have engaged in agreements with Israel, aiming to establish a foundation for a two-state solution. The Palestinian Authority, perceived as the interim Palestinian government, has limited governance over segments of the West Bank and maintains a formal stance on resolving the conflict through negotiation.

    Conversely, Hamas has taken a stance to reverse the events starting from 1948, a year marked by the exodus or expulsion of over 700,000 Palestinians from their homes amid the conflict that led to the establishment of Israel.

    Hamas regards the displacement and subsequent Israeli control over the West Bank and Gaza, following the 1967 war, as historical injustices that necessitate rectification through armed conflict. The organization rejects peace negotiations with Israel, considering them a surrender to Israeli dominion over territories Hamas claims as Palestinian.

    The divide in Palestinian politics was starkly delineated in 2007 when Hamas emerged victorious in internal conflicts within Gaza and assumed control over the region. This shift in power meant that Hamas was not only in conflict with Israel but also took on the administrative duties of governing Gaza. In response, Israel, with Egypt’s cooperation, imposed a blockade on Gaza, exacerbating the isolation and economic hardship of its residents.

    By the time Yahya Sinwar returned to Gaza, Hamas had firmly established itself as the de facto ruling body, entering into what Tareq Baconi, an expert on the group, describes as a “violent equilibrium” with Israel. Hostilities often escalated into lethal exchanges of fire, with Hamas rockets met by Israeli airstrikes. Despite this, a significant portion of Gaza’s commercial supplies and electricity was sourced from Israel, and negotiations for easing the blockade were a recurring theme in ceasefire discussions.

    The leadership of Hamas showed mixed feelings about their role in governance, with some members seeing it as an opportunity to better the lives of Gazans, while others viewed it as a distraction from their foundational militant objectives. Hamas criticized the Palestinian Authority for its security cooperation with Israel, which included preventing attacks against Israelis. Some within Hamas expressed concern that their own engagement with Israel on civilian matters was leading them down a similar path.

    In 2012, Sinwar took on a pivotal role, representing the armed wing within Hamas’s political leadership, aligning him closely with the military wing’s leaders, including Mohammed Deif. Both were instrumental in orchestrating an attack on October 7, as reported by Arab and Israeli officials.

    Upon becoming the leader of Hamas in Gaza in 2017, Sinwar occasionally signaled a willingness to reach an understanding with Israel. In a rare 2018 interview with an Italian journalist for an Israeli publication, he called for a ceasefire to alleviate the hardships in Gaza.

    Sinwar’s words were, “I am not declaring an end to the conflict, but rather expressing a desire to halt warfare. I seek the lifting of the siege. As you stroll along the beach at dusk, you witness youths gathered, contemplating the unseen world beyond the sea, yearning to know what life is like out there. My wish is for their freedom.”

    In 2017, Hamas released a political document that, while not acknowledging Israel’s right to exist, did not close the door on a two-state solution.

    Israel made certain concessions, including allowing a monthly aid package from Qatar and increasing work permits for Gazans, which injected much-needed financial resources into Gaza’s economy.

    However, violence persisted. In 2021, Hamas initiated a conflict in response to Israeli actions in East Jerusalem, including the threatened eviction of Palestinian residents and police incursions into the Aqsa Mosque.

    Osama Hamdan, a senior Hamas figure, indicated that this marked a significant shift, with Hamas expanding its focus beyond Gaza to address broader Palestinian issues. This shift also reinforced within Hamas the belief that Israel was pushing the situation towards an irreversible point, potentially obliterating the prospect of a Palestinian state.

    Despite this, Israeli intelligence and security circles believed Hamas was inclined to avoid further conflict in 2021.

    Hamas appeared to reinforce this perception by not engaging in clashes initiated by the Palestinian Islamic Jihad and by seeking, through intermediaries, to increase financial aid and work opportunities for Gazans.

    Israel’s defense strategy, which included advanced border security measures, was deemed sufficient to contain Hamas.

    Yet, within Gaza, Hamas’s military strength was on the rise.

    By October 7, estimates suggested that Hamas had between 20,000 and 40,000 fighters and approximately 15,000 rockets, largely self-produced with likely smuggled components. The arsenal also included mortars, anti-tank missiles, and air-defense systems.

    Sinwar had reestablished Hamas’s connection with Iran, a key ally that had been strained during the Syrian civil war. This reconnection strengthened the ties between Hamas’s military wing and Iran’s regional militia network. In recent years, Hamas operatives have reportedly traveled to Iran and Lebanon for training, enhancing the group’s military proficiency.

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