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For a while, there was quiet, then the round of retaliations resumed. Missiles were fired, Israel struck back, sometimes targetting empty smuggling tunnels, sometimes targetting rocket crews. Palestinian civilians were also getting killed.
Both sides speak of “the rules of the game”. And now both sides accuse the other of “stepping over the red line”.
Palestinian analysts agree Hamas has the wind in its sails since the Arab Spring swept away pro-Western autocracies and replaced them with Islamists, especially in neighbouring Egypt where the ruling Muslim Brotherhood is their spiritual mentor.
“Of course, Hamas feels empowered by the change in the Arab countries around them and many believe Israel cannot isolate it any more,” said a source close to Hamas who did not wish to be identified.
But while Hamas craves the legitimacy it needs to assume moral leadership of the Palestinian national movement from those it considers Western poodles chasing peace with Israel, it shares Gaza with armed salafist groups intent on violence.
“Hamas has been under continuous blackmail from other factions since it has been more interested in calm in order to preserve its authority in Gaza,” Hani Habib, a political analyst in Gaza told Reuters.
CHANGING THE RULES
Trying to face both ways, Hamas abandoned efforts to stop these groups firing rockets at Israel and last month joined in, to show it was not getting soft in the chair of office.
In so doing, it tried to change “the rules of the game” but overplayed its hand, triggering a massive Israeli operation for which the military planning was sitting ready in a drawer. It came far faster and much heavier than Hamas expected.
“While they thought revolutions in Arab countries served their aims and would make them stronger, they were not looking for war with Israel, not now, despite the fact they have been preparing themselves for one since the 2009 round ended,” said the source close to Hamas.