Political Economy Journal – The fate of Hamas’ military wing has always been controversial in the Palestinian National Reconciliation talks. This dispute over Hamas’ military future has been a major reason for the failure of efforts to reconcile the Palestinian Authority and Hamas. Mahmoud Abbas wants the PA to take full control of all weapons and security in Gaza, but Hamas does not accept the surrender of weapons and considers it its red line.
The fate of Hamas’ military wing has always been controversial in the Palestinian National Reconciliation talks. This dispute over Hamas’ military future has been a major reason for the failure of efforts to reconcile the Palestinian Authority and Hamas. Mahmoud Abbas wants the PA to take full control of all weapons and security in Gaza, but Hamas does not accept the surrender of weapons and considers it its red line.
On the other hand, there have always been initiatives by some Palestinian groups for reconciliation and national unity, and with Trump’s actions in recent years in unilaterally supporting the Zionist regime and putting pressure on the Palestinians, this need has been felt even more. Now the question arises, what is the perspective of resolving the dispute?
Accordingly, this article tries to assess the military situation and capability of Hamas, the positions and differences regarding the weapons and military power of Hamas, the prospect of national reconciliation and unity, and the possibility of Hamas military activity in the West Bank.
History of Hamas military activity and current power
At the beginning of its activity, Hamas introduced itself as a political organization and did not mention the existence of a military branch, and only encouraged the youth to carry out resistance operations against Israel. Thus, armed groups were formed that were not structurally related to it, such as the “Palestinian Mujahideen Battalions”, “Majd” and the “Abdullah Azzam Battalions”. ; However, it was officially announced as the “Martyr Izz al-Din al-Qassam Brigades” in early 1992.
Thus, Hamas-backed battalions merged into it. But the Zionist regime’s withdrawal from the Gaza Strip in August 2005 was a new reality in Palestine that led to the creation of the Gaza Strip as an autonomous and special area for the Hamas movement. Hamas has also been able to increase its military power over the years.
The military branches of the resistance groups are not comparable to the Zionist army in terms of military strength and power. However, the organizational structure of Hamas’s military branch has evolved over time, and in 2012 there was a dramatic change in its military structure, which turned it into an army that adopts special warfare plans and deploys combat forces for permanent missions.
The result of this development during the 51-day war in 2014 was clearly visible with the infiltration of some military bases of the Zionist regime, the infiltration behind the enemy lines and the fierce clashes inside the tunnels. The current leader of the Qassam Brigades is Mohammad Zaif, who was appointed after al-Jabri’s assassination at the start of the eight-day war in 2012.
Izz al-Din al-Qassam Brigades has been the strongest and most influential military current of the Palestinian resistance against the Zionist regime in the last two or three decades. Other Zionist security services refer to the Qassam Brigades as the “Hamas Army.” However, reports on the military weight of Hamas differ widely, and at the same time it is difficult to gather accurate information in this area due to precautionary measures and secrecy about the number of troops and military organizations.
Hamas weapons are one of the main sources of its power. During the first intifada, the Qassam Brigades used stones against the Zionist regime’s well-equipped army, and gradually the stone was replaced by cold steel and “Molotov cocktails”, and finally new weapons and methods. The Qassam Brigades have now greatly enhanced their military capabilities by building some weapons inside the Gaza Strip as well as importing advanced weapons into the region. Hamas has been able to produce a variety of weapons inside the Gaza Strip, from hand grenades to missiles. Of course, most of the raw materials for these weapons enter Gaza from abroad.
Many of the advanced weapons at the disposal of the Qassam Brigades are supplied from outside the Gaza Strip and enter the Gaza Strip through tunnels. These tunnels, which are an underground complex, are a major factor in the structure of Hamas military power and the entry of weapons into the Gaza Strip. The main source of weapons imported by Hamas has been Iran and Syria, but following the developments in the Arab countries, especially Egypt and Libya, the possibility of smuggling weapons from these countries to the Gaza Strip has increased.
Hamas also buys weapons that enter Gaza from the Sinai Desert. Another source of Hamas weapons is the weapons acquired by the movement over its 2007 control of the Gaza Strip’s security bases in the Gaza Strip. Now, Hamas missile tests, the number of missiles and their range have increased, and these missiles, unlike before, are built inside. This development of missile tests is reflected in the increase in the average number of missiles fired during the conflict with the Zionist regime.
In terms of manpower, the Qassam Brigades now have nine brigades, each of which has about 5,000 troops and has 4 or 5 battalions, and thus, the number of troops is estimated at about 40,000. Its military training and maneuvers have also been developed to mimic the usual activities of armies.
The Qassam Brigades use their own principles of warfare in the fight against the Zionist regime; In their campaigns, they employ small groups of 10 to 15 people, focus on guerrilla units and attacks, use residential areas in complex situations and urban wars in the Gaza Strip, and do not use face-to-face battles for long periods of time. ; Because they are not ready for such wars in terms of force and weapons. Major combat tactics of Palestinian groups, especially the Qassam Brigades, have included launching missiles, guerrilla operations, and capturing enemy soldiers.
Efforts made for national reconciliation and the causes of failure
“Other Israeli security services refer to the Qassam Brigades as the “Hamas Army.”
National unity has been one of the most important demands of all Palestinian movements, including Hamas, Jihad and Fatah, in recent years. A review of the past shows that the formation of the national unity government has gone through a tortuous path. The Hamas-Fatah dispute over governance began with Hamas’ victory in the January 2006 elections and entered a new phase with the movement gaining control of the Gaza Strip following the 2007 civil war. Since 2007, about 10 national reconciliation agreements have been signed between the two movements to form a national unity government, neither of which has been concluded. From the Mecca Agreement in 2007 to the Cairo Agreement in 2011, the Al-Shatiya Agreement in 2014.
The last meeting of Palestinian groups for the realization of the national government in 2019 was held in Russia, which also resulted in a failure without result. In a speech, Mahmoud Abbas referred to the Moscow meeting and claimed that he was waiting for Hamas to respond to the immediate start of implementation of the Cairo agreement signed between Hamas and Fatah in 2017 and the end of internal disputes.
Abbas claimed in this speech that Hamas refused to recognize the Palestine Liberation Organization during the Moscow meeting in February 2019, and this is a kind of alignment with the Zionist regime and the United States! However, the reason why Hamas and Islamic Jihad did not sign the final statement of the Moscow meeting was that the text of the statement was changed by the representatives of the Fatah movement without the knowledge of other delegations. A statement recognizing the 1967 borders.
Palestinian groups Hamas and Jihad welcomed the decision and called for action in the wake of the demolition of Palestinian homes in Sur Bahr in a message claiming a reduction in the organization’s cooperation with Zionist forces. In a statement, Hamas called for the implementation of these decisions and the adoption of a national plan with the immediate announcement of the formation of a national unity government.
With the unveiling of Trump’s Century Deal Plan and the normalization of relations between the UAE and Bahrain with the Zionist regime, the movements of Palestinian groups increased and several joint meetings were held between them, including the Beirut and Ramallah meetings, all emphasizing the need for national unity; But so far no action has been taken in this regard. In fact, the agreement for national unity faces great obstacles. The main obstacle to national reconciliation is the stark differences between the views of the two Palestinian currents on the Zionist regime and how to deal with it.
Fatah has recognized the Zionist regime and has abandoned the military confrontation with this regime. But Hamas does not recognize this regime and believes in a military solution. Therefore, the issue of how to control and manage Palestinian weapons is of particular importance, and any stability agreement must find a solution.
The compromise approach and security cooperation of the PA with the Zionist regime is a big obstacle in this way. That is why Palestinian groups, following the announcement of the suspension of security cooperation by Abbas, called for the formation of a national unity government, because if Abbas’ decision was serious, this great obstacle, namely the security influence of the Zionist regime on the Palestinian Authority, would be removed.
Positions and disagreements on arms and the prospects for an agreement
Hamas and Fatah’s victory over state began with Hamas’ victory in the January 2006 elections, entering a new phase with the movement’s dominance over the Gaza, Strip in and awaken of the 2007 civil war. Since 2007, nearly 10 national reconciliation agreements have been signed between the two movements to form a national unity government, none of which came to fruition. In the Palestinian National Reconciliation Talks, the fate of Hamas’ military wing has always been disputed, and this dispute has been the main reason for the failure of dialogue and agreements.
Mahmoud Abbas has sought to ensure that the PA has full control over all weapons and security in Gaza, but Hamas does not accept the relinquishing of weapons. Khalil Hayeh, a senior Hamas member, called the arms relinquishment a red line when Hamas and the organization agreed in 2017, saying, “These weapons will not be achieved; “These weapons will be transferred to the West Bank to fight the occupation.”
Hamas, on the other hand, seeks to establish a national unity government to reduce economic pressures and improve living conditions in Gaza. In recent years, the movement has made efforts to improve the situation in Gaza by handing over state affairs in order to reduce the blockade of Gaza by reducing the pressure of public opinion against itself.
Hamas’s favorable scenario is to move towards Hezbollah’s model to continue the path of resistance by getting rid of the special work of state-wing and the main responsibility for the economy and people’s lives by focusing on security and armed struggle alongside social status. This scenario has been repeated many times by various Hamas officials with various literature.
But Egypt, United States America and the Zionist regime are pressuring the Palestinian groups to dismantle Hamas’ weapons, disable its military units and limit its role in the national unity government, and reduce the presence of its employees in the government. Fatah members say they favor maintaining Hamas’ military wing and want to put it under the control of the unity government. “We believe that weapons are needed and that resistance is a duty, but we are seeking an agreement on the need for a collective national decision as the basis for the use of those weapons,” Fatah member Abbas Zaki said.
But given the very different approach of the two Palestinian groups towards the Zionist regime, it is impossible to reach such a common ground. The Zionist regime also makes impossible demands for a compromise between Fatah and Hamas. Netanyahu insists on the dismantling of Hamas’ military wing, as well as Hamas’ recognition of Israel as a Jewish state. Israel’s failure to accept reconciliation means preventing Gaza and the West Bank from connecting by barring Palestinian relocation and not lifting the blockade, which prevents its reconstruction and development. Therefore, any compromise that does not meet such conditions will not be sustainable because it will not benefit Gaza.
An agreement on Hamas arms is only possible if Palestinian groups reach consensus on how to deal with the Zionist regime. This consensus can be imagined in three modes. The recognition of the Zionist regime by Hamas and other groups, the abolition of its recognition and the agreements signed by the PLO and the PA, the acceptance of each other as two different approaches by the PA and Hamas, and political reconciliation and power-division accordingly.
The first is almost impossible, given the Zionist regime’s historical oppression of the Palestinian people, even if Hamas recognizes Israel and stop armed struggle, another group will raise the banner of resistance and armed struggle, and the issue of arms control will remain.
The second is also nearly impossible under the current circumstances, with the recognition of the PA as a representative of the Palestinian people by many countries and international institutions, and the financial dependence of the organization on the assistance of these countries and institutions, the abolition of Israel’s recognition and agreements, leading to its dissolution and collapse. The third is also a practical obstacle given the break between the West Bank and Gaza, because in this case, Israel will neither allow Hamas to operate in the West Bank nor end the blockade of Gaza.
Nevertheless, under the present circumstances, it is not possible to form a single Palestinian military force through the reconciliation of political groups and the integration of their military branches. Except by changing the nature and disarmament of Hamas or accepting it with the status quo by the PA, PLO and Fatah, in which case it will face practical obstacles arising from the geographical situation and the involvement of the Zionist regime.
Therefore, the only possible way to unify Palestine as an independent state is to try Hamas and resistance groups to dominate the West Bank, which must be pursued with a long-term view while simultaneously pursuing diplomatic efforts and providing the grounds for such action at the regional level.
Hamas’ military activity in the West Bank
Just as is been stated above, Hamas’ goal is to transfer weapons to the West Bank to fight Israel. After the Palestinian Civil War in 2007 and Hamas’ military defeat of the organization’s forces in the West Bank, its military activity in this region of Palestine was destroyed. One of the functions of the organization’s security cooperation with the Zionist regime is to prevent Hamas from operating in the West Bank.
On the other hand, under the Oslo Accords, the West Bank is divided into three parts, the security and military administration of which are two parts with Israel, and therefore the Palestinian security-controlled territories are a series of islands scattered in the heart of the Sea of Zionist regime-controlled areas that make it nearly impossible to import weapons to the West Bank from Gaza or elsewhere, and even Jordan, which borders the West Bank.
Therefore, given the PA’s approach and its security cooperation with Israel, Hamas’ military activities against that regime in the West Bank are only individual and limited operations for specific purposes. It seems that the only solution to the large-scale military activity of Palestinian groups in the Bank against the Zionist regime is to cancel the Oslo Accords and start another intifada to force the Zionist regime to withdraw from the entire West Bank like Gaza.
Since the current leadership of the PA continues to implement them despite the announcement of the suspension of the agreements signed with Israel and despite repeated violations by the Zionist regime and has no real will to cancel them, only changing the Palestinian leadership team in the West Bank could pave the way for such a move. For this purpose, Hamas has no choice but to participate in potential elections of the Law Council and even the elections of the Head of the Pahlavi Organization.
The U.S. government’s hardline actions in support of the Zionist regime, the recognition of Quds as Israel’s capital, the transfer of its embassy from Tel Aviv to the city, and the plan for the deal of the century, and the Zionist regime’s actions to Jewish al-Aqsa Mosque, the development of settlements and violent treatment of marches, and such actions, as well as the approach of some Arab countries in normalizing relations with the Zionist regime, are factors that could convince Palestinians in the West Bank.
They have no choice but to adopt a resistance approach. Hamas’s rise through other elections in the West Bank could be a prelude to expanding military activity against the Zionist regime to the West Bank. Although it is useful to win Arab support at the time to continue this, it is essential to win Jordan’s support as the only neighbor of the West Bank, without which it would be impossible for Hamas to continue its activities in the West Bank.
The power and organizational structure of Hamas’ military wing has now evolved dramatically, prompting the security services of the Zionist regime to no longer referred to Qassam’s battalions as the “Hamas army.” The Zionist regime and the United States are pressuring Palestinian groups to dismantle Hamas’ weapons, disable its military units and limit its role in the national unity government. This has caused the Palestinian national reconciliation dialogue to always dispute the fate of Hamas’ military wing. Mahmoud Abbas seeks the PA to take full control of all weapons and security in Gaza. Hamas’s favorable scenario, too, is to move towards Hezbollah’s model.
An agreement on Hamas arms is only possible if Palestinian groups reach consensus on how to deal with the Zionist regime. But given the very different approach of the two Palestinian groups to the Zionist regime, it is impossible to reach such a consensus. The PLO, Fatah and the PA recognize the Zionist regime and have abandoned military confrontation with the regime. But Hamas, Jihad and other resistance groups do not recognize the regime and believe in a military solution.
Therefore, one cannot expect the fate of Hamas’ military wing to be decided within the framework of reconciliation talks, since in any dialogue the survival of the negotiators is assumed, but the survival of Hamas, meaning Hamas, is linked to its military wing, and the arms negotiations are in fact Hamas negotiating its own survival.