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In Gaza, ‘Unprecedented Calm’ For the Last Seven Months

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When the 11-day war between Hamas and Israel ended on May 21, much of the infrastructure of Gaza lay in ruins. Hamas had hidden weapons and rocket launchers in, or near, schools, hospitals, apartment buildings, and other civilian structures. These were unavoidably damaged when the IDF undertook to destroy those weapons, rocket launchers, and the network of tunnels that Hamas had built to move men and weapons undetected throughout Gaza.

Israel was perfectly prepared to continue the war, while Hamas was desperate to end it. In the end, Israel, under pressure from the Biden administration, and convinced that it had caused sufficient damage to Hamas, agreed to a ceasefire. The IDF had destroyed many of the hidden stores of weapons, rocket launchers, command-and-control centers, and 67 miles of tunnels. During the war, Hamas lobbed 4,500 rockets – about one-third of its total supply — toward Israel. An estimated 650 of them fell short, landing in Gaza, where some killed Palestinians; of the 3,850 that did make it toward Israel, 90% were intercepted by the Iron Dome anti-missile defense, leaving only a few hundred that landed, almost all of them harmlessly, on open fields. Thirteen Israelis died in the conflict, only one of them a soldier. The IDF had also killed an estimated 200 Hamas fighters, a number the Israelis calculated by examining the death notices in Gaza, as well as 25 senior commanders.

Despite these losses, Hamas insisted that it had “won” the war by still standing against the powerful IDF, and in its statements made it sound as if it could have gone on fighting for a long time, while Israel was the one wanting a ceasefire. This counterfactual, indeed preposterous, version of events was nonetheless lapped up by many Palestinians and other Arabs.

But the proof of Hamas’ recognition that it had, despite its bluster, suffered grievously in the war, has come in the seven months since the ceasefire was declared. For Hamas, having learned a lesson about the lethality of the IDF, is behaving exactly as one would expect the loser to behave – that is, very cautiously, trying not to stir up trouble with the IDF. There have been almost no rockets coming from Gaza into Israel. And of those few — exactly five — several are believed to have been launched by PIJ (Palestinian Islamic Jihad), the second-largest terror group in Gaza and a rival of Hamas, no doubt keen to demonstrate its uncompromising stand, while Hamas holds its fire.

A report on the “unprecedented calm” from Gaza is reported on here: “Israeli Military: ‘Unprecedented Calm in Gaza’ Since May Conflict,” Algemeiner, December 28, 2021:

The Israeli military called the seven months since the end of the Gaza conflict in May a period of “unprecedented calm” in a year-end assessment that paints an optimistic picture of the Jewish state’s security situation, Ynet Newsreported.

Compared to the months following previous rounds of fighting with the Hamas-ruled coastal enclave, data from the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) shows less activity since the May 21 ceasefire that ended Operation Guardian of the Walls.

For example, 196 rockets were fired at Israel from Gaza over a half year period following Operation Cast Lead in 2009 and 76 rockets were launched in the six months after Operation Pillar of Cloud in 2012.

In contrast, a total of five rockets were launched from Gaza since last May.

A colossal drop in the number of rockets fired from Gaza – with 196 fired after Operation Cast Lead in 2009, 76 after Operation Pillar of Cloud in 2012, and a scarcely-discernible five – five! — in the seven months since Operation Guardian of the Walls in 2021. That is conclusive evidence that whatever it blusters about, Hamas knows very well how grievous were its losses in that war, and has no stomach for another war with the IDF.

The IDF also noted that progress was made over the past two years in negotiating a deal to return Israeli civilians being held hostage by Hamas, as well as the bodies of soldiers currently in the hands of the terrorist group.

However, issues remain in finalizing an agreement, specifically the number of terrorists Hamas wants released from Israeli prisons, according to the IDF report….

This matter of a hostage exchange has still not been resolved because Hamas thinks it can yet again obtain the kind of agreement Israel made to get back the soldier Gilad Shalit. In that catastrophic deal, Israel agreed to free 1,027 prisoners for one soldier. Among those prisoners were many who had been convicted of terrorism; after their release, they went right back to engaging in terror attacks; dozens of Israelis lost their lives in those attacks.

It also indicated an increase in terrorist activity in the West Bank during 2021, as well as a decrease in deaths from attacks, with two this year. In 2020, there were three deaths from attacks in the West Bank, five in 2019, and 14 in 2018….

There has been a one-year rise in terrorist activity in the West Bank, but a dramatic drop in the lethality of such attacks over the last four years, from 14 deaths in 2018, to 5 in 2019, to three in 2020, to two in 2021.

The “campaign between the wars” has been going swimmingly for the IDF. It has bombed major Iranian and Hezbollah sites in Syria 29 times in 2021, destroying much of the weaponry that was intended to be transferred to Hezbollah in Lebanon. There will be trouble ahead for Israel, from Iran and its ally Hezbollah, but not, the last seven months suggest, from Hamas. Having been dealt such a blow by the IDF this past May, Hamas has had quite enough of war, and would like to keep out of further violent entanglements while it tries to inveigle funds from the few rich Arab states, like Qatar, willing to support it, so that it may begin to rebuild.

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