Hamas fight on with no endgame and nothing left to lose

By Anshel Pfeffer, July 24, 2014

It is unclear who is currently calling the shots in Hamas. Is it the political or military leadership in Gaza, both currently underground, or the "external" leaders shuttling between Ankara, Doha and Cairo?

What is clear is that the only man who can ultimately sign off on a ceasefire is the Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades chief of staff, Mohammed Deif.

Deif, a former bomb-maker and survivor of numerous Israeli assassination attempts, resumed the position of chief of staff after Israel killed Ahmed Jaabari 20 months ago in a strike that sparked off the previous round of violence in Gaza.

Deif, who masterminded Hamas's suicide attack campaign during the Second Intifada, played a key role in building the organisation's rocket-launching infrastructure and directed the excavation of at least 30 tunnels leading from Gaza under Israeli territory.

Now that the IDF operation has uncovered these tunnels and is busy destroying them, his next step is to prolong the warfare for as long as possible in an effort to extricate some tangible achievements before a ceasefire.

Three weeks ago, Hamas was at one of its weakest points since its violent takeover of Gaza seven years ago.

The unity agreement with Fatah failed to deliver any gains, it has no funds left to pay 40,000 civil servants and police officers in Gaza, and it has lost the support of Egypt and most of the Gulf states with the exception of Qatar.

The ascendancy of the hardliners within the fractured leadership and the repeated rejection of the Egyptian ceasefire proposals is a reflection of the feeling Hamas no longer has much to lose. Its main achievement so far has been its success in continuing to launch rockets against Israel, albeit at slightly lower rates in recent days, and the fierce fight Al-Qassam members are putting up on the battlefield against the IDF. And still, a clear "victory picture" eludes them. For now, Hamas has no endgame. Egypt, the only realistic mediator, is refusing to add any significant concessions to its ceasefire proposal, leaving for future talks Hamas demands for an opening of the crossings to Gaza, and a release of its members arrested by Israel.

Its most desired war aim is to capture a live IDF soldier (it claims to have done so but the IDF is certain missing soldier Oron Shaul was killed when his armoured vehicle exploded) or shoot down a helicopter.

Until it does, or Egypt and Israel improve the ceasefire terms, it intends to keep on fighting.

Last updated: 2:45pm, July 24 2014