Hamas is supporting Palestinian Islamic Jihad’s campaign of rocket fire against Israel, a leading security expert has said.
On Wednesday alone, nearly 300 projectiles were launched from Gaza at the Jewish state a day after 15 people, including three Islamic Jihad leaders, were killed by Israeli air strikes, IDF international spokesman Richard Hecht said.
The barrage came amid heightened tensions following the death of PIJ spokesman Khader Adnan after an 87-day hunger strike.
Islamist terror group Palestinian Jihad is operating alone, Hecht claimed in a press briefing.
Despite “rumours” of the involvement of other groups, he said, the IDF were solely focused on the PIJ.
Professor Kobi Michael, however, who previously ran the Palestinian desk at Israel’s Ministry for Strategic Affairs, said he assumed “everything” done by the Islamic Jihad was happening with Hamas’s permission.
“I assess that Hamas is also participating in this stage as well, not in a very broad or big scale but I think Hamas participates if not directly then indirectly,” he said.
“Hamas provides the PIJ with rockets, with military capacities and facilities and enables the PIJ to use them as if they were launched by the PIJ to distance the Hamas from this in order to minimise the Israeli retaliation against Hamas.
“But I do believe Hamas is not only in the picture but Hamas also assists the PIJ in indirect measures.”
Hamas, which has exercised sole control over the Gaza strip since 2007, is supporting Islamic Jihad because otherwise it would lose control of Palestine’s resistance to Israel, Michael said.
“Hamas understand they have to help the PIJ to retaliate, not only to enable the PIJ to retaliate but to give the impression to the Palestinian constituency that Hamas even supported the PIJ and participated in the retaliation under the slogan of… the unity of the factions,” he said.
“We have to remember what is the strategic end state of Hamas. Hamas understands that in order to reach its strategic end state they have to ensure they remain the spearhead of the armed resistance against Israel, not the PIJ.”
Iran, which sponsors both Hamas and the PIJ, has encouraged the two groups to unite to fight Israel, dissident media outlet Iran International reported.
“Hamas provides the PIJ with rockets, with military capacities and facilities and enables the PIJ to use them as if they were launched by the PIJ to distance the Hamas from this in order to minimise the Israeli retaliation against Hamas,” Michael said.
Thousands of Israelis living near the Gaza border have been evacuated since Tuesday’s strike on senior PIJ leaders.
Of the hundreds of rockets fired at Israel in response, the vast majority have been intercepted by the Iron Dome missile defence system.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Wednesday afternoon that the campaign could be a protracted effort.
“We are ready for the possibility of an expanded campaign and harsh strikes against Gaza,” he said.