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Hamas and the Gaza Strip

Since 2007, Hamas has governed the Gaza Strip, an isolated region controlled by Israel. Managing administration, bureaucracy, taxation, social services, and the monopoly of force, Hamas has transformed into a consolidated regime. Despite the arrests of thousands of militants in the West Bank by Israeli forces and the ANP’s security forces under Abu Mazen, Hamas has strengthened its stronghold in Gaza. Its influence also extends to four external districts, crucial for its popular consensus. The main challenges involve internal management and maintaining popular support. Gaza, since 2007, has become increasingly significant for Hamas, being the only territory where it exercises power. However, Hamas’s total control over Gaza has led to a growing distance from the population, already exhausted by isolation and the division between the two Palestinian governments. Doubts have emerged whether Hamas is genuinely “serving the people” or beginning to “serve itself,” with increasing comparisons between Hamas and Fatah regarding the changes induced by power.

Hamas’s story is tied to the transition of Palestinian politics from the pre-Arafat era to the post-Arafat era. Initially, it focused on a national and territorial horizon, including the request for recognition of the state of Palestine at the UN in 2011. Hamas’s foreign leadership, linked to refugees from 1948 and 1967, has supported the creation of a Palestinian state within the 1967 borders. Such proposals have highlighted a national vision that adapts to the Palestine defined by the ANP.

The Abraham Accords between Israel and some Arab countries clarified the absence of a Palestinian state in their normalization framework. In 2018, the Great March of Return movement in Gaza demonstrated that Middle Eastern paradigms were changing, marking the decline of Palestinian hope for state recognition. The growing weight of Hamas’s military wing in Gaza and the rise of figures like Yahya Sinwar indicate a change in strategy and priorities for the movement.

Hamas finds itself in a complex position, managing everyday life in Gaza while facing isolation and Israeli military incursions. The control of the territory by the al-Qassam Brigades and involvement in military operations have further distanced Hamas from Gaza’s civilian population, severely affected by conflicts.

The attack on October 7, 2023, conducted by Hamas and Islamic Jihad, took Israeli forces by surprise. This attack, characterized by hostage-taking and violence, led to a heavy toll of victims and an immediate Israeli military response. The claim of the attack by the Izz al-Din al-Qassam Brigades and subsequent declaration by Mohammed Deif highlighted a shift in strategy, focusing on armed conflict and pressure for prisoner exchange.

This attack marked a turning point in Hamas’s strategy, underlining the growing power of the military wing within the organization. The crisis amplified Hamas’s need to break its isolation and reassert its presence in the Palestinian national political arena. Armed resistance and the prisoner issue become central themes for Hamas, seeking to maintain its consensus not only in Gaza but also among the Palestinian population in general. The prisoner issue, in particular, becomes a focal point for the organization, given its symbolic and practical importance for Palestinian society.

The October 7 attack represents a breaking point, marking the end of Hamas’s “participationist” phase and the adoption of a more definitive confrontational line. The actions of the military wing not only reflect a strategic change but also challenge the political leadership of the organization, which finds itself having to manage the consequences of these aggressive actions.

The crisis also highlights the growing gap between Hamas and the international community, especially following the normalization of relations between Israel and some Arab countries through the Abraham Accords. Hamas’s isolated position is further worsened with the opening of negotiations between Israel and Saudi Arabia, endangering recent progress in relations between the movement and Riyadh.

Proposals for a long-term truce with Israel and the idea of economic development through the exploitation of natural gas resources remain unrealized, confined to intellectual speculations. The situation in Gaza and the West Bank remains tense, with the emergence of new local armed groups and growing disaffection towards traditional institutions, including Fatah and Hamas.

In this context, the Israeli-Palestinian issue continues to be an unresolved problem, despite its increasing marginalization at the international level. For Hamas, the challenge is now to navigate this complex political landscape, maintaining its role of resistance and seeking new ways to strengthen its position both nationally and internationally. The figure of Yahya Sinwar and other emerging Hamas leaders becomes crucial in this new context, where the struggle for power and influence intertwines with the broader issue of the Palestinian cause.

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