Skip to main content

Gaza: How can Hamas claim victory?

By Mohammed Najib, Special to CNN
August 15, 2014 -- Updated 1505 GMT (2305 HKT)
  • Hamas and Israel agreed Wednesday to extend a truce for another five days
  • Palestinian negotiators demands' include a lifting of Israel and Egypt's blockade on Gaza
  • But Mohammed Najib says Hamas' objectives also include ending its political isolation
  • He says the group has used the conflict to reposition itself as the face of Palestinians

Editor's note: Mohammed Najib is a Palestinian war correspondent and defense analyst based in Ramallah. He joined Jane's Information Group in 2001 and writes for several of its publications. The views contained in this commentary are solely those of the author.

(CNN) -- It was with some difficulty that Hamas agreed to extend the ceasefire with Israel for another five days Wednesday.

The movement sees a second truce extension as a sign of weakness after 35 days of fighting with Israel.

Mohammed Najib
Mohammed Najib

Hamas has used this war to achieve some tactical and strategic objectives and considers itself the winner in the conflict. As such, it believes it can dictate terms.

Hamas has seen this war as an opportunity not only to end the blockade of Gaza, but also to end its political isolation and allow itself to present itself as the face of Palestinians -- on and off the battlefield.

Hamas' public image has suffered since it came to rule in Gaza in 2007. It chose to keep its focus on resistance, rather than governance, leaving that instead to Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas.

Seven years on, the blockade by Israel and Egypt had left the group in dire financial straits. Reuters reports Hamas has struggled to pay some 40,000 civil servants and security personnel. The United Nations Office for Humanitarian Affairs said last month "former de facto government employees, including the security forces, have not been paid salaries regularly since August 2013 and no salaries at all since April 2014."

Hamas had hoped that an April agreement to form a "consensus government" with Fatah -- which runs the government in the West Bank -- would resolve the issue. When it did not, Hamas tried to achieve its goals through the conflict with Israel.

Mideast crisis: Fragile cease-fire holds
Israeli and Palestinians talk peace
Father of Gaza miltant: I'm proud of son
Rocket explodes next to CNN crew

The already miserable situation in Gaza meant that its fighters had nothing to lose and mass Palestinian casualties, as well damage to property and infrastructure, hardened their resolve. A battle that was launched for humble goals has ended with increased Arab and Palestinian sympathy -- and an expansion of Hamas' objectives.

Indeed, some Palestinians believe that Hamas' aims are more factional than national. Some members of Fatah have told me that Hamas prevented their military wing -- the al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades -- fighting during the conflict with Israel, placing around 60 members under house arrest.

Hamas also hoped that its war with Israel would indirectly increase public support for its ally in Egypt, the now-outlawed Muslim Brotherhood.

However, Hamas is unlikely to quell Egyptian anger at the Brotherhood -- the movement of ousted President Mohamed Morsy. Cairo may have received a high-level delegation from Hamas for peace talks, but it remains hostile to the movement.

Hamas' insistence in the peace negotiations on having an independent seaport and airport is aimed at avoiding pressure from Egypt, ruled as it now is by a regime that regards Hamas as an enemy. Hamas has also been at loggerheads with countries such as Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Jordan, which -- like Egypt -- are looking unfavorably at political Islam.

Meanwhile, the group's decision to back Syrian rebels against Bashar al-Assad's regime saw it fighting Israel without the support of Tehran, Hezbollah and Damascus for the first time. The conflict has severely depleted Hamas' arsenal, and it will now be compelled to return to Iran's orbit to rebuild.

After two cease-fires and 10 days of negotiations in Cairo Hamas still does not seem to have achieved its objectives. There has been no breakthrough with Israel regarding the re-opening of the border crossings, or ending the blockade.

And whatever the agreement with Israel, the Palestinian Authority will be tasked to control Rafah and other Gaza ground crossings with Israel. Any money for the reconstruction of Gaza will also be channeled through the PA, with the conflict thus ensuring the authority takes partial control of Gaza.

Despite this erosion of power, Hamas has used the conflict to reestablish itself as an important player in the Middle East, after two years that saw the Muslim Brotherhood and its allies pushed to the margins.

Gaza cease-fire extension appears to hold

Israel and its neighbors: Decades of war

Is Mideast peace as far away as ever?

Part of complete coverage on
Tensions in the Middle East
Here's a look at some of the most serious conflicts involving Israel and its neighbors -- conflicts that have spanned more than six decades.
August 20, 2014 -- Updated 1517 GMT (2317 HKT)
A video released by ISIS shows the beheading of U.S. journalist James Foley and threatens the life of another American if President Obama doesn't end military operations in Iraq.
August 19, 2014 -- Updated 0904 GMT (1704 HKT)
19-year-old Udi Segal explains why he won't join his country's military.
August 23, 2014 -- Updated 0028 GMT (0828 HKT)
The sights at the Gaza zoo couldn't be sadder, after it was nearly destroyed during recent Israel-Hamas conflict.
August 15, 2014 -- Updated 1611 GMT (0011 HKT)
Both Hamas and Israel have chosen conflict over real peace negotiations again and again in the past, writes Rabbi Yehiel Grenimann.
August 15, 2014 -- Updated 1505 GMT (2305 HKT)
Mohammed Najib says Hamas' objectives also include ending its political isolation.
August 8, 2014 -- Updated 2207 GMT (0607 HKT)
With so many conflicts, on so many fronts, here's a quick look at what's happening.
July 5, 2014 -- Updated 1429 GMT (2229 HKT)
Alan Elsner: How Israel reacts will be decisive turning point for both Israelis and Palestinians.
August 8, 2014 -- Updated 2059 GMT (0459 HKT)
The Israel-Gaza conflict impacts families on both sides. Karl Penhaul speaks to the family of a militant killed in Gaza.
August 7, 2014 -- Updated 0141 GMT (0941 HKT)
A sense of Egypt's historic role and the traditional animosity of their military toward Islamist radicalism have propelled Egypt to take a central role in the on-off cease-fire talks.
August 6, 2014 -- Updated 2150 GMT (0550 HKT)
If the Gaza truce holds and Israel's Operation Protective Edge comes to its conclusion, some things are certain.
August 6, 2014 -- Updated 1626 GMT (0026 HKT)
CNN's Tim Lister says, to secure peace, Israel needs to offer Gazans a better future.
August 5, 2014 -- Updated 2035 GMT (0435 HKT)
Tensions between U.S. President Barack Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu have been strained for years.
August 6, 2014 -- Updated 1316 GMT (2116 HKT)
Images from the conflict between Israel and Hamas depict apparent civilians, caught in the middle.
August 5, 2014 -- Updated 1306 GMT (2106 HKT)
Hamas must be tamed through politics, not the failed strategy of war, argues Ed Husain.
August 4, 2014 -- Updated 1355 GMT (2155 HKT)
It may have started as a TV debate about the Israel-Hamas conflict, but it's now turned into an online war of words.
August 4, 2014 -- Updated 1820 GMT (0220 HKT)
Hamas' political leader, who lives in Qatar, sits down with CNN for an exclusive interview.
August 4, 2014 -- Updated 1043 GMT (1843 HKT)
Nafoz Mohammed is living in a cramped two-room apartment with 16 other people, hours holed up in fear.
August 3, 2014 -- Updated 0454 GMT (1254 HKT)
Karl Penhaul visits a destroyed section of Gaza and learns how the bombing has affected one student's aspirations.
August 1, 2014 -- Updated 0615 GMT (1415 HKT)
The birth of a child is normally a joyous occasion, but it is tinged by sadness and anxiety in Gaza. Ian Lee reports.
July 31, 2014 -- Updated 1724 GMT (0124 HKT)
Amid the Gaza conflict, experts try to figure out who's in charge of "the resistance."
July 30, 2014 -- Updated 1010 GMT (1810 HKT)
The opening was so small that CNN's Wolf Blitzer -- no physical giant -- had to bend down to climb inside.
Follow CNNArabic for the latest news and analysis from the Middle East and rest of the world.