Ahmed Alnaouq | 25-03-2017
On Friday night, Mazen Al-Fugha—a senior leader of Hamas’ military wing, the Al-Qassam Brigades; former prisoner of Israel; business administration graduate; husband; and father of two young children—was gunned down in his own neighborhood. Forensics show the weapon was a gun with a silencer, a first in Gaza and the sure sign of a professional “hit.”
To we Gazans, assaults and murders have become part of our lives. In between the wars waged by Israel every two to three years, there are scattered attacks—never giving us time to take a calm breath. We live in fear and anxiety; when a war ends, we begin anticipating the next.
The same is true now, in the wake of the murder of Al-Fugha. In 2012, for example, what has come to be known as the eight-day war was triggered when Israelis assassinated the leader of the Al-Qassam Brigade, Ahmed Aljabari.
When Mazen's body was found with four bullets in his head, rumors immediately spread that Israeli collaborators were responsible. And indeed, a few hours later, two press releases were issued, one by Hamas and one by the brigade, holding Israel responsible for the crime. Although no tangible proof of Israel's involvement has been reported, the only obvious “winner” as a result of the loss is Israel. (Although there are members of ISIS and other extremist groups, they typically announce their involvement after a crime is committed, and have never targeted a military officer.)
An article in the Israeli newspaper Haaretz highlighted the Israeli government’s concern that the Al-Qassam Brigade, which had been banned in the West Bank by the rival Palestinian Authority, is being revived and led by ex-prisoners deported to the Gaza Strip. Faqha was a senior Hamas official in the occupied West Bank until he was imprisoned then released in 2011, when he was deported to Gaza. Earlier this month, the Israeli military bombed several of the brigade’s military sites, and its spokesmen warned with a “painful strike at the right time.”
No one in Israel has claimed “credit” for the murder, but some I officials expressed their satisfaction with the assassination in the media. Maybe the Israeli government wants to provoke a new war without losing the international community's sympathy. Rumors that another war will follow spread quickly on Facebook among Gazans taught to expect it at any time.
However, the prevalent opinion is that Hamas is unlikely to respond and risk another war. The last war resulted in in more than 2,300 Palestinian deaths, 11,000 injuries and a half million people made homeless. Even today, almost three years later, thousands of Palestinians still dwell in caravans.
For example, political writer and analyst Mustafa al-Sawaf believes it is unlikely Hamas will allow itself to be dragged so soon into another open war with Israel, since civilians have yet to recover from the last war and Hamas lost so much in military supplies. Instead, he expects a "war of brains,” with each side developing new weaponry or other threats in a sort of Cold War.
The desire of most average Gazans, though, is for a rest. The last thing people want to hear is that a new war is about to start. "The sound of bombing from the last war still echoes in my ears. When I hear a loud sound, like when a door is slammed, I am startled in fear," admits Ahmed N.
Basema, a 58-year-old mother of a young man who was killed in the last war, believes will Hamas not start a new war, not now. "Hamas knows how destructive the next war will be. Everyone knows the next war is going to bring a calamity to us. Each war brings more destruction to Gaza. God only knows what will happen during the next war."
On the other hand, Hesham M, a waiter at a café in downtown Gaza City, says he believes Hamas will respond. "Hamas is a strong party, and it will never accept such an offense without a firm response on the ground.”
Abu Haft, a member of Hamas who was injured in the last war, tweeted, “Al-Qassam's response will not be vague." And, in fact, two months earlier, Hamas leader Mahmoud Alzahar stated that Hamas is more than ready to start a new war if necessary.
Salwa, a final-year law student at Al-Azhar University, fears war is indeed at the door, but says, "I wish I will die before it starts. During war, I psychologically die many times a day.”
After 11 years of blockade, other people have simply become numb. "If a war erupts or it doesn't, that feels the same,” says Ali. “I graduated from university eight years ago with a master’s in accounting, and I still don't have a job. I can’t earn a living. I depend on family."
Another youth named Murad believes Israel committed this latest crime to send a message that Hamas is not capable of protecting its people, thus inspiring a revolt. But, as his friend Yasser comments, no nation in the world can assure its people's safety when it is blockaded by a country with international backing. We will always be unsafe until Israel is held to account.
Posted: March 24, 2017
Mentor: Pam Bailey