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Kidnappings force rethink of Israel’s Hamas strategy

As it searches for the kidnapped teenagers, Israeli decision-makers are considering how their actions will affect Hamas’ influence in the long run.
A Palestinian man stands outside his house as an Israeli soldier takes part in an operation to locate three Israeli teens in the West Bank City of Hebron June 19, 2014. Israeli forces traded gunfire with Palestinians on Thursday, the military said, in the fiercest street battles in the occupied West Bank since a search began for three Israeli teenagers missing for a week. REUTERS/Mussa Qawasma (WEST BANK - Tags: POLITICS MILITARY) - RTR3UOFG
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As of June 19, the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) has arrested about 280 Palestinians, out of which 51 are Hamas activists who had been released as part of the deal for the return of Gilad Shalit. These arrests are part of Operation Brother’s Keeper, as the search for three abducted youths — Eyal Yifrach, Gilad Shaar and Naftali Frenkel — continues throughout the West Bank. The biggest dilemma for the security services is how to successfully fight Hamas activists and leaders without discovering in a few months or years that the moves against the movement did not weaken it but only solidified its ranks.

The question of questions that has been haunting Israel throughout the years of its war against Hamas is what is the most efficient weapon of deterrence against the movement? Paradoxically, in certain cases, military operations that were intended to scare the movement’s leaders and activists actually rapidly increased support among the Palestinian public for Hamas. This is what happened during the second intifada, when Hamas was viewed by the Palestinians as a victim, and its leaders succeeded in translating these feelings into triumph at the ballot box during Palestinian Authority (PA) elections in January 2006.

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