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Leaked Israeli documents prompt suspicion from Hamas

A recent series of leaked documents from the Israeli government discuss changing Israel's official ruling on the Gaza war victors — but is it a blunder or a strategic move?
An Israeli soldier looks through binoculars at an observation post overlooking the Gaza strip near the Israeli-Gaza border August 20, 2014. An Israeli air strike in Gaza killed the wife and infant son of Hamas's military leader, Mohammed Deif, the group said, calling it an attempt to assassinate him after a ceasefire collapsed. Palestinians launched more than 100 rockets, mainly at southern Israel, with some intercepted by the Iron Dome anti-missile system, the military said. No casualties were reported on

Israeli media outlets have been publishing, in an unprecedented move, the 2014 Gaza war diary since early April 2015. These documents discuss the Israeli army’s failures in the face of Hamas. The most serious Israeli avowal was that of Ofer Shelah, a member of the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee, which was made public on April 2 and caused vehement reactions.

He was preceded by Yoav Galant, the former head of the Israeli army’s Southern Command. On March 7, Galant accused the Israeli government of failing to deal with the Hamas tunnels issue.

This is while on April 6 Israeli Channel 10 broadcast a video on the military investigation into the strike that hit the armored personnel carrier at the beginning of the Gaza war in the Shajaiya neighborhood on July 20, 2014.

Interestingly, the Hamas-affiliated media outlets have quickly circulated these avowals, which have become the talk of the hour in Gaza, as the Israeli reports — which have been translated into Arabic — have shown the Israeli army's weakness and the courage of the Palestinian fighters, as revealed in several reports.

Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri told Al-Monitor that the Israeli leaks represent “an additional acknowledgment of the Israeli occupation’s defeat and the resistance’s victory in the Gaza war, and that all of the attempts have failed to mitigate the defeat.”

Hamas may be right to be satisfied by the Israeli avowals, because it is interested in showing the positive side of the fighting with the Israeli army, after failing to achieve the stated war goals: lifting the Gaza siege, opening the border crossings and inaugurating the seaports and airports. The Israeli leaks were unprecedentedly widely circulated among Palestinians, and provided a testimony that Hamas needs, in light of the dissatisfaction prevailing among Palestinians in Gaza toward Hamas’ broken promises of improving the situation after the war.

Nevertheless, not all of these Israeli avowals seem positive. They may hide intelligence goals, which Hamas fears in terms of disclosing some military secrets that Israel needs.

Hamas spokesman Mushir al-Masri told Al-Monitor, “Israel does not deny the major defeat in the Gaza war. Yet, the publishing of the avowals of dozens of officers and soldiers raises questions on their hidden objective. This is because Israel is an arrogant state that refuses to be defeated, and does not make [these avowals] public to the Israeli people. Through these leaks, it may be trying to get security information on the fate of the soldiers who went missing during the war.”

On April 15, Hamas-affiliated media outlets (such as Quds Press and Aqsa TV) published an Israeli military investigation speaking of the so-called skills of the Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades in the abduction of Israeli soldier Hadar Goldin in southern Rafah on Aug. 1, 2014.

Al Majd website, which is close to the Hamas security services, revealed on April 15 that the intensified Israeli talk on the Gaza war diary proves that it Israel does not have confirmed information on the fate of its missing soldiers and that Hamas will only disclose them in a swap deal.

The talk on the Israeli leaks has reached social networking sites. On April 14, Hamas activists, as well as some close to the movement, considered them part of the Israeli ongoing assessment of the Israeli army’s performance. This is while others viewed them as a way to push Hamas into revealing its security information. Others have considered these leaks as a chance for the Palestinians to review their mistakes in the last war.

On April 12, Hamas members said that the Israeli leaks pave the way for Hamas to improve its military capabilities, and prepare the Israeli public opinion for a new war.

Hamas, which follows up on the Israeli army’s military history, is aware that years and decades must pass before admitting failure, as happened in the 1973 war against Egypt and Syria, and the 2006 war against Lebanon. Yet, the publication of these Israeli avowals less than a year after the end of the Gaza war has raised concerns within Hamas circles, in addition to its welcome.

Hamas sources have lately been assuming, following the ongoing publication of Israeli avowals, that the Israeli army’s command may be seeking to launch a new war in Gaza, paving the way for more killings and destruction, and preparing the Israeli army psychologically to accept its losses without complaining.

Hamas sources continued to circulate the Israeli avowals for several days as a new indicator of the Qassam Brigades’ military performance, without viewing their suspicious side.

Yet, a few days following the publication of the Israeli leaks, Hamas-affiliated media outlets published a list of goals that Israel is seeking to achieve through these avowals. They include amplifying Hamas’ capabilities to justify a military action against it, raising the Arab regimes’ concern and encouraging them to attack Hamas in Gaza as it poses a threat to them, and making the Qassam Brigades feel that it has reached the highest fighting levels, to the point of halting its military and combat preparations.

In conjunction with the Israeli avowals, a Palestinian security official in Gaza, who spoke to Al-Monitor on condition of anonymity, said, “The Israeli intelligence has intensified its intelligence activities in Gaza to get information on the Israeli soldiers captured by the resistance. This comes in an attempt to identify their location and find out about their status. Thus, it has broadcast some news and press reports to stir a Palestinian debate and perhaps get a piece of information here and there.”

This was confirmed by the spokesman of the Interior Ministry in Gaza, Iyad al-Bazm. He told Al-Monitor, “The Israeli security services are exerting all possible efforts to recruit collaborators in Gaza, and penetrate the Palestinian internal front by all means, through some websites and suspicious pages.”

Hamas welcomed the Israeli acknowledgment of the Israeli army’s defeat during the last war. The movement considered that, through these leaks, Israeli decision-makers are spreading fears and concerns among Israeli public opinion, which could reject a new war against Gaza, as it will result in major human losses and tragedies.

At the same time, Hamas is not hiding its concern that Israel, which has quickly admitted its defeat, may use these leaks to prepare the Israeli public for a potential new war on Gaza, to avenge its victims and injured and to deal a new blow to Hamas’ public opinion. This has prompted Hamas to deal with the Israeli avowals with considerable caution.

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