End of Israel-Hamas Conflict: Who Achieved What?

After series of devastating Israeli airstrikes for more than 10 days, a ceasefire was declared by both Hamas and the Israeli government. The fighting cost more than 248 Palestinian lives and 13 Israeli lives including massive destruction of properties in the Gaza strip.

Now with the end of the conflict, both sides are measuring their costs and successes. Both sides are claiming major victory while their claims don’t match with reality.

According to Israeli leadership, their offensives have achieved their targets and they can measure these as successes. On the other hand, Hamas is also claiming that it has successfully defended the Palestinian people.

Hamas is an armed resistance group that some consider as a terrorist organization. On the other hand, Israel is a sovereign state with massive military strength. Thus, the objectives of a conflict between such two disproportionate actors depend mainly on military and political grounds.

If we talk about the Israeli side, the government and military claimed that Hamas can be dealt with in two ways. One, by completely conquering it, and two, by destroying its combat capability. So, have Israel achieved these two goals so far?

First of all, militarily Israel has gained a lot. In the latest fight against Hamas, they were successful to kill almost 30 Hamas commanders including a key engineer involved in rocket production. According to the Israeli military, almost 340 rocket launchers of Hamas were destroyed and Hamas’s strategic 60 miles of underground tunnels collapsed during the airstrikes. They were also able to destroy a key research and development center of Hamas which was used for its military activities.

Moreover, the Iron Dome air defense system of Israel has successfully prevented almost 90% of rockets fired by Hamas. Though there is criticism of the high maintenance cost of that system, it has also gained the attention of international buyers for its success rates. On the other hand, Israel was also successful to prevent any major military or civilian casualties during the conflict.

So, these gains of the Israeli military resulted in a major setback for Hamas. And if not a massive victory, we can call it a short-time success for the Israeli as it will give them a quiet environment for another couple of years. But the two goals of the Israeli leadership seem far away as Hamas was not fully destroyed nor was its combat capability. Moreover, it still has thousands of rockets and it will also rebuild its infrastructure for sure.

In terms of the political achievements from the latest fight, Israel has gained less. The fight may have given a lifeline domestically for the Israeli PM Netanyahu but it has cost Israel a lot diplomatically. The international support for the Palestinians has gained new momentum. And the shift in the narrative among a lot of Democrats and their growing skeptical view about Israel has cost the Pro Israeli lobby in the US. All of these happened because of the aggressiveness and atrocities done by the Israeli military during the latest conflict. The loss of huge numbers of civilian lives including children and airstrikes at the nonmilitary targets including media offices, schools, hospitals have gained condemnation from the whole world.

As a result, Israel may have succeeded to give a setback to Hamas, but it has also complicated the situation politically. Israel has just fueled its unending war against the Palestinians.

Now the objectives of Hamas and its claim to successfully defend the Palestinian people also raise a lot of concerns. To begin with, Hamas has gained huge success politically from the latest conflict. It has managed to depict itself as the true Guardian of the Palestinian people and it has also gained populist support as a party of freedom fighters who can liberate the Palestinian people.

In addition, Hamas has gained international attention as it has shown the world that it is politically more significant than the Palestine Authority government led by President Mahmoud Abbas. The corrupt leadership of Abbas and his lack of power to deal with the recent conflict have made Hamas a potential player in the Israel-Palestine issue. Though Hamas is considered a terrorist organization by most western actors, they are now considering direct or indirect negotiations with Hamas. For instance, German Chancellor Angela Merkel stated after last week’s ceasefire that it was necessary to maintain indirect contact with Hamas. Therefore, Abbas’s inability as a potential influencer in the Israel-Palestine issue has left a big room for Hamas and it had been also fulfilled successfully.

However, Hamas’s claim about the Israeli consent, not to evict Palestinians from Sheikh Jarrah, was denied by the Israeli authority. And, surely, Israeli settlements in the occupied Palestinian territory will not stop for the recent ceasefire.

Nevertheless, Hamas has almost no gains militarily. Many Hamas commanders were killed by the Israeli airstrikes and hundreds of their rocket-firing systems were destroyed by the Israeli military. Moreover, Hamas was unable to hit any major target belonging to the Israeli military. It may have improved its rocket system but those were not able to take a stand against Israeli defense. It was also criticized for its fragile strategy with no defense plan during the recent conflict as it cared less about the civilian lives.

In addition, almost one-third of its underground tunnel collapsed during the massive Israeli airstrikes which have given a big setback to Hamas. However, it was able to launch around 8000 rocket attacks against Israel which is bigger in number than the last three conflicts. But it can not be measure as success as the losses are so high.

In conclusion, Hamas achieved something which it had wanted for a long as it has emerged as a key player in the Israel-Palestine issue. On the other hand, Israeli PM Netanyahu has achieved his motives by fueling more into the Israel-Palestine conflict. But then again, both parties have gained their motives at the expense of civilian lives. So, it was the civilians on both sides who suffered the brunt of the conflict.

Kazi Fahim Ahmed
Kazi Fahim Ahmed
Department of International Relations, University of Dhaka.