Breaching the Syrian-Israel fence in May 2011. (AP Photo/Ariel Schalit)
When the Gaza “Return” Marches began in March 2018, Hamas was particularly restrained and kept its distance. Hamas had already learned its lesson from the Return Marches in Syria, which were originally directed toward the border with Israel with government sanction, but as soon as the people went out into the streets, it was not certain if they would march toward the border with Israel. In fact, the Syrian rebellion broke out around the same time. When the opposition to Assad in Daraa saw there were demonstrations, it began demonstrations of its own.
In Syria, Hamas did not join in with the PLO Return March and the Ahmed Jibril organization running them because it was already busy building an infrastructure for the next stage – after the Syrian Return March. Hamas, which had already established the first cells of what would become the Nusra organization in Syria’s Yarmouk refugee camp, did not want to be exposed. However, it saw with its own eyes how the demonstrations at the Golan border fence immediately spilled over into demonstrations against the Syrian regime.
In the case of Gaza, after various reservations, it decided to jump on the bandwagon and commandeer the marches initiated by European NGO “Green-Red,” which had been behind the various flotillas used for “breaking the Gaza embargo.”
Hamas thought it could take control of the marches, but it soon became apparent that it was mistaken. What happened in Gaza was the same as what had happened in Syria. The demonstrators who set off for the border with Israel have now turned against Hamas. Furthermore, the original instigator of the marches, Ahmed Abu Ratima, posted a call on Facebook to the Hamas police officers to remove their uniforms and join the demonstrators against Hamas. He even called for the establishment of a committee of all of the organizations to administer Gaza. In other words, the demonstrators who went out to dismantle the border fence with Israel now want to dismantle Hamas.
Furthermore, it has emerged that the “war room” Hamas established with the other “organizations” against Fatah may indeed be opposed to Fatah, but it also supports the demonstrations against Hamas.1
The only thing Hamas can do to contain the unpredictable demonstrations is to prevent the “Great March of Return” on the border that is planned for the first anniversary on March 30, 2019. The question is whether it can do that.
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