Hamas militants have returned to northern Gaza, where they are mobilising against Israeli forces and rebuilding a system of governance, aid officials, Gaza residents, analysts and Israeli officials say.
Elsewhere in Gaza, Hamas administrators and police maintain firm control of the south, where much of the population is concentrated, though civil order is breaking down in central regions.
The apparent resurgence of Hamas in areas seized and cleared by Israeli troops during the nearly four-month offensive underlines the difficulties Benjamin Netanyahu faces in meeting his pledge to “crush” the militant group.
Eyal Hulata, who until January 2023 was the head of Israel’s national security council, said: “We are hearing more, unfortunately, of the recovery of [an] insurgency in both central and northern Gaza … We’re hearing more and more that Hamas are doing policing in northern Gaza and governing trade, and that is a very bad outcome.”
Michael Milstein of the Institute for National Security Studies, a Tel Aviv-based thinktank, said Hamas had re-established control in parts of Gaza that the Israel Defense Forces seized after bloody fighting last year.
This included much of the ruined northern zone, including Shaati camp, the refugee camps of Jabaliya, Shejaiya, and Gaza City.
Milstein said: “Hamas control these areas. There is no chaos or vacuum because it is the workers of Gaza municipality or civil rescue defence forces, who are effectively part of Hamas, who are enforcing public order. Hamas still exists. Hamas has survived.
“The IDF version is that in the northern part of Gaza the basic military structure of Hamas was broken … That only works with a conventional army but not for a flexible guerrilla operation like Hamas. We are already seeing individuals as snipers, setting booby traps and so on.” [Continue reading…]