Hamas Celebrates as Israeli Ground Forces Leave Gaza
As Israel withdrew its forces from the northern Gaza Strip on Monday after a two-day assault on Hamas militants, and as Palestinians emerged from their houses to inspect the damage, Hamas leaders seemed to be following the playbook of their Lebanese ally, Hezbollah, in its 2006 war with Israel.
Fawzi Barhoum, a spokesman for Hamas in Gaza, said that like Hezbollah, Hamas had “gone from the stone to the rocket.”
“What we learned from Hezbollah,” he said, “is that resistance is a choice that can work.”
The clearest example of echoing Hezbollah came on Monday when thousands attended a so-called victory rally, and Mahmoud Zahar, an influential Hamas leader, briefly came out of hiding to tell the rallygoers that his organization would rebuild any house that had been damaged by the Israeli strikes.
Holding up his group as the source of reconstruction as well as resistance is precisely the message that brought local and regional acclaim to Hassan Nasrallah, the Hezbollah leader, when his organization faced down Israeli attacks in the summer of 2006 through rocket barrages on Israel.
The latest surge in hostilities between Israel and militants in the Gaza Strip left 116 Palestinians dead, according to Dr. Moawiya Hassanain of the Palestinian Health Ministry in Gaza, making it the deadliest fighting in Gaza in a year. Two Israeli soldiers were killed in the fighting in northern Gaza on Saturday, and one Israeli civilian was killed last Wednesday by rocket fire in the border town of Sderot.
But more than 200 rockets have been fired at Israel since Wednesday, according to Israeli military officials, including at least 21 longer-range Katyusha-style rockets, which are manufactured outside Gaza and brought into the strip. Palestinians and Israelis see the use of those rockets as another illustration of the growing similarity between Hezbollah and Hamas, the militant Islamic organization that controls Gaza.
“We are very concerned that the role model for Hamas in Gaza is the Lebanese Hezbollah,” said Mark Regev, a spokesman for Israel’s prime minister, Ehud Olmert, when asked about parallels between this conflict and the one with Hezbollah.