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What Is Hamas Telling Its Own People About the Gaza War?

An Israeli soldier stands in a tank, amid the ongoing conflict between Israel and Hamas, near the Israel-Gaza border, in Israel, June 4, 2024. Photo: REUTERS/Amir Cohen

The Hamas invasion of Israel on October 7, 2023, was quickly characterized by Hamas as fulfillment of a prophecy about the destruction of Israel. Hamas cast the invasion as a Palestinian version of the Battle of Badr, a battle in which a small force of Muslim believers under the command of the Prophet Muhammad succeeded in defeating a large force of Quraysh and Makkah who had opposed his prophecy.

Hamas labeled October 7 as a divine victory by believers over the enemies of Allah, and many verses in this spirit were broadcast over Hamas’ communication channels. However, more recent articles published on the Hamas website suggest that its view has undergone a transformation. Hamas has apparently shifted from extolling its “divine victory” on October 7 to admitting that it has been defeated in battle again and again. The great suffering Hamas has inflicted on the Gaza Strip has put it in the position where it must now explain to the Palestinian public why it started the war in the first place, why it did not expect a massive military response from Israel to its atrocities and attempt at genocide, and why the suffering of the Palestinians of the Gaza Strip is not in vain.

To faithful Muslims, the Battle of Badr marks the victory of a small group of believers of the Prophet Muhammad over a far superior force. The battle was held in Ramadan in 624 AD between Muhammad’s group of warriors, numbering about 300 men, and an expeditionary force of Meccan men numbering about 1,000. The battle was held near the Badr Springs; hence the name.

In a preliminary battle, Hamza, Ali, and Ubaydah Ibn Harth fought three of Quraysh’s warriors. They lost, and Ubaydah suffered mortal wounds and died a martyr. At the Battle of Badr, the Muslim force was organized, determined, and acting under unified leadership. The Meccan force was larger, but fought in a decentralized manner and without a central command. Surat al-Anfal (The Spoils) in the Koran describes the battle. After the victory, Muhammad revealed that angels had participated alongside the Muslim army. In a famous hadith by al-Bukhari, it is claimed that the angel Gabriel himself fought on his horse against the people of Quraysh and killed many of them.

On October 7 and throughout the waiting period until the beginning of the ground operation in which the IDF forces entered Gaza, many comparisons were made between the success of Hamas on October 7 and the famous Battle of Badr. A small Palestinian military force of about 3,500 men was able to overcome deployed IDF formations along the border and breach a formidable barrier consisting of an elaborate fence, multiple firearms and tanks. The photos of the bulldozer destroying the fence and of destroyed IDF tanks became images of the victory Hamas had purportedly achieved by divine inspiration.

The website of the Al-Palestinian Center for Information gives us a glimpse into changes that seem to have taken place in the view of Hamas operatives. Where they once gushed words of praise for the rare victory over Israel, they are now admitting their military failure in the confrontation with Israel.

Consider, for example, the following article published by Dr. Muhsen Saleh, a senior researcher at the Zitouna Center in Lebanon. The article, entitled “Tofan Al-Aqsa – Coping with the day after the operation,” was an early response to the Hamas invasion:

The Al-Aqsa Flood operation carried out by the Al-Qassam Brigades on October 7, 2023 was a qualitative historical blow to the Zionist entity. It had not had such a [defeat] since [Israel’s] establishment 75 years ago. The operation combined the elements of military surprise, an incredible security and strategic move. [The resistance] invaded a significant area of ​​Palestine that was occupied in 1948, causing the largest number of dead, wounded and prisoners (that is, kidnapped) compared to all the battles the Palestinians have fought since the [1948] war, in which the entity [Israel] was established. This is the highest even in relation to most of the Arab-Israeli wars.

The Israeli occupation [at the time] looked confused and shocked and felt humiliated when it saw with its own eyes the shattering of [its] security theory and the collapse of the walls of physical and psychological deterrence. [The occupation] also saw with its own eyes how the men of al-Qassam broke into 20 settlement sites (towns and kibbutzim) and 11 military sites in a matter of hours. The occupation realized that it had failed to subdue the Palestinian people and crush their resistance.

To Saleh and other writers on the site, the operation began and ended on October 7 with a decisive Palestinian victory for the Hamas organization. It was a divine victory, as described by Dr. Khaled Qaddoumi (Hamas’ representative in Iran) in an article entitled: “Hamas is making history” that he published the day after the war broke out:

… we must prepare ourselves for this campaign (against Israel) with all the means at our disposal, including sanctification and strengthening the truth and justice for the Palestinian people. We must support comprehensively and in all areas the battle for liberation until the true promise is fulfilled.

[We told the children of Israel in the scripture to say, Twice you shall conquer the land and be very proud]. When the first time took place, we sent among you our servants the heroes of the war and they raided into the colonies and thus the promise was fulfilled (Qur’an, 17 4-5).

These verses, from the Surat al-Isra’ (the Night Journey), appeared in postings by many Hamas supporters at the time. For them, the invasion symbolized the realization of a divine promise to destroy Israel, a promise written in the Qur’an.

Hamas activist Khamis al-Qatiti summarized the battles on October 7, 2023 in an article entitled “The Tears of the Spider’s Web“:

This great battle is the flood of al-Aqsa. It reminds the people of the entire [Islamic] nation of the battles of the Muslims, the great [battles] of Badr and Al-Khandaq [the battle of the trench in 627 AD in which Medina was attacked by the people of Mecca, other Arab tribes, and Jews who had joined them. The defenders, led by the Prophet Muhammad, dug trenches and from there repelled the attack] and Khaybar [a battle fought by Muhammad’s people against the Jews of al-Khaybar and Jewish refugees from Medina; the battle took place in 629 AD and ended in a Muslim victory] and [Horns of] Hattin [the battle in 1187 AD in which Saladin defeated the Crusaders and thereby brought an end to the Crusader Kingdom] and Ain Jalut [Battle of Ein Harod, which was fought in 1260 AD between the Mamluks and the Mongols, who were considered infidels at the time. The battle ended in a Mamluk victory]. It also reminds us of the last victory achieved by a united Arab will fifty years ago in the great battle for the crossing (the Battle of the Suez Canal in the Yom Kippur War in 1973).

But what happens when many begin to ask if Hamas was wrong when it went to war in Gaza? Has the “divine victory”, as Hamas spokesmen called the battles of October 7, not become a second “Nakba”?

Hamas predicted that Israel would not enter the Gaza Strip for ground maneuvers, and that the war that would break out as a result of its invasion of Israel would end swiftly. Surely, Hamas believed, the inevitable heavy international pressure on Israel would force it to stop fighting. Hamas also expected Israel to retreat to the October 6 lines while negotiating a wholesale release of Palestinian prisoners in exchange for the hundreds of Israeli hostages due to Israel’s high sensitivity to human life. All these expectations were disappointed. The death toll in the Gaza Strip is rising, most Hamas battalions have been disbanded and stripped of their military and organizational capabilities, and the Gaza Strip, which until recently was considered a land liberated by jihad, is being purged of Hamas.

Against the background of growing criticism of Hamas among parts of Palestinian society, Israel’s losses are being trumpeted on the Hamas website.

Walid Abd al-Hay, in his article “Tufan Al-Aqsa to look only at their numbers only”, cites economic data such as the decrease in the value of Israeli currency, a decrease in tourism revenue, the number of abandoned settlements, high numbers of Israeli internal evacuees, and a drop in immigration to Israel by at least 50% compared to the situation before the war. The purpose of the article is clear: to raise the spirits of the Gaza population after a long, exhausting war and much suffering. Don’t just look at your own suffering and sacrifice, al-Hay is saying. Look at what we were able to do to the enemy.

Another article that tries to encourage the Palestinian population against the background of the loss of the “resistance” in Gaza is by Dr. Muhammad al-Hindi (a well-known activist and a leader of the Islamic Jihad) entitled “The dissolution of the Zionist entity in light of the change in the balance of power.” Al-Hindi recognizes that most of Gaza has seen Israeli forces come in, the stronghold of the resistance has fallen, and that Gaza has fallen into a humanitarian crisis (because, in his view, of an allegedly brutal occupation). But he encourages his readers with the following:

There are those who wonder about the future of the Palestinian cause and the future of the resistance in Palestine after the loss of the resistance stronghold in Gaza. It goes without saying that the future of the Palestinian resistance cannot be talked about in isolation from international and regional changes. The situation in the world is changing, America is busy with conflicts and rivalries with Russia and China, it is not at its best, and Russia is finding out every day the importance of building alliances with the countries of the Muslim South.

According to al-Hindi, the next decisive battle will take place in Judea and Samaria, which, according to him, has become the second state of Israel. The article concludes that the Palestinian resistance will ultimately defeat Israel.

Many pro-Hamas articles deal with Israel’s legal battles with international courts. They claim that the crimes of Hamas, especially the sex crimes committed on October 7, are false accusations. Many articles encourage the public to take note of how many supporters they have in the world, and highlight the events at universities in the United States and support for the Palestinian cause in many other countries.

Algerian politician Dr. Abd al-Razaq Makri spoke out strongly against insiders who attack Hamas’ logic in starting a war with Israel. In the article “Tufan al-Aqsa is a solution that is a way of life”, he writes:

The survival of the residents of Gaza on their land is their glory. A dignified life in tents on the ruins [of the buildings] contributes more to the continuation of the resistance and is better than life in luxury cities that were built as a bribe to the Palestinians in order for them to give up their cause and the places sacred to them. This is [a contrary position] to those Palestinians who deal with plans of surrender [a clear reference to the Palestinian Authority].

As for the statement [by sources criticizing Hamas] that the al-Aqsa Flood gave the Israelis an excuse to reoccupy Gaza, the campaign is not over yet. Gaza was in a situation where there was no difference between it and the occupation except that the entity state [Israel] eased its obligations towards the population as an occupying power in accordance with international law. [Israel] made the world and the Arab countries pay for the needs of the Gazans in its place.

As for the statement [by sources criticizing Hamas] that the al-Aqsa Flood will put an end to Hamas control in Gaza, the war is not over yet and the “day after” has not yet arrived. Even if this does happen, it may be better for Hamas to ease its life obligations towards the population and dedicate itself entirely to the resistance within the logic of an all-out guerrilla war in all of Palestine. This war will be conducted while learning the lessons of war, the acts of heroism in it, and the achievements and losses of the resistance. This learning of lessons will also take into account those who supported the resistance and those who betrayed it and did not stand by it.

The large number of Palestinian casualties in the war does not move Dr. Makri. According to him, in Algeria, French colonialism killed 1.5 million Algerians over seven years. The only way to guarantee political independence, he claims, is through blood and sacrifice.

The Hamas organization understands and has reconciled itself to the fact that it has been defeated militarily, and the citadel of “resistance” in the Gaza Strip (Kala’at al-Muqawama) has fallen. After the euphoric days of October, articles appeared that tried to encourage the population and explain that their sacrifice is not in vain. Hamas is aware that the October 7 war is seen by some of the Palestinian public as a dangerous gamble that harmed the Palestinian cause — a bet that has caused the death and injury to thousands.

Will Hamas remain the ruling party in the Gaza Strip? That depends mainly on Israeli determination, as President Biden’s latest proposal is seen by Hamas as an admission that it will indeed survive as the Strip’s governing body. Therefore, any Israeli outline for the end of the war after the IDF’s impressive military victory must include the replacement of Hamas rule by another governing body. Only that way will the Israeli military victory be translated into a political achievement.

Dr. (Lt. Col.) Shaul Bartal is a senior researcher at the BESA Center and a research fellow at the Center for Middle Eastern Studies at the University of Lisbon. During his military service, he served in various roles in the West Bank. He has also taught in the Department of Middle Eastern Studies and the Department of Political Science. A version of this article was originally published by The BESA Center.

The post What Is Hamas Telling Its Own People About the Gaza War? first appeared on Algemeiner.com.

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One Part of Cyprus Mourns, the Other Rejoices 50 Years After Split

Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan leaves after attending a military parade to mark the 1974 Turkish invasion of Cyprus in response to a short-lived Greek-inspired coup, in the Turkish-controlled northern Cyprus, in the divided city of Nicosia, Cyprus July 20, 2024. Photo: REUTERS/Yiannis Kourtoglou

Greek Cypriots mourned and Turkish Cypriots rejoiced on Saturday, the 50th anniversary of Turkey’s invasion of part of the island after a brief Greek inspired coup, with the chances of reconciliation as elusive as ever.

The ethnically split island is a persistent source of tension between Greece and Turkey, which are both partners in NATO but are at odds over numerous issues.

Their differences were laid bare on Saturday, with Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan attending a celebratory military parade in north Nicosia to mark the day in 1974 when Turkish forces launched an offensive that they call a “peace operation.”

Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis was due later on Saturday to attend an event in the south of the Nicosia to commemorate what Greeks commonly refer to as the “barbaric Turkish invasion.” Air raid sirens sounded across the area at dawn.

Mitsotakis posted an image of a blood-stained map of Cyprus on his LinkedIn page with the words “Half a century since the national tragedy of Cyprus.”

There was jubilation in the north.

“The Cyprus Peace Operation saved Turkish Cypriots from cruelty and brought them to freedom,” Erdogan told crowds who gathered to watch the parade despite stifling midday heat, criticizing the south for having a “spoiled mentality” and seeing itself as the sole ruler of Cyprus.

Peace talks are stalled at two seemingly irreconcilable concepts – Greek Cypriots want reunification as a federation. Turkish Cypriots want a two-state settlement.

Erdogan left open a window to dialogue although he said a federal solution, advocated by Greek Cypriots and backed by most in the international community, was “not possible.”

“We are ready for negotiations, to meet, and to establish long-term peace and resolution in Cyprus,” he said.

Cyprus gained independence from Britain in 1960, but a shared administration between Greek and Turkish Cypriots quickly fell apart in violence that saw Turkish Cypriots withdraw into enclaves and led to the dispatch of a U.N. peacekeeping force.

The crisis left Greek Cypriots running the internationally recognized Republic of Cyprus, a member of the European Union since 2004 with the potential to derail Turkey’s own decades-long aspirations of joining the bloc.

It also complicates any attempts to unlock energy potential in the eastern Mediterranean because of overlapping claims. The region has seen major discoveries of hydrocarbons in recent years.

REMEMBERING THE DEAD

Cypriot President Nikos Christodoulides, whose office represents the Greek Cypriot community in the reunification dialogue, said the anniversary was a somber occasion for reflection and for remembering the dead.

“Our mission is liberation, reunification and solving the Cyprus problem,” he said. “If we really want to send a message on this tragic anniversary … it is to do anything possible to reunite Cyprus.”

Turkey, he said, continued to be responsible for violating human rights and international law over Cyprus.

Across the south, church services were held to remember the more than 3,000 people who died in the Turkish invasion.

“It was a betrayal of Cyprus and so many kids were lost. It wasn’t just my son, it was many,” said Loukas Alexandrou, 90, as he tended the grave of his son at a military cemetery.

In Turkey, state television focused on violence against Turkish Cypriots prior to the invasion, particularly on bloodshed in 1963-64 and in 1967.

Turkey’s invasion took more than a third of the island and expelled more than 160,000 Greek Cypriots to the south.

Reunification talks collapsed in 2017 and have been at a stalemate since. Northern Cyprus is a breakaway state recognized only by Turkey, and its Turkish Cypriot leadership wants international recognition.

The post One Part of Cyprus Mourns, the Other Rejoices 50 Years After Split first appeared on Algemeiner.com.

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Putin Jails US Reporter Gershkovich in Sham Trial

A Russian secret court found U.S. reporter Evan Gershkovich guilty of espionage on Friday and sentenced him to 16 years in a maximum security penal colony in what his employer, the Wall Street Journal, accurately called “a disgraceful sham conviction.”

Gershkovich, a 32-year-old Jewish American who denied any wrongdoing, went on trial in the city of Yekaterinburg last month after being accused of trying to gather sensitive information about a tank factory.

He was the first U.S. journalist accused of spying in Russia since the Cold War, and his arrest in March 2023 prompted many U.S. and other Western correspondents to leave Moscow.

U.S. President Joe Biden said Gershkovich did not commit any crime and has been wrongfully detained.

“We are pushing hard for Evan’s release and will continue to do so,” Biden said in a statement. “Journalism is not a crime.”

Video of Friday’s hearing released by the court showed Gershkovich, dressed in a T-shirt and black trousers, standing in a glass courtroom cage as he listened to the verdict being read in rapid-fire legalese for nearly four minutes.

Asked by the judge if he had any questions, he replied “Nyet.”

The judge, Andrei Mineyev, said the nearly 16 months Gershkovich had already served since his arrest would count towards the 16-year sentence.

Mineyev ordered the destruction of the reporter’s mobile phone and paper notebook. The defense has 15 days to appeal.

“This disgraceful, sham conviction comes after Evan has spent 478 days in prison, wrongfully detained, away from his family and friends, prevented from reporting, all for doing his job as a journalist,” the Journal said in a statement.

“We will continue to do everything possible to press for Evan’s release and to support his family. Journalism is not a crime, and we will not rest until he’s released. This must end now.”

Gershkovich’s friend, reporter Pjotr Sauer of Britain’s Guardian newspaper, posted on X: “Russia has just sentenced an innocent man to 16 years in a high security prison. I have no words to describe this farce. Let’s get Evan out of there.”

Friday’s hearing was only the third in the trial. The proceedings, apart from the sentencing, were closed to the media on the grounds of state secrecy.

Espionage cases often take months to handle and the unusual speed at which the trial was held behind closed doors has stoked speculation that a long-discussed U.S.-Russia prisoner exchange deal may be in the offing, involving Gershkovich and potentially other Americans detained in Russia.

The Kremlin, when asked by Reuters earlier on Friday about the possibility of such an exchange, declined to comment: “I’ll leave your question unanswered,” said Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov.

Among those Russia would like to free is Vadim Krasikov, a Russian serving a life sentence in Germany for murdering an exiled Chechen-Georgian dissident in a Berlin park in 2019.

Officers of the FSB security service arrested Gershkovich on March 29, 2023, at a steakhouse in Yekaterinburg, 900 miles (1,400 km) east of Moscow. He has since been held in Moscow’s Lefortovo prison.

Russian prosecutors had accused Gershkovich of gathering secret information on the orders of the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency about a company that manufactures tanks for Moscow’s war in Ukraine.

The Uralvagonzavod factory, which he is accused of spying on, has been sanctioned by the West. Based in the city of Nizhny Tagil near Yekaterinburg, it has publicly spoken of producing T-90M battle tanks and modernizing T-72B3M tanks.

Earlier on Friday, the court unexpectedly said it would pronounce its verdict within hours after state prosecutors demanded Gershkovich be jailed for 18 years for spying. The maximum sentence for the crime he was accused of is 20 years.

Russia usually concludes legal proceedings against foreigners before making any deals on exchanging them.

‘WRONGFULLY DETAINED’

Gershkovich, his newspaper and the U.S. government all rejected the allegations against him and said he was merely doing his job as a reporter accredited by the Foreign Ministry to work in Russia.

President Vladimir Putin has said Russia is open to a prisoner exchange involving Gershkovich, and that contacts with the United States have taken place but must remain secret.

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said on Friday that Washington was working every day to bring home Gershkovich, former U.S. Marine Paul Whelan and other Americans.

He declined to go into details when asked why Putin would reach a deal on Gershkovich’s release ahead of the U.S. election.

“Any effort to bring any American home is going to be part of a process of back and forth, of discussion, potentially of negotiation,” Blinken said at the Aspen Security Forum in Colorado.

“Depending on what the other side is looking for, they’ll reach their own conclusions about whether it meets whatever their needs are, and we can bring someone home – and I don’t think that’s dependent on an election in the United States or anywhere else,” he said.

Mark Warner, the chairman of the U.S. Senate Intelligence Committee, called Gershkovich’s sentence “outrageous,” and said he thinks “it’s clear that the Russians view Evan almost as a bargaining chip at this point.”

Speaking in an interview with Reuters, Warner declined to discuss whether efforts are underway to arrange an exchange for Gershkovich’s release, but said “all options have to stay on the table” with regards to how the Biden administration responds.

Friends who have exchanged letters with Gershkovich say he has remained resilient and cheerful throughout his imprisonment, occupying himself by reading classics of Russian literature.

At court appearances over the past 16 months – most recently with his head shaven – he has frequently smiled and nodded at reporters he used to work with before he himself became the story.

Since Russian troops entered Ukraine in 2022, Moscow and Washington have conducted just one high profile prisoner swap: Russia released basketball star Brittney Griner, held for smuggling cannabis, in return for arms dealer Viktor Bout, jailed for terrorism-related offenses in the United States.

The post Putin Jails US Reporter Gershkovich in Sham Trial first appeared on Algemeiner.com.

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VP Harris Hits Fundraising Trail Amid Ongoing Calls for Biden to Quit Race

U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris will headline a fundraiser in Massachusetts on Saturday as President Joe Biden faces continued pressure from fellow Democrats and big money donors to end his floundering campaign.

Biden and top aides on Friday vowed to continue with the campaign, even as major donors signaled they were unwilling to open their checkbooks unless the 81-year-old president stepped aside.

The crisis-in-confidence in Biden’s ability to win has placed a huge spotlight on Harris, widely believed to be the most likely replacement if he steps down.

Her fundraising events, including the one on Saturday in Provincetown, Massachusetts are getting added interest from donors who want to signal they are willing to coalesce around her potential bid for the White House, according to three Democratic fundraisers.

More than one in 10 congressional Democrats have now publicly called on Biden, who is isolating at his Delaware home with a case of COVID-19, to drop out following a disastrous debate last month against Republican former President Donald Trump that raised questions about the incumbent’s ability to win the Nov. 5 election or carry out his duties for another four years.

Biden’s campaign hoped to raise some $50 million in big-dollar donations in July for the Biden Victory Fund but was on track for less than half that figure as of Friday, according to two sources familiar with the fundraising efforts.

The campaign called reports of a July fundraising slump overstated, noting that it anticipated a drop-off in large donations due to vacations. It said the campaign still has 10 fundraisers on the schedule this month.

Harris assured major Democratic donors on Friday that the party would prevail in the presidential election as more lawmakers called for her running mate, Biden, to stand down.

“We are going to win this election,” she said on a call arranged on short notice to calm donors, according to a person on the call. “We know which candidate in this election puts the American people first: Our president, Joe Biden.”

Harris attended the call “at the direct request of senior advisers to the president,” one of the people said, an account confirmed by another person familiar with the matter.

The post VP Harris Hits Fundraising Trail Amid Ongoing Calls for Biden to Quit Race first appeared on Algemeiner.com.

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