Hard Times for Hamas

Newspapers in Israel and Turkey published three separate articles Sunday and Monday on severe economic and political problems facing the Hamas government in Gaza.

The three reports all point to the same root causes--a steep reduction in Iranian support after Hamas backed the uprising against Syrian dictator and Iran-ally Bashar al-Assad, and Egypt's demolition of smuggling tunnels into Gaza after the Muslim Brotherhood-dominated Egyptian government was ousted in July.

Hamas, an outgrowth of the Muslim Brotherhood, had been closely aligned with President Mohamed Morsi's government and hoped his rise would harbor an era of prosperity for Gaza. But, as Avi Issacharoff writes in the Times of Israel, "Almost overnight, Hamas was transformed from being the ally of the biggest Arab state to its enemy."

Losing the tunnels took $230 million per month out of the Gaza economy, a Hamas official claims. Unemployment has soared above 40 percent. Hamas collects taxes on the smuggled goods, too, so the tunnels' closure cut into revenues used to pay government employees.

When Israel allowed more building supplies into Gaza, Hamas responded by digging tunnels under Israeli land, in hopes of launching attacks or kidnapping soldiers.

In two weeks, Gaza's version of the youth opposition group Tamarod promises to take to the streets to call for Hamas's removal from power. Hamas officials are spooked, Zvi Bar'el writes in Haaretz. There already is an enhanced security presence on the streets, and Hamas Interior Minister Fathi Hamad even discussed assassinating Tamarod leaders.

Meanwhile, Israel's release of 26 Palestinian prisoners may be seen among Palestinians as a sign that Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas "can deliver, while the Gaza-based Islamic terror organization's position is worsening, both in the West Bank and Gaza," Issacharoff writes.

Iran's ties to Hamas are "close to total," Bar'el writes, adding that Iran blew off recent planned meetings with top Hamas officials.

None of the assessments envisions a Hamas defeat, though Bar'el says Abbas and Israel believe Hamas may one day "evaporate." But it also could lash out in a new wave of rocket attacks against Israeli civilians in hopes of drawing Israeli retaliation as a rallying point. Hamas has improved its arsenal and is holding onto M-75 rockets which can reach Tel Aviv.

Meanwhile, Turkey's Today's Zaman indicates the relationship with Iran may be starting to thaw. And Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan remains a Hamas ally, hosting Khaled Meshaal earlier this month and offering aid for food and energy programs.


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