Terrorism & Insurgency

Despite its anti-Israel rhetoric, Hamas’ weakness limits military options and means it cannot abandon reconciliation with Fatah

18 December 2017
Residents of Gaza protest at the border barrier with Israel on 15 December 2017. Source: Photo/Getty Images

Key Points

  • Hamas’ unwillingness to publicly abandon the existing reconciliation process with the PA is an indication of its diplomatic isolation and vulnerability as a result of the economic crisis in Gaza.
  • Hamas’ calls for widespread popular protest over US recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital have no traction across the West Bank, and are unlikely to manifest in Gaza.
  • The Israeli response to rocket fire is unlikely to provoke conflict escalation, but further Israeli progress towards completion of its barrier will increase the risk of miscalculation as the window of opportunity for a tunnel attack open to Gaza-based militants closes.


On 12 December, the postponed timeline to transfer the governance powers of the Gaza Strip from the Islamist militant group Hamas to the Palestinian Authority (PA) passed without result.

The deadline for the transfer of power to the PA had already been extended by 10 days on 1 December as the two parties were unable to resolve outstanding disputes over security control within Gaza and the merging of two separate and competing civic administrations. At the time of writing, a key indicator for a successful transfer – the replacement of Hamas security force patrols with those of the PA – had not taken place.

Lack of support limits avenues for escalation

Despite their failure to meet the deadline, the current process of reconciliation is unlikely to be abandoned by Hamas. The group remains dependent on limited access to the Rafah border crossing, controlled by Egypt – the most visible external broker of the current process. Rejecting the process of negotiation with the PA would almost certainly cause Egypt to end the currently intermittent flow of basic commodities, diesel and electricity into Gaza at a time when the Hamas administration is experiencing an unprecedented economic crisis.

The capacity of the group to secure external funding has been reduced in 2017 as a result of Gulf Arab and US pressure, and a convergence of external factors indicates that funding will be further constrained.

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