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Hamas Leadership in Disarray

10:32 AM, Jan 6, 2009 • By BILL ROGGIO
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After ten days of Israeli offensive operations in the Gaza Strip, Hamas' command and control appears to be in disarray, Palestinian analysts told the Jerusalem Post. Hamas leaders are in hiding, and conflicting messages are being put out by Hamas's leadership under Khalid Mashal, who is based in Damascus, and Ismail Haniyeh, the Hamas leader in Gaza.

These contradictory messages, Palestinian political analysts said, reflected the state of confusion in Hamas and raised questions as to who was calling the shots in the Gaza Strip. While some Hamas leaders have been openly signaling their readiness to accept a new cease-fire, others are still calling for pursuing the fight against Israel "until victory."

What is clear is that Hamas is now desperate for a lull in the fighting. But it is also eager to score some kind of a "military victory" before a cease-fire is reached. Hamas can't accept a new cease-fire without having proved to the Arab and Muslim masses that it was capable of making Israel pay a heavy price for its military offensive.

Hamas is fighting for its survival and its leaders know that their collapse would constitute a severe blow not only to the movement, but also to its patrons in Teheran and Damascus.

The communications breakdown is so severe that Hamas's military wing, the Izzadin Kassam, is directly taking orders from Mashal in Damascus, the Jerusalem Post reported. Mashal has given the Izzadin Kassam "full freedom to take any measures it deems necessary to prevent the collapse of the Hamas regime." Over the weekend, Hamas responded by arresting and hobbling more than 100 opposing Fatah members and "collaborators."

The Israeli Defense Force has begun its push into the city, and there is a good chance the Israelis can break Hamas's stranglehold in the Gaza Strip. Hamas fighters are nowhere near as disciplined or well trained as the Hezbollah fighters encountered during the 2006 war in Lebanon. And Israeli forces have trained for urban combat for a year, anticipating such a battle.

To break Hamas, Israel must continue to pursue Hamas's leaders and fighters in Gaza and ignore the growing calls for a ceasefire. Any ceasefire that leaves Hamas intact will be a victory for the terror group.

But Israel has another problem. Hamas's real leadership inside Syria will remain no matter what happens to Haniyeh and company. Will Israel's Mossad take a shot at Mashal? This isn't as far-fetched as it might seem. In February 2008, Imad Mugniyah, Hezbollah's military commander, was killed in a car bombing in a secured neighborhood in Damascus. Mossad is believed to have carried out the attack.