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Hamas Learns It Has Few Friends In Latest War With Israel
BY RICHARD ENGE
Hamas is proud of what it achieved on the battlefield in the month-long fight, its leaders suggesting they're already thinking about the next round of fighting with Israel.
In Cairo, Mousa Abu Marzouk, a member of Hamas's political bureau, told NBC News: "The Palestinians have improved themselves, improved their weapons (and how they) fight. That means, what is going to happen in the next war?"
Even Israel seemed surprised by how well Hamas militants maneuvered and used their tunnels and mortars to kill 64 Israeli soldiers, a heavy loss for one of the world's most advanced armies. The Israeli military believes it has destroyed all of Hamas's tunnels, or at least all the ones it knew about. The people in Gaza paid a far heavier price with nearly 1,900 killed, including many children.
"We lost and the Israelis lost as well," said Abu Marzouk. "We lost many people, but the Israelis lost many soldiers. Economically, we lost billions and the Israelis lost billions."
Marzouk says the war was a draw, a bloody boxing match with no knockout blows and more rounds to come. But this time, Hamas didn't have many cheering fans in its corner.
As war raged, there were no protests against Israel in Damascus or Aleppo. Syrians are too busy tearing their cities down and killing each other to be preoccupied by yet another war between Israelis and Palestinians.
Palestinian flags weren't raised in Baghdad either. Iraqis are busy ripping their nation into three pieces.
There were no demonstrations in Cairo, and Egyptian run-state media was openly hostile to Hamas, saying it deserved what Israel was dishing out.
Iran has its hands full, trying to prop up the governments in Damascus and Baghdad. Hezbollah, which has helped Hamas in past conflicts, is also bogged down in Syria and had to RSVP its regrets this time.
Saudi Arabia expressed sympathy for all the children killed as Israel flattened neighborhoods. like Shejaia on the outskirts of Gaza City, but held no demonstrations in solidarity with them.
Egypt went further than that. There were no demonstrations in Cairo, and Egyptian run-state media was openly hostile to Hamas, saying it deserved what Israel was dishing out.
A prominent TV commentator in Cairo was so emphatic he took off his shoe and pounded it on the desk in his studio. "Hamas should be hit with shoes," he said. To be slapped with a shoe is a dirty insult in the Muslim world. Iraqis banged their shoes against portraits of Saddam Hussein after U.S. troops pushed him out. A few years later, an Iraqi reporter threw his shoes at a remarkably agile President Bush, who ducked during a press conference in Baghdad.
But Egypt didn't just insult Hamas through its influential media stations. It helped Israel BY cutting off Hamas's resupply lines. During the last Gaza war in 2012, Egypt left the border open. Throughout this conflict, Egypt kept its border with Gaza tightly closed. It was a bitter lesson for Hamas about how much has changed in the last two years.
So what changed?
Hamas found itself out of step with fast moving changes in the Middle East. The hope for democracy of the Arab Spring three years ago withered into an Islamic summer. Students and activists who battled with riot police IN places like Cairo's Tahrir Square were pushed aside by Islamic hardliners whose interest in democracy stopped once they were elected.
But the Islamists proved to be unpopular and not particularly good at governing. They couldn't keep their fanatical allies under control. Sometime in 2013, the Islamic summer became an autumn of authoritarian rule. In Egypt, the changing of the political season meant the ouster of the Muslim Brotherhood. The man who took over in Cairo, General Abdul Fattah al-Sisi, loathes the Muslim Brotherhood and Hamas, its Gaza offshoot. Sisi has been putting Muslim Brotherhood members in jail. His courts have been sentencing them to death by the hundreds.
A big reason Israel pushed as far as it did in this war, opting for a ground invasion to wipe out Hamas tunnels instead of just an air campaign, is because it knew Hamas has few friends left in the region. The Arab world didn't rise up. Hamas got its seasons wrong. Hamas was still dressed for the Islamic summer and found itself in the autumn of Sisi.