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Expert Says ‘Hamas Is Stronger Today Than It Was on October 7’

Palestinain fighers, stronger today. Credit: CC/Hadi Mohammad

Hamas is winning, warns Robert Pape, Professor of Political Science at the University of Chicago specializing in international security affairs, in a “memo” published on June 21 by Foreign Affairs. “Nine months of Israeli air and ground combat operations in Gaza have not defeated Hamas, nor is Israel close to vanquishing the terrorist group,” he writes at the outset. “To the contrary, according to the measures that matter, Hamas is stronger today than it was on October 7.”

“Although many observers have highlighted the immorality of Israel’s conduct, Israeli leaders have consistently claimed that the goal of defeating Hamas and weakening its ability to launch new attacks against Israeli civilians must take precedence over any concerns about Palestinian lives,” Pape continues. “The punishment of the population of Gaza must be accepted as necessary to destroy the power of Hamas.

“But thanks to Israel’s assault, Hamas’s power is actually growing. Just as the Viet Cong grew stronger during the massive ‘search and destroy’ operations that ravaged much of South Vietnam in 1966 and 1967 when the United States poured troops into the country in an ultimately futile bid to turn the war in its favor, Hamas remains intractable and has evolved into a tenacious and deadly guerrilla force in Gaza—with lethal operations restarting in the northern regions that were supposedly cleared by Israel only a few months ago.”

“The central flaw in Israel’s strategy is not a failure of tactics or the imposition of constraints on military force—just as the failure of the United States’ military strategy in Vietnam had little to do with the technical proficiency of its troops or political and moral limits on the uses military power,” Pape argues. “Rather, the overarching failure has been a gross misunderstanding of the sources of Hamas’s power. To its great detriment, Israel has failed to realize that the carnage and devastation it has unleashed in Gaza has only made its enemy stronger.”

Pape goes on to describe in great detail the sources of Hamas’s power but offers no alternative approach. Nor does he acknowledge the genocidal intention behind the punishment strategy. Nonetheless, Pape’s warning is useful, so far as he goes, and is coherent with the statement made by IDF spokesman Daniel Hagari, who said last week that “Hamas is an idea, Hamas is a party. It’s rooted in the hearts of the people—whoever thinks we can eliminate Hamas is wrong.”

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