Why Hamas won't be defeated despite Netanyahu's claims of being 'one step' from victory

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (left) and a man silhouetted in a Hamas flag (right). Credit: AP

Despite the Israeli prime minister’s claim that his country is “one step” from winning its war against Hamas, it’s starting to look like the cruel terror group will come out of this undefeated.

Benjamin Netanyahu drones on about not stopping before securing “total victory,” but that’s not on the cards.

The reason is that Hamas is a highly evolved underground organisation - literally and metaphorically.

The IDF has degraded their capabilities to a great extent but that’s not the same as eradication.

Israeli soldiers stand in a Hamas tunnel underneath a cemetery during the ground offensive on the Gaza Strip in Khan Younis. Credit: AP

The city of Rafah on Gaza’s border with Egypt is held up as the Berlin of this conflict - once it’s conquered Hamas are finished, we’re being told.

It’s true that dealing with Rafah should largely cut off Hamas’ most important supply routes, the tunnels stretching under the border into Sinai.

But as the battles fought at Shifa Hospital in the supposedly conquered Gaza City earlier this month show, Hamas have the capacity to pop up almost anywhere again at will.

Within hours of the IDF’s pullout from southern Gaza on Sunday, Hamas were trying to fire rockets from launchers in Khan Yunis.

The other problem with Hamas is that they have governed Gaza since 2006, and Israel’s reluctance to allow the Palestinian Authority to try to re-assert itself on the strip begs the question - who is going to fill the power vacuum and avert anarchy?

Hamas rule may well be restored. Yes, many Gazans hate the terror group for bringing their world down on top of them, but just staying alive is now so hard, that they’re unlikely to be able to overthrow their jihadist rulers.

After its ouster from Gaza in 2007 the PA left hundreds of officials in Gaza on the payroll, if unemployed.

It hasn’t been widely reported, but recently some of those sleepers were activated in a trial exercise. It was hoped that they would administer some aid distribution.

But Hamas attacked them, killing two and injuring eight. The message was clear - nobody will administer Gaza without our involvement. It doesn’t bode well.

Palestinians line up to receive free meals at Jabaliya refugee camp in the Gaza Strip. Credit: AP

Israel’s unwillingness to seriously contemplate any strategic vision for the rule of Gaza once this war is over is a calamity.

It’s reminiscent of the Americans in Baghdad in 2003. Yesterday, 23 years ago, I was part of the ITV News crew who became the first journalists to greet advanced American units entering the Iraqi capital. Saddam’s statue would fall later that day.

Amid the euphoria, none of us could know that this would be the high water mark for US involvement in Iraq. In the absence of a workable plan, everything went downhill afterwards.

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