Iran's weak attack on Israel doesn't bode well for Hamas's survival

Hamas needs to radically revise its objectives following the military confrontation between Israel and Iran

Iran's weak attack on Israel doesn't bode well for Hamas's survival

The inconclusive outcome of the upsurge in military hostilities between Israel and Iran does not bode well for Hamas’s chances of surviving the Gaza conflict as a viable movement.

In the six months since Israel launched its military offensive in Gaza in response to the 7 October attacks, when Hamas militants launched their devastating attack on southern Israel, the main objective of Hamas commanders has been simply to survive the Israeli onslaught.

Even though Hamas has suffered significant losses, with intelligence estimates suggesting the organisation has already lost around three-quarters of its combat battalions, the Hamas leadership believes that, if it can emerge from the conflict with just a minimal military presence in Gaza, it will have achieved a significant victory—one that will consolidate its position as a key player in Palestinian politics.

To this end, Hamas military leaders, together with the movement’s Qatar-based political leadership, have frustrated repeated efforts to implement a ceasefire in Gaza, believing that the international pressure on Israel, particularly over the high number of Palestinian civilians that have been killed in the fighting, will eventually result in the Israelis being forced to halt their offensive, thereby handing Hamas victory.

These key objectives on the part of the Hamas leadership will now need to be radically revised following the military confrontation between Israel and Iran, which has exposed the weakness of Iran’s position when confronting Israel.

An important factor in Hamas’s calculations about surviving the Gaza conflict has been the support it receives from Iran, which has encouraged its various proxies in the region—from Hezbollah in southern Lebanon to the Houthi rebels in Yemen—to attack the Israelis.

An important factor in Hamas's calculations about surviving the Gaza conflict has been the support it receives from Iran, which is very much open to question following its failed attack on Israel.

Israel has the upperhand

But while the limited actions taken by Iran's regional proxies have undoubtedly increased the pressure on Israel—especially with Hezbollah's attacks against northern Israel—the measures have made little impression on the Israelis' military offensive in Gaza, which Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu says will not end before Hamas is "wiped off the face of the earth."

Moreover, Iran's ability to provide Hamas with the support it needs to survive the Gaza conflict is very much open to question following the failure of Iran's combined drone and missile attack against Israel this month.

Of the estimated 350 Iranian drones, missiles and ballistic missiles Iran fired at Israel in retaliation for the Israelis' reported attack on the Iranian consulate in Damascus, which killed several senior Revolutionary Guard commanders, only a few of them reached their target, and none of them succeeded in inflicting any significant damage.

By contrast, Israel's military response against the Iranian attack—the first time the Iranian regime has launched a direct attack on Israel since its 1979 revolution—in which Israeli warplanes attacked the Iranian city of Isfahan, where it reportedly destroyed Russian-made anti-aircraft missile systems, sent an unequivocal message to Tehran that, when it came to a direct military confrontation between Iran and Israel, the Israeli military had the upper hand.

From Hamas's perspective, the limitations of Iran's war-fighting capabilities could have a profound effect on its hopes of surviving the Gaza conflict.

For, without effective military support from Iran, and Israel showing no willingness to ease up on its military offensive to destroy Hamas, the movement's chances of surviving as a viable militant organisation will be severely diminished.

font change