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What drove Hamas to take on Israel?

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Two months ago, Palestinians were cautiously optimistic as arch-rivals Hamas and Fatah announced the creation of a national unity government. Twelve days ago, violence flared up between Hamas and Israel. What lies behind Hamas’ decision to return to violence?

The immediate trigger for the escalation was the kidnapping of three Israeli teenagers in the West Bank on 12 June 2014. The Israeli government accused Hamas, arrested over 200 Hamas members in the West Bank and closed down organisations affiliated with Hamas.

To Hamas, the clampdown seemed politically motivated to eradicate its presence in the West Bank. The available evidence suggests that the kidnapping had not been authorised by Hamas’ political leadership but seemed to be the work of members of a powerful Hebron clan, with a history of carrying out rogue attacks in opposition to the Hamas leadership.

Within this context, the clampdown demanded a response, if Hamas was to retain credibility. But influencing Hamas’ response were two deeper, underlying developments:

The first was the establishment of the national unity government on 2 June and its subsequent breakdown. Palestinian hopes for the national unity government had been high.

Hamas and Fatah had been in tortured, on-off negotiations since Hamas’ 2006 election victory, with numerous failed or short-lived attempts along the way.

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