Hamas Internal Divisions Impact Gaza Ceasefire Talks Amidst Tensions

JERUSALEM: Hamas has projected a united front since its October 7 attack sparked war with Israel, but experts say divisions within the Palestinian movement have weighed on efforts towards a ceasefire.In self-exile in Doha, the head of Hamas’s political bureau Ismail Haniyeh is talking openly with Qatari authorities and mediators.Meanwhile the group’s leader in the Gaza Strip, Yahya Sinwar, is in hiding after Israel vowed to pursue the presumed brains behind the October attack to the death.The top Gaza leader is absent from truce talks, but mediators have to take both his and Haniyeh’s positions — as well as Israel’s — into account.Hamas forces on the ground including the group’s military wing, Ezzedine al-Qassam Brigades, answer to Sinwar.A source close to the mediation efforts, led by Qatar, Egypt and the United States, told AFP that every proposal sent to Hamas’s political bureau has to be communicated to officials inside Gaza.And “any change means communication back and forth”, said the source, requesting anonymity due to the sensitivity of the issue.Eva Koulouriotis, an independent Middle East analyst, said Hamas’s “loudest voice” Sinwar has sidelined political chief Haniyeh.According to the US military’s CTC Sentinel journal, “the Gaza-based leadership has become the most prominent given its control of the territory” which presents it with financial and military advantages”.Differences of opinion between Haniyeh and Sinwar could put both leaders to the test: who has the final word, can they maintain a display of unity, and will Gaza’s future be decided at the negotiations table — or on the battlefield?’Stark differences’Sinwar has gradually tightened his grip on Hamas since his release from jail under a 2011 prisoner exchange with Israel, including by making his brother a key military commander.”Haniyeh’s role was marginalised and confined to the political office,” said Koulouriotis, with the balance of power affecting the course of the war.Sinwar “believes that diplomacy should only be a means to support military action” but he is under pressure from the political wing to make concessions, the expert added.

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