Israel Planning to Target Hamas Leadership and Hezbollah May Gain Parliamentary Majority
May 05-11, 2022 | Issue 6 - CENTCOM
Sofia Pantoula, Giorgio Tiberio, Elizabeth Leoce, Marco Parks, CENTCOM Team
Léopold Maisonny, Editor; Jennifer Loy, Chief of Staff
Ismail Haniyeh, current senior political leader of Hamas
Date: May 9, 2022
Parties involved: Israel; Israel Defense Forces (IDF); Israelis; Noam; Yachad; Palestinian Authority; Hamas; Hamas deputy leader Saleh-al-Arouri; Hamas financial officer Zaher Jabarin; Lebanon; Iran-backed Hezbollah forces
The event: According to unnamed intelligence sources, Israel is planning to target Hamas’ leadership in retaliation for the surge in attacks against Israelis during the past weeks. Potential targets include Hamas leaders living in Lebanon and Qatar, like Saleh al-Arouri and Zaher Jabarin. Although Hamas has not claimed responsibility for most of the recent attacks, the group has encouraged Palestinians to attack Israelis by any means. According to the report, Hamas is aware of the targeted killings, threatening to respond with suicide bombings if Israel attacks its leaders.
Analysis & Implications:
Far-right parties in Israel, such as Noam or Yachad, will likely pressure the government to step up operations against high-profile targets. However, there is a roughly even chance that Israel leaked this report to respond to public anger following the increase in deadly attacks against Israelis. It is unlikely that Israel aims to proceed with targeted killings amid high tensions and increased public Palestinian activism.
The targeted killing of Hamas leaders will very likely cause a violent conflict between Israel and Hamas. Hamas will very likely gain more popularity in Palestinian society, likely decreasing the Palestinian Authority’s legitimacy. The group will very likely incentivize youth in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank to carry out attacks against the IDF or Jewish settlers. This will very likely result in a new outbreak of lone-wolf attacks, like stabbings or shootings, likely undermining security in many towns where Jews and Arabs live together, such as Acre, Jaffa, or Haifa.
Targeting Hamas in Lebanon is unlikely to solve the recent surge of attacks in Israel, as retaliation will likely trigger a violent response from Iran-backed Hezbollah forces, likely escalating Israel-Hezbollah tensions in Lebanon. Iran-backed Hezbollah forces will likely attack Israel to support Hamas, as Hezbollah likely sees targeted killings as an imminent threat to Lebanon’s security. Hezbollah likely supports Hamas to contain Hamas' goals of maneuvering independently in Lebanon, which likely demonstrates to Israel that Hezbollah is the dominant force in Lebanon.
Date: May 9, 2022
Parties involved: Lebanon; Lebanese government; Former Prime Minister Saad al-Hariri; Sunni Muslims; Hezbollah; Israel; Iran; Syrian regime forces; The International Monetary Fund (IMF)
The event: With Lebanon’s parliamentary elections on May 15, Hezbollah has an opportunity to gain a two-thirds majority of parliament, swaying the election in their favor. Hezbollah’s electoral gains could affect its relations with Israel and Iran. Israel sees Hezbollah as a threat to its national security, while it is Iran’s strongest proxy. Due to the backing of the Assad regime and the withdrawal of former PM Saad al-Hariri, who represents the Sunni Muslim party, Sunni Muslims feel threatened. As three-quarters of Lebanon’s population remains in poverty, many believe that Hezbollah’s victory in the election could isolate the country at a time when it needs international economic support to stabilize the economy and pay debts.
Analysis & Implications:
Hezbollah’s electoral success will likely prompt Iran to persuade them to take a more aggressive approach towards Israel, likely to strengthen Iran’s deterrence operations in protecting Syrian regime forces. With the help of Iran-backed Hezbollah forces, attacks in the Golan Heights will likely increase, likely to establish Syria’s dominance in the disputed region. Increasing attacks in the Golan Heights will likely result in retaliation from Israel’s drones, threatening regional security, which will likely draw criticism from the Sunni Muslim community in Lebanon.
If Hezbollah wins the election, there is a roughly even chance that Israel will react by threatening to search for natural gas in their disputed maritime region. Resistance from Hezbollah will likely occur if Lebanon’s natural resources are extracted without the Lebanese government’s permission. Hezbollah will likely hesitate to resolve the maritime dispute with Israel, likely affecting Lebanon’s economic and financial crisis, distancing Lebanon from reaching a deal with the IMF.
Former PM Saad al-Hariri’s withdrawal from the elections will likely create a political gap in the Sunni Muslim community, as there would likely be no one on the ballot to represent them. Low turnout from Sunni voters will likely incite Hezbollah supporters to use the political vacuum to establish more Hezbollah-affiliated political parties. Sunnis will likely stage anti-Hezbollah demonstrations due to their belief that Hezbollah is likely trying to exploit the Sunnis' political weakness to gain political power in the upcoming elections.
________________________________________________________________________ The Counterterrorism Group (CTG)
 “Ismail Haniyeh, current senior political leader of Hamas” by Council.gov.ru licensed under Creative Commons
 Israel ‘will assassinate Hamas leaders if terror attacks continue’, The Times, May 2022, https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/israel-will-assassinate-hamas-leaders-if-terror-attacks-continue-m7xc9cnln
 A rival sits out Lebanon's election. Now Hezbollah could fill the void, Reuters, May 2022, https://www.reuters.com/world/middle-east/rival-sits-out-lebanons-election-now-hezbollah-could-fill-void-2022-05-09/