Shloli Eldar, in Al Monitor, writes, “At 5.30 p.m. May 14, when the number of Palestinian fatalities in the violent demonstrations along the Gaza-Israel border hit the 55 mark, Hamas ordered the protesters to move away from the fence and go home, for two reasons. The first was pressure to end the bloodshed brought to bear by the Gaza civil society organizations that had initiated the anti-Israel protests of recent weeks before Hamas hijacked them. By then, Gaza hospitals were near collapse, inundated with over 2,500 Palestinians wounded in the clashes with Israel, some 100 of them with life-threatening injuries. The second reason that the Hamas leader in Gaza, Yahya Sinwar, called on the demonstrators to disperse was simpler: The mission had been accomplished. While Israelis and Americans were busy celebrating the inauguration of the US Embassy in Jerusalem, some 60 kilometers (37 miles) away the rest of the world was watching the violence in Gaza with concern, condemning Israel harshly for the mounting Palestinian casualty toll. By the following day, the number of dead had climbed to 60.”
“Until the number of deaths reached 50, not a single Hamas leader considered trying to stem the bloodshed. The order to disperse and the demonstrators’ speedy acquiescence proved that Hamas’ leadership was in control of events and had planned their course ahead of time. The civilian protesters were pawns in the sad game played out by Hamas along the border fence with Israel in a bid to save the organization, which has long been on the verge of collapse.”
On May 12, two days prior to the planned events on the day of the embassy opening, Egypt made a final effort to forestall the violence. A Hamas delegation led by head of Hamas political bureau Ismail Haniyeh; his deputy, Khalil al-Hayya; and Hamas Politburo member Rouhi Mushtaha flew to Cairo aboard a plane that awaited them in the Sinai town of Rafah after they crossed over from the Gaza Strip. They met with the head of Egyptian intelligence, Abbas Kamel, who presented them with an Egyptian proposal designed to enable Hamas to let off steam and make its mark on the day of the US Embassy inauguration and on the next day’s Nakba events on May 15 commemorating the “catastrophe” of the Palestinian uprooting from Israel. The Egyptian proposal was intended to prevent a deadly clash with Israel that could escalate into a broad military clash.
“An Israeli defense source told Al-Monitor that Egypt had conveyed several similar messages to the Hamas leadership in recent weeks. This time, the effort to prevent the mass protest was more serious. In return for restoring calm to the turbulent enclave, Egypt was willing to offer Hamas significant concessions and an easing of restrictions at the Rafah border crossing with Gaza. At the same time, it warned Haniyeh that it viewed Hamas as directly responsible for events. Hamas responded to the Egyptian offer less than 48 hours later with a clear message: Tens of thousands of Palestinians demonstrated near the fence with Israel, with many attempting to breach it, while Haniyeh and the two senior Hamas delegation members who had accompanied him to Cairo stood behind them.” (more…)