January 31, 2024

Videos, webinars, timelines, analyses, suggested readings, and maps, relating to the Israel-Hamas War that began on October 7.

UNRWA’s institutional flaws, different scenarios for the postwar Gaza administration, recommendations to prevent Hamas from regenerating, why leading Hamas leader assassinated in Beirut, and a sober look at Hamas’s priorities.

Alexander H. Joffe and Asaf Romirowsky, “Stop Giving Money to the U.N.’s Relief Agency for Palestinians,” The New Republic, August 18, 2014,
https://newrepublic.com/article/119128/unrwa-must-be-defunded-palestinian-authority-have-viable-state

Reading this ten-year-old analysis in light of recent revelations about UNRWA, one cannot fail to be impressed by the foresight of the authors’ analysis of UNRWA’s defects and the wisdom of their suggestions for its reform. Joffe and Romirowsky begin by exposing Hamas’s connections to UNRWA laid bare in the 2014 Israel-Hamas War–namely, the repurposing of UNRWA schools into weapons depots and the firing rockets from their premises. They go on to say that, although the war brought the UNRWA-Hamas connection into sharper relief, the organization itself is fundamentally compromised, so much so that “UNRWA is effectively a branch of Hamas.” Indeed, most of UNRWA’s staffers in Gaza are members of the Hamas-linked trade union and some are even fighters in Hamas’s ranks. Moreover, UNRWA schools are accessible to and used by Hamas and their curriculum shaped by Hamas. These and other abuses, Joffe and Romirowsky maintain, call for the top-down institutional form of UNRWA. First, UNRWA should be denied any role in the postwar arrangement for Gaza’s reconstruction. Second, since the UN General Assembly wouldn’t support the overhaul, much less the dismantlement, of UNRWA, Western donor countries ought to use their leverage to better advantage. Western diplomatic and financial pressure could “reprogram their funds, first by demanding that the PA take over UNRWA’s employees and responsibilities.” Although this would bolster the more pragmatic PA and weaken Hamas, Joffe and Romirowsky acknowledge that this plan is not without its flaws, foremost among which is that “the PA is monumentally corrupt.”

Jeremy Sharp and Jim Zanotti, “Israel and Hamas Conflict In Brief: Overview, U.S. Policy, and Options for Congress,” Congressional Research Service, January 11, 2024, https://sgp.fas.org/crs/mideast/R47828.pdf

This report by two scholars in the Congressional Research Service considers the Israel-Hamas war from the American perspective. After a summary review of the war up to the date of publication (January 11), the report looks at American involvement from a number of angles: e.g., expedited arms deliveries to Israel, humanitarian assistance to the Palestinians, supplemental appropriations legislation, the oversight of American security assistance, and the American response to the aggression of Iranian proxies. The report comments on different scenarios for Gaza’s postwar governance and security. There are differences between the U.S., Israel, and the PA. that might be resolved. Israeli Defense Minister Gallant proposed in early January 2024 that civil administration in Gaza rests on three pillars: maintaining “Palestinian administrative mechanisms, with officials and local clans unaffiliated with Hamas,” affording “Israel broad responsibility to prevent security threats against Israel, including via coordination with Egypt at its border with Gaza,” and forming a multinational task force (with the U.S. and some European and Arab states) to regulate Gaza’s civil affairs and economic recovery. Gallant’s proposal could be carried out in tandem with a plan already discussed by the U.S. and the P.A. under which the P.A. and the U.S. Security Coordinator for Israel could re-train 1,000 of the PA’s onetime Gaza security officers. To assist this initial tranche of security personnel reinstated in Gaza, 3,000-5,000 P.A. security forces could be redeployed from the West Bank to Gaza. Meanwhile, on the diplomatic front, negotiations between Israel and the P.A. could be renewed so as to smooth the obstacles to regional Arab participation.

Matthew Levitt, “How to Keep Hamas From Bouncing Back,” Washington Institute for Near East Policy, January 9, 2024,
https://www.washingtoninstitute.org/policy-analysis/how-keep-hamas-bouncing-back

In a crushing blow to the terrorist organization, Israel assassinated Hamas’s most senior official based in Lebanon, Saleh al-Arouri, on January 2. Al-Arouri was the deputy chairman of Hamas’s Politburo, but his responsibilities were hardly limited to political affairs. He was also Hamas’s principal liaison with its foremost foreign sponsor, Iran, and with Iran’s Lebanese surrogate, Hezbollah. What’s more, al-Arouri, a co-founder of Hamas’s armed wing, was in charge of Hamas’s operational activity in the West Bank, in which capacity he helped orchestrate the casus belli of the 2014 Israel-Hamas War: the abduction and murder of three Israeli teenagers.

In this analysis, Levitt, with characteristic acuity, considers the impact of the assassination on Hamas and the means by which Hamas can be kept from “bouncing back” from this and from the decimation of its forces in Gaza. Levitt draws on lessons from history to explain “the key to preventing Hamas from fully bouncing back after the loss of Arouri: namely, concerted action against the group’s support networks abroad.” He points out that it was this external support that allowed Hamas to recover from Israel’s 1989 arrest of 200 Hamas and Islamic Jihad operatives and its 1992 deportation of 415 members of the two groups. Yet, whereas “in 1992, Hamas had just a few core supporters within the Palestinian diaspora, today it enjoys various degrees of support from Iran, Qatar, and Turkey, as well as diaspora donors around the world, including in the West.” This is all the more reason for “the international community to work collectively to disrupt Hamas’ external channels of support.”

Matthew Levitt, “For All That Changed, Hamas Is Still Hamas,” Washington Institute for Near East Policy, January 22, 2024,
https://www.washingtoninstitute.org/policy-analysis/all-changed-hamas-still-hamas

Levitt persuasively shows that in the 18 years since he published his landmark study of Hamas, the group has consistently defied expectations that it would moderate; nothing has dramatized the falsity of this idea more vividly than the October 7 massacre. Levitt observes that since his book was published, “Hamas experienced two transformational events”: its landslide victory in the Palestinian national elections of 2006 and its assault on Israel on October 7. These two events form the bookends of the moderation delusion, from its emergence in January 2006 to its discrediting in October 2023. After its 2006 electoral victory, Hamas, “faced with the choice of focusing on governance or militancy…chose the latter.” But this was a choice Hamas made discreetly, not avowedly, so as to encourage the impression that it was open to an accommodation of some kind with Israel. Thanks to its deception campaign, “Hamas duped Israeli and Western officials into thinking it would not put its governance project at risk and therefore could be deterred.” But October 7 made nonsense of this idea and, “in fact, October 7 was the war Hamas always wanted.” As was belatedly realized, an Islamist terrorist organization will not renounce its raison d’etre for the sake of better governance. In other words, the leopard, as the Book of Jeremiah advises, doesn’t change its spots.

December 2023 – Neomi Neumann, “Why a West Bank Front Has Not Opened So Far,” The Washington Institute for Near East Policy, December 13, 2023, https://www.washingtoninstitute.org/policy-analysis/why-west-bank-front-has-not-opened-so-far
In her analysis, Neomi Neumann, a visiting fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, probes the reasons that West Bank Palestinians have not opened a second Palestinian front despite Hamas’s repeated calls for them to join the fray. Citing statistics from Israel’s internal security service, Shin Bet, Neumann notes that Palestinians in the West Bank have committed some 150 terrorist attacks (“acts of violence that result in Israeli casualties”) since October 7. Yet, although the West Bank is seething with discontent, it has not yet blazed into rebellion and, as Neumann argues, there is little prospect that it will. These attacks, far from increasing, have declined significantly since early November, a drop-off Neumann attributes to “the killing of senior terrorists, the seizure of arms caches, the introduction of new combat patterns (e.g., aerial fire).” Moreover, some 2,150 Palestinians in the West Bank have been arrested, more than at any time since the Second Intifada. Israelis, however, are not the only ones maintaining order; the PA security forces, Neumann goes on to say, have prevented large-scale protests, justifying these interventions “by telling the public that it is protecting them from “trigger-happy” Israel.” Neumann also mentions a restraining force that is not military or coercive but psychological; the “relative quiet” in the West Bank has been enforced by the memory of Israel’s subdual of the Second Intifada and of the high casualties it inflicted.

“Hamas Exploitation of Hospitals for Military-Terrorist Purposes: Shifa Hospital as a Test Case,” Meir Amit Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center, December 12, 2023, https://www.terrorism-info.org.il/en/Hamas-exploitation-of-hospitals-for-military-terrorist-purposes-shifa-hospital-as-a-test-case/
(Note: the Meir Amit Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center, a think tank close to Israel’s defense establishment, is well known for its exposure of Hamas’s and Hezbollah’s cynical use of human shields and civilian infrastructure in combat. This study draws on this expertise to analyze Hamas’s conversion of Gaza’s largest hospital, Shifa in Gaza City, into a command-and-control center. It details the specific ways in which Shifa, a government hospital administered by Hamas’s Ministry of Health, serves Hamas’s war effort. Complete with photographs and satellite imagery, the exposé documents weapons stockpiles and ammunition depots in Shifa’s MRI suite. It also describes the tunnel network and tunnel shafts that enabled Hamas to circulate, underground, between buildings, escaping the notice of prying eyes. These tunnels, it notes, were maintained with fuel and electricity diverted from the medical facility. The article broadens its focus beyond Shifa and the ongoing war, citing other hospitals in which Hamas is operating and other wars in which it has used the same modus operandi.
Popularity for a two-state solution at all time low Public Opinion Poll No.90, Palestine Center for Policy and Survey Research, December 13, 2023, https://www.pcpsr.org/en/node/928
Wide public support for Hamas’ offensive on October the 7th, but the vast majority denies that Hamas has committed atrocities against Israeli civilians. The war increases Hamas’ popularity and greatly weakens the standing of the PA and its leadership; nonetheless, the majority of the Palestinians remains unsupportive of Hamas. Support for armed struggle rises, particularly in the West Bank and in response to settlers’ violence. The overwhelming majority condemns the positions taken by the US and the main European powers during the war and express the belief that they have lost their moral compass. Support for a two-state solution among Palestinians and Israelis declines to just one-third on the each side.

Matthew Levitt, “Addressing the Scourge of Anti-Semitism in Europe,” Congressional Testimony and House Foreign Affairs Committee, December 12, 2023, https://www.washingtoninstitute.org/policy-analysis/addressing-scourge-anti-semitism-europe
Setting the contemporary context of European Anti-Semitism, Levitt, summarizes the number of Anti-Semitic incidents in Europe since the October 7 slaughter of 1200 Jews and others in southern Israel. He includes incidents across Europe and acts of Islamophobia-he recounts the rise in hate speech, use of symbols, threats and intimidation and violence. He cites Right-Wing extremist posts and calls for violence. He notes that Islamist groups “are by far not the only terrorist organizations to take advantage of October 7 to advocate for violence, hatred, and racism. Far-right neo-Nazi groups began creating anti-Semitic propaganda within hours of Hamas’s incursion into Israel, drawing positive comparisons between Hamas and the Nazis and even creating a hybrid Palestinian-Nazi flag.” The spike in anti-Semitism in Europe has been dramatic, requiring vigilance and excellent intelligence gathering; European officials have said Levitt, acknowledge the intersection of anti-Semitism and terrorism in Europe, with more incidents anticipated to come.
Michael Milshtein, “ Why is it so Difficult for Israel to Decipher Hamas?” The Jerusalem Strategic Tribune, December 2023, https://jstribune.com/milsthein-why-is-it-so-difficult-for-israel-to-decipher-Hamas/
In one of the best clearly stated and insightful summaries of the Hamas attack and Israel’s dramatic failures to understand Hamas’s intentions and ideology, Milsthein delves into the inability of Israeli and other analysts to understand Hamas ideological fervor. Milshtein suggests that Israelis grossly erred in wanting to believe that Hamas was and could be tamed. He cites the increasing willingness of analysts to subscribe to group- think, and fewer specialists who read Arabic and are familiar with Middle Eastern political and religious cultures. This is an article that should be read, and suggestions ingested if mistakes like October 7 are to be avoided in the future.
November 2023 – Kenneth Stein, “Anti-Israel Activism in American Universities, Parts I and Part II, https://israeled.org/anti-israeli-teaching-on-american-campuses-origins-extent-and-remedies/
The two-part essay identifies multiple reasons for the growth of anti-Israeli sentiment on American campuses.  It asserts that 1) both the Hamas massacres and the anti-Israel demonstrations reflect delegitimizing of Jews as a people, undercutting the legitimacy of Jews to constitute a state. Embedded in modern Arab and Muslim attitudes toward Zionism and Israel are a century of denigration, boycott, and belittlement interrupted with significant, yet transactional Arab acceptances of the Jewish state; 2) the public and scholarly realms have become increasingly abusive of Israel, acerbic toward her policies, and vengeful toward her political leaders; 3) campus teaching of the Middle East and Israel in the US since 1967 has disfavored students broad learning about Israel except for studying Hebrew; 4) college professors and campus organizations have increasingly preached anti-Israeli views to unsophisticated, apathetic, and unknowing students; 5) pre-collegiate learning about Zionism and Israel, for Jewish and non-Jewish students alike, is sporadic, often lacking in content and concept, and self-limited to less than half of American Jewish students between the ages of 5 and 18. The major take away is that the Jewish students going to American campuses today, have minimal Zionist and Israeli education and learning when they arrive as freshman and few opportunities to learn about Israel in the classroom were bias and prejudice do not dominate the discourse.

October/November 2023 – Devorah Margolin, Matthew Levitt
“The Road to October 7: Hamas’ Long Game, Clarified” Combatting Terrorism Center at West Point https://ctc.westpoint.edu/the-road-to-october-7-Hamas-long-game-clarified/
When Hamas took over the Gaza Strip by force of arms in 2007, it faced an ideological crisis. It could focus on governing Gaza and addressing the needs of the Palestinian people, or it could use the Gaza Strip as a springboard from which to attack Israel. Even then, Hamas understood these two goals were mutually exclusive. And while some anticipated Hamas would moderate, or at least be co-opted by the demands of governing, it did not. Instead, Hamas invested in efforts to radicalize society and build the militant infrastructure necessary to someday launch the kind of attack that in its view could contribute to the destruction of Israel. This article explores the road from Hamas’ 2007 takeover of Gaza to the October 2023 massacre.

October 2023 –Jim Zanotti, Luisa Blanchfield, Jeremy Sharp, Cory Gill, Christopher Blanchard, John Rollins, Clayton Thomas, Rebecca Nelson, Matthew Weed, Liana Rosen and Rhoda Margesson, “Israel and Hamas October 2023 Conflict: Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs),” Congressional Research Service, updated October 20, 2023, 77 pages. https://crsreports.congress.gov/product/pdf/R/R47754
Describing reaction to Hamas’ s October 7 attack on Israel, the report notes there are analysts who have described the PA as “wanting to see Hamas fail but unable to openly cheer for Israel.” A number of factors may impact how this conflict proceeds: (1) “Hamas’s motivation and timing;” (2) Hezbollah’s role;” and (3) “Israeli leadership and domestic concerns,” and under the first facto quotes an unnamed senior official, “Hamas’s intention is to get Israel to retaliate massively and have the conflict escalate: a West Bank uprising, Hezbollah attacks, a revolt in Jerusalem.” Categorized as an FAQ, this report’s sections focus on questions, e.g., “What is Hamas and who supports it?” and “Did Iran play a role in planning, directing, or otherwise enabling Hamas attacks?” Its scope covers not only Hamas and thoughts about Israel’s possible steps, but also the possibility of regional actors attacking, the scope of international responses and the factors U.S. congress ought to take into consideration.

2023 Kali Robinson, “What is Hamas?,” Council for Foreign Relations, October 9, 2023, nine sections. https://www.cfr.org/backgrounder/what-Hamas
Broken into an introduction and eight sections, this report covers Hamas’s origins, leaders, funding and governance as well as how Palestinians view it, how it challenges Israel and how the 2023 attack differs from its past activity. This thorough and readable report draws on many sources while simultaneously, other reports cite the governing structure laid out here.
2023 Department of State Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor staff, “West Bank and Gaza Strip 2022 Human Rights Report,” Department of State, uploaded March 2, 2023, 93 pages. https://www.state.gov/wp-content/uploads/2023/03/415610_WEST-BANK-AND-GAZA-2022-HUMAN-RIGHTS-REPORT.pdf
This report looks at Israeli and Palestinian Authority, Hamas, Israel operating in the territories with the first section focusing on security forces and how Palestinian and Israeli civilians behaved towards each other; a second section looked at respect for civil liberties including freedom of expression and movement; a third section covered freedom to participate in the political process; a fourth section covered corruption in government; a fifth covered how governments behaved towards investigations into alleged human rights abuses; a sixth covered discrimination and societal abuses; a seventh covered workers’ rights. Sections three and four only addressed Palestinians abuses; section six also discussed antisemitism.

2017 – Raphael S. Cohen, David E. Johnson, David E. Thaler, Brenna Allen, Elizabeth M. Bartels, James Cahill, Shira Efron, “Lessons from Israel’s Wars in Gaza,” RAND Corporation, 2017, 12 pages. https://www.rand.org/content/dam/rand/pubs/research_briefs/RB9900/RB9975/RAND_RB9975.pdf
Focusing on the end of Operation Cast Lead in 2009 to the end of Operation Protective Edge in 2014, this report shows how Israel, as a military force fighting urban warfare, aimed for deterring (i.e., “mowing the grass”) and not eliminating Hamas, for fear something more radical would take its place. Between the two conflicts, Egypt’s President el-Sisi shut down his enemy the Muslim Brotherhood, with which Hamas is affiliated, and closed smuggling tunnels, hurting Hamas in the pocket. As Protective Lead did not weaken Hamas’ control in Gaza, “many believe a fourth major Gaza conflict is only a matter of time;” Rand believes Israel needs to take several lessons from this, among them an increased understanding of Hamas’s changes and of the implications of fighting in urban areas and underground.

2014- Jim Zanotti, “Israel and Hamas: Another Round of Conflict,” Congressional Research Service, July 18, 2014, 4 pages. https://www.everycrsreport.com/files/20140718_IN10104_8ba85508afeb886ee3c0d886d3e6b3b5590029b0.pdf
Three political elements preceded this round of fighting: “(1) unsuccessful round of Israeli-Palestinian peace talks, (2) PA consensus government formation and end of Hamas’s formal responsibilities for governing Gaza, (3) prominent youth killings.” The report describes not only the kinds and amounts of missiles shot off from Gaza but also how they have changed over the years, as well as how Israel seeks to weaken Hamas while holding the PA responsible as well.

2012 – Ali Ibrahim, “Demystifying the Nature and Dynamics of HAMAS a an Islamic Political Movement,” ANNUR Journal of Arabic and Islamic Studies, Vol. 1, No. 1, December 2012, pp. 128-137, https://www.researchgate.net/publication/281446268_Demystifying_the_Nature_and_Dynamics_of_HAMAS_as_an_Islamic_Political_Movement
While Hamas’s charter defines the conflict in religious terms, i.e., the land is their endowment and no one has the right to cede it, Hamas’s political head describes the conflict as not religious but political; the paper contends Hamas should not being considered terrorists by global political entities. The author recommends (1) the U.S. work with Hamas since they are not going anywhere; (2) Hamas “uncouple the dream of martyrdom from nationalist violence;” (3) the peace process be relaunched “under a supportive Arab umbrella.”

2010 – Jim Zanotti, “Hamas: Background and Issues for Congress,” Congressional Research Service, December 2, 2010, 64 pages. https://crsreports.congress.gov/product/pdf/R/R41514; 68 pages, https://www.everycrsreport.com/files/20101202_R41514_23feb6e09635613835de868a772b10e1d7ec42d1.pdf
Among the topics this backgrounder covers is Hamas’s finances, ideology, organization, policies and leadership, as well as a comparison of Hamas to other Middle East terror groups. It also speaks to what the U.S. can do to strengthen non-Hamas groups, help Egypt combat smuggling, help Israel counter the threat of rockets, while acknowledging that international support for Israel and the PA may have been counterproductive since Hamas’ popularity and strength has risen since the 1990s.

2010 Carol Migdalovitz, “Israel’s Blockade of Gaza, the Mavi Marmara Incident, and Its Aftermath,” Congressional Research Service, June 23, 2010, 20 pages. https://sgp.fas.org/crs/mideast/R41275.pdf
This report describes both the effect of Israel’s blockade on Gaza and what happened before, during and after the flotilla that tried to break it, including the formation of three Israeli commissions to investigate aspects of what led to the deaths of Turkish activists. President Obama called blockade “unsustainable” and while Israel would not lift it, Israel agreed to a system allowing more goods and materials in; interestingly the PA was concerned that lifting the blockage would give Gaza autonomy and permanently separate it from the West Bank.

2010 Hovdenak, Are, “The Public Services under Hamas in Gaza: Islamic Revolution or Crisis Management?,” PRIO, March 2010, 83 pages. https://cdn.cloud.prio.org/files/1ab44969-bc0b-48f6-b730-7a8e01eb0e08/The_Public_Services_under_Hamas_in_Gaza.pdf?inline=true
In looking at how Hamas consolidated control over the Gaza Strip into a system that can withstand time despite division and isolation economically and politically after its 2007 takeover, the report described (1) the parallel systems it established – e.g., judicial, economic (via taxing smuggled goods); (2) the PA still covering some public salaries for education and health while replacing some teachers and adding more; and (4) the cultural and moral codes Hamas implemented. By not redesigning systems, Hamas has been able to strengthen its power without carrying out a complete overhaul and set itself up for the long haul.

2009 – — Jim Zanotti, Carol Migdalovitz, Jeremy Sharp, Casey Addis, Christopher Blanchard and Roda Margesson, “Israel and Hamas: Conflict in Gaza (2008-2009),” Congressional Research Service, February 19, 2009, 46 pages. https://sgp.fas.org/crs/mideast/R40101.pdf
Operation Cast Lead, launched in response to rockets from Gaza following the expiration of a cease-fire, included the invasion of Israeli ground troops and resulted in over 1400 Palestinians and 13 Israelis dead; it allowed Hamas to show its resistance and Israel to shrink Hamas’s arsenal. Following the conflict, the U.S. set aside $23M of aid to Egypt to help prevent smuggling of weapons to Hamas; polls offered different pictures of Palestinians support for Fatah vs Hamas while regional powers condemned Israel (though Egypt and Turkey called for Palestinians reconciliation) and Western countries generally faulted Hamas, with Obama, like Bush before him, desiring a two-state solution.

2008 Sherifa Zuhur, “HAMAS and Israel: Conflicting Strategies of Group-Based Politics,” Institute of Middle Eastern, Islamic and Strategic Studies, December 2008, 109 pages. https://www.researchgate.net/profile/Sherifa-Zuhur/publication/45667087_HAMAS_and_Israel_Conflicting_Strategies_of_Group-Based_Politics/links/59b044a3a6fdcc3f8889ac13/HAMAS-and-Israel-Conflicting-Strategies-of-Group-Based-Politics.pdf
This thorough report covers Hamas’s history, objectives, how it operates, its Islamist positions, its relationship with Fatah and the impact of all of this on Palestinians. It also analyzes the reasons for and effects of U.S. and Israel’s restrictions on Hamas (and treatment of the PA) and makes proposals, among them, “Jewish and Palestinian populations do not need to be herded into separate areas—they need to be reacquainted with each other, as segregation has bred hatred and fear” (p. 18)

2008 Jeremy Sharp, “The Egypt-Gaza Border and its Effect on Israeli-Egyptian Relations,” Congressional Research Service, February 1, 2008, 15 pages. https://sgp.fas.org/crs/mideast/RL34346.pdf
1982 Ariel Sharon asked for Rafah not to be split, but for the city to be entirely within Israel’s border so as not to become a point for terrorist infiltration and weapons smuggling; Rafah was split and since 2005, smuggling people, consumer goods and weapons has taken place, especially through tunnel shafts that Egypt has not succeeded in destroying. The U.S. has sent trainers and dedicated funds towards equipment to help Egypt, but Egypt does not want to be solely responsible and the fear is that Hamas’s actions could hurt Israeli-Egyptian relations.

2006 Christopher Blanchard, Kenneth Katzman, Carol Migdalovitz, Alfred Prados, Paul Gallis, Dianne Rennack, John Rollins, Steve Bowman, and Connie Veillette, “Lebanon: The Israel-Hamas-Hezbollah Conflict,” Congressional Research Service, September 15, 2006, 48 pages. https://apps.dtic.mil/sti/pdfs/ADA456492.pdf
Most of this report focuses on Hezbollah’s kidnapping of soldiers, the subsequent Israeli-Hezbollah war and ceasefire, as well as political fallout in Israel regarding how it was handled. “Appendix A Prelude to the Crisis,” though, looks at the six-months prior; after the calm period of the January 2006 Palestinians elections, Hamas vs Fatah and Hamas moderates vs non-moderates disagreements contributed to the escalation in the Hamas vs Israel conflict, which preceded Hezbollah’s acts on the northern border and may have affected Hezbollah’s choice of timing.

2006 Aaron Pina, “Fatah and Hamas: the New Palestinian Factional Reality,” Congressional Research Service, March 3, 2006, 6 pages. https://sgp.fas.org/crs/mideast/RS22395.pdf
Hamas’s efficient network offering social services as well as Fatah’s internal fissures, multiple lists, and corruption may explain how Hamas, which “couches the Palestinian national struggle in religious terms” garnered 74 seats and Fatah 45 in parliamentary elections. Even if a national unity government is achieved, it is complicated by some countries, like the U.S., withholding funding to the PA as a way to isolate Hamas, while others, like the Arab League and the E.U., pledging or unblocking some funds.

2005 Clyde Mark, “Israel’s Proposal to Withdraw from Gaza,” Congressional Research Service, updated February 2, 2005, 6 pages. https://sgp.fas.org/crs/mideast/RS22000.pdf
This report offers a few suppositions for Israel to withdrew from Gaza, discusses costs involved, notes that a majority of Israelis were in favor of it, and says that while the U.S. was in favor, the press had said it harbored a fear “that Hamas or other Islamic militants would seize control of Gaza as the Israelis withdrew and stop the peace process.” The report also says that Palestinians accept the plan (even though they distrust Sharon) because it is a first step towards full withdrawal, but that “militants may view [it] as a sign of weakness and increase their attacks on Israeli targets.”
1993 Ehud Ya’ari, “The Metamorphosis of Hamas,” The Jerusalem Report, January 14, 1993. p. 25.
[Frequently cited but not found online, this has been requested from Jerusalem Post. One citation estimated Hamas membership in 1993 as 60-100 due to arrests and deportations (https://irp.fas.org/crs/931014-Hamas.htm) while another noted Hamas activists were allowed to train on Sudanese soil between 1992 and 1993 (https://apps.dtic.mil/sti/tr/pdf/ADA462614.pdf, p. 43).]

1991- Congressional Research Service staff, “Hamas: The Organizations, Goals and Tactics of a Militant Palestinian Organization,” Congressional Research Service, October 14, 1993. https://irp.fas.org/crs/931014-Hamas.htm
Offering background, the report speaks to Hamas’s internal organization, its funding and its popularity while also comparing/contrasting Hamas, which draws on Islamic ideology, with the more secular PLO, of which Hamas is not a member. Without the ability to obtain membership numbers, the report instead looks at how Hamas candidates succeeded in the elections of professional organizations and trade unions in order to gauge both size and popularity vis-à-vis the PLO.