Hamas: Victory as Absence of Defeat

The similarities between Hizbullah's and Hamas' modes of warfare indicate the emergence of a shared military doctrine consisting in defining their mere survival in a confrontation with IDF as victory.

Despite the high death toll on the Palestinian side and the significantly lower number of casualties suffered by Israel, Hamas claimed victory following the IDF's withdrawal from the Gaza Strip (3/3).

These victory statements indicate that Hamas has adopted Hizbullah's warfare doctrine, which Ehud Yaari termed the "Muqawama Doctrine." According to Yaari, this doctrine consists of claiming victory for having "survive[d] an all-out confrontation with a vastly superior military force such as the IDF." (For full article, click here.)

Moreover, the doctrine includes the following assumptions:

  • Peace is not an option - followers of the Muqawama doctrine object to any kind of recognition of Israel. The doctrine thus entails foiling political processes as well as refusing any settlement other than a hudna.

  • Exploiting the asymmetry vis-à-vis the IDF - both continuous and asymmetric warfare are used as a strategy of attrition against Israel, in order to render its military superiority irrelevant.

  • Casualties as a sign of victory - the number of casualties are translated into a sign of martyrdom and success. Therefore the inequality in the number of casualties is not considered a defeat.

  • Combining military and social activity - parallel to Hamas' and Hizbullah's military activities against Israel, both strive to establish an "alternative regime [providing] (...) educational, health and business" services.

In light of this analysis, Hamas' claim of victory corresponds to: 1) its mere 'survival'; 2) its perception that the Qassam fire on Sderot and Ashkelon has provoked Israel's military operation; 3) the high number of casualties, who are seen as 'martyrs'; and 4) the popularity gained by Hamas' latest promises to compensate the people who have suffered damages.


Yaari, E., Washington Institute, 11/13/06

El-Khodary, T., IHT, 3/4/08

Toameh, A., Jerusalem Post, 3/4/08

For more information see also Reut concepts The Resistance Network and Strategic Superiority in National Security.