Who will run Gaza after Hamas? Israel pilots plan for ‘Palestinian-run pockets’

Israel is seeking Palestinians who are not affiliated with Hamas to manage civilian affairs in areas of the Gaza Strip designed as testing grounds for post-war administration of the enclave, a senior Israeli official said on Thursday.

But Hamas said the plan, which the Israeli official said would also exclude anybody on the payroll of the internationally recognized Palestinian Authority, would amount to an Israeli reoccupation of Gaza and was doomed to failure.

Israel to pilot ‘humanitarian pockets’ in Gaza

The Israeli official said the planned “humanitarian pockets” would be in districts of the Gaza Strip from which Hamas has been expelled, but that their ultimate success would hinge on Israel achieving its goal of destroying the Islamist faction across the tiny coastal territory that it has been governing.

“We’re looking for the right people to step up to the plate,” the official told Reuters on condition of anonymity. “But it is clear that this will take time, as no one will come forward if they think Hamas will put a bullet in their head.”

The plan, the official added, “may be achieved once Hamas is destroyed and doesn’t pose a threat to Israel or to Gazans.”

GAZAN PROTESTERS at the border fence on Saturday. (Reuters) (credit: REUTERS)

Israel’s top-rated Channel 12 TV reported that the Zeitoun neighborhood of northern Gaza City was a candidate for implementation of the plan, under which local merchants and civil society leaders would distribute humanitarian aid.

The Israeli military would provide peripheral security in Zeitoun, Channel 12 said, describing renewed troop incursions there this week as designed to root out remnants of a Hamas garrison that was hit hard in the early stages of the war.

Asked about the Israeli official’s comments and the Channel 12 report, senior Hamas official Sami Abu Zuhri said such a plan would be tantamount to Israel reoccupying Gaza, from which it withdrew troops and settlers in 2005. Israel says it will have indefinite security control over Gaza after the war, but denies this would be a reoccupation.

“We are confident this project is pointless and is a sign of confusion and it will never succeed,” Abu Zuhri told Reuters.

Palestinian Authority barred as a partner in Gaza

The Israeli official also made clear the Palestinian Authority (PA), which exercises limited self-rule in the West Bank, would be barred as a partner in the “humanitarian pockets” on account of its failure to condemn the October 7 Hamas attack on Israel.

“Anyone who took part in, or even failed to condemn, October 7 is ruled out,” the official said.

The United States has called for a “revitalized” PA to govern Gaza after the war. But Israel has been cool to the idea, noting that the PA provides payouts to jailed militants.

Still, the official said, Israel would be willing to consider “humanitarian pocket” partners with past links to the PA’s dominant Fatah faction, a more secular rival to Hamas.