Smoke rises after the bombing of a house during a military operation by Egyptian security forces on the border between Egypt and Rafah, in southern Gaza, on March 5, 2015. The week prior, an Egyptian court declared the Palestinian group Hamas in Gaza a terrorist organization, a ruling aligned with President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi's crackdown on Islamist groups. On May 11, 2015, IDF's southern commander, Major Gen. Sami Turgeman, said short operations such as the one IDF forces undertook against Hamas last summer could not defeat the group. File Photo by Ismael Mohamad/UPI. | License Photo
KIBBUTZ NAHAL OZ, Israel, May 12 (UPI) -- The head of Israel's southern command said Monday that Hamas could not be defeated in short one-month operations like last year's battle in Gaza.
Major Gen. Sami Turgeman told officials in Kibbutz Nahal Oz that Hamas is "an independent authority that functions like a country" in the Gaza Strip, and that after disengaging from the region in 2005, Israel's "only goals are prevention, to prevent chaos and a humanitarian crisis."
"Whoever thinks that the struggle between us is just a military one does not understand the issue," Turgeman was quoted by Ynet News as saying.
The general said the Palestinian Authority is incapable of governing the Gaza Strip, and that "the only replacement for Hamas is the IDF and authoritarian chaos."
"Most of the citizens in the strip see Hamas as the only solution to their problems," he said.
Turgeman noted last year's IDF operation in the strip, known as "Operation Protective Edge," which lasted little over a month and a half -- resulting in over 2,000 Palestinian and 80 Israeli deaths and a declaration of victory from both sides -- was merely one "round" of many with punctuations of quiet in between, and that with such a policy, Israel "cannot expect that we'll go out for these types of operations and expect to defeat Hamas."
"I don't know how the next operations will look," Turgeman said. "It will take more than a month for a significant achievement and we have to prepare ourselves for such a reality. For Hamas, the number of dead and amount of our attacks are not a measure of success or lack of success. What matters is that it didn't lose and that it stayed in power."
Turgeman is stepping down as head of IDF Southern Command in two months.
According to the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, 2014 saw the highest Palestinian civilian death toll since 1967 due to hostilities in Gaza during July and August.