IMEMC News / May 22, 2021[International Middle East Media Center]
When this Friday’s ceasefire was announced between Palestinian resistance groups and Israel, there was only one side celebrating, the Palestinians, who had taken to the streets to celebrate a historic defeat of Israel’s military machine.
During the 11-day conflict between Gaza and Israel, 248 Palestinians in Gaza were killed, according to the Gaza Health Ministry, this included 66 children, 39 women and 17 elderly people, in addition to 1,948 people having sustained injuries. On the Israeli side, 12 casualties were reported, it is unclear how many Israeli soldiers were killed as Israel goes to great lengths to cover this up. Despite the disparity in death statistics, which clearly indicate much greater Palestinian suffering, Israel’s military and politicians were left utterly embarrassed and defeated.
A unified Palestinian resistance to occupation & Netanyahu’s political failure
The Israeli aggression against the people of Jerusalem, specifically with its provocative attacks on worshippers at al Aqsa Mosque, its backing of far-right fascist settlers and the planned expulsions of Palestinians from their homes in Sheikh Jarrah, all triggered a nationwide Palestinian response.
For the first time, in such a forceful way, the Palestinian citizens of Israel joined in with Palestinians in the West Bank, Gaza, Jerusalem and the diaspora, to confront Israel with all means necessary. National strikes, confrontations with settlers, mass non-violent demonstrations, riots, lone-wolf armed attacks and the unified armed groups in Gaza all piled on Israel.
Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, had originally backed the hard-line settlers in their provocative actions in order to keep himself aligned with his Religious Zionism Party allies and to maintain support from right wingers in general. He had just lost his mandate to form a coalition, which was handed over to his rival Yair Lapid to form an anti-Netanyahu coalition, a task delayed due to recent tensions, along with the PM’s corruption trial. It seems that Netanyahu thought he would be able to buy time politically through an escalation with Palestinians, yet miscalculated the scale of the response and found himself in an embarrassing predicament. Instead of gathering more support, Netanyahu has instead now further divided the Israeli political scene and has entered a game of pointing fingers, whilst the right-wing is condemning him for his defeat.
The armed resistance from the Gaza Strip also proved more challenging for Israel this time around also, no matter what Israel did and up until the last moments before the ceasefire, the resistance was firing rockets. The armed groups also revealed new weapons technology, including drones, unmanned submarines and new rockets capable of hitting any part of historic Palestine. The armed groups also fired on Israeli warships, gas pipelines, ports, electrical facilities, chemical plants, airfields, military bases and even gave curfews to be followed for residents of Tel Aviv, along with forcing Israel’s airports to close.
The response to Israel’s aggression in Jerusalem was aimed to have Israel abandon its settler march planned to raid al-Aqsa compound, the Palestinian resistance achieved the goal of stopping this march. The goal of forcing Israel to accept that Palestinians will retaliate and put it in its place when Jerusalem is under attack, was also reached.
The Palestinians are now more unified than ever, with all Palestinians, regardless of their political affiliation, standing together in order to confront their occupier. The ceasefire was also agreed to without Israel having achieved any victory against the Palestinian resistance in any of the territories, they simply backed off when confronted with the might of a unified people.
The Israeli “ground invasion” of Gaza
The important takeaway from the latest round of tensions is that Israel failed to put a dent in any of the Palestinian armed groups and instead turned to targeting Palestinian civilians. Israel failed to launch a ground invasion and after announcing it, only then to back track, attempted to paint their failure to do so as the result of a cunning plan to eliminate Hamas tunnel systems.
Much of the mainstream Western Press, which originally had taken the word of Israel that its ground troops had entered Gaza, on May 14, also without hesitation published Israel’s excuse as to why it hadn’t done so. It was claimed by the Israeli military that there had been a “miscommunication”, which later turned into Israel’s “cunning plot” to allegedly deal a killer blow to Hamas and its tunnel system.
Israeli analysts, such as Channel 13 TV’s Or Heller, began to claim that Israel had tricked Hamas into believing the ground invasion was coming through media reports and drew militants into their complex web of tunnel networks. Then as the Israeli military claimed, it destroyed the tunnels utilizing 130 warplanes, bombing the tunnels for a period of 40 minutes.
It sounds like a triumphant story, but there’s one small problem, there isn’t any evidence to suggest this happened at all, in fact all of the evidence points to the contrary. Israel did move its reservists close to the separation lines, but not actually “on the border”, they were nowhere to be seen close to the physical barriers. The confusion which was caused also by the countless excuses provided before Israel got its narrative together, as to explain what happened, should also invite more scepticism.
Israel, despite having 24 hour drone surveillance, could not provide a single photo proving this alleged destruction of “hundreds of kilometres” of the “metro” tunnel system, nor were there any combatant deaths reported in Gaza from the strikes. On top of this, anyone who was actually following the news cycle closely, or who lives in Gaza, knows that residential areas were heavily targeted during these strikes in the north of Gaza, around Beit Hanoun and Beit Lahia, causing civilian deaths. The strategy which was observed on the ground in Gaza did in fact look like a ground invasion strategy, that is, the Israeli military flattens everything in sight so that it can move its ground forces into an area. Then we have the Hamas sources which reported to Al-Jazeera Arabic, that they had thwarted an Israeli attempt to launch a ground invasion.
The credibility of the Israeli military is also very low, it was able to even hide the deaths of at least 5 soldiers – killed in February of 2018 – by the Salahudeen brigades (Palestinian armed group), being forced to admit the incident only after the armed group released video showing the armed attack in the month of November. It also yet to release the proper statistics for its own military losses, soldier deaths, soldier injuries and most likely never will.
Then we next have to ask the question, if Israel could actually pull off a successful ground operation, why didn’t it do so at any time. Why did the Israeli military also withdraw from most of the close by areas to the actual separation lines too, which has been shown by drone footage released by Palestinian armed factions? The answer is, Israel cannot occupy Gaza and it understands that it likely can’t even defeat the ground forces of Hamas.
If Israel had known where the tunnel system actually was, they would have had years to launch attacks on it and to prepare for confronting Hamas’ Al-Qassam brigades and Islamic Jihads’ Saraya al-Quds, but resorted to killing civilians.
The truth is, Israel’s military are scared of entering Gaza, or even merely operating too close to Gaza. Israeli military and political leaders understand that high troop casualties will mean the end of them politically, so they do not dare risk it. This is the same case when it comes to dealing with Hezbollah in Lebanon, Israel is petrified of confronting Lebanese Hezbollah, so much so that they place dummies along the border hoping to trick the enemy into striking dud targets so as to not escalate tensions.
If a ground invasion was possible, Israel would have taken to this straight away, but it clearly was not. Israeli Premier, Benjamin Netanyahu, has been dealt a severe blow by this round of tensions and if a ground invasion would have been an option, he would have taken it to save his own political life.
Israel’s only real military strategy was targeting civilians
The proof of what really happened is there, on the ground, in Gaza. Over 75,000 people displaced, around half of those killed were women and children, civilian infrastructure was also pummelled the most severely, not key military sites. Were there tunnels hit? Yes, but of real significance? No. Israel bombarded areas like Al-Wehda street in the more prosperous area of Al-Rimal, in Gaza City, it also destroyed factories, agricultural lands, mosques, malls, medical clinics, water purification sites, electrical sites, hit schools, bookstores and the list goes on.
After Israel’s announcement of a ground invasion amounted to nothing, the strategy had clearly been to beat down the spirits of the people of Gaza. When they had done massacring scores of innocent civilians, and only killing around roughly 40 members of Palestinian resistance armed wings, they realized that their military “operation”, called “Guardian of the Walls”, was leading nowhere and Israel was looking for a way out.
It is also important to note that of the members of armed factions killed in Gaza, Israel murdered most of them whilst they were at home and not actively fighting, which means these were not legitimate military targets, especially as some of them were at home with their families. Israeli PM Netanyahu announced, in his first speech after the ceasefire agreement was reached, that around “200 terrorists” had been killed, but even the Israeli public knows this to be a blatant lie. Statistically, it’s impossible for Israel to argue it killed a significant number of Palestinian fighters and what is perhaps most ridiculous, is that Netanyahu used images of bombed roads to try and prove he destroyed significant tunnels.
The conclusion that can be drawn from recent events, is that a unified Palestinian people can successfully put the Israeli regime in its place and prevent it from crossing red-lines. A new political awakening has taken place, a new set of rules have been established. This moment, will go down in history as an important marker in the road to the liberation of Palestine and the establishment of Palestinian human rights.
Robert Inlakesh – Al-Quds News Network