West Bank Dispatch: ‘Break the Wave’ has failed. Will there be a ‘Defensive Shield 2’ instead ?

MW Staff

Mondoweiss  /  February 13, 2023

As Palestinian resistance continues to spread, Operation Break the Wave is reaching a dead end, pushing some Israeli politicians to call for a repeat of 2002, or an “Operation Defensive Shield 2.”

Key developments (February 7 –  February 13)

  • Israeli forces kill 7 Palestinians in one week. 
  • Israeli army intensifies raids across West Bank following a car ramming at Ramot Alon, which killed three Israelis, including a child, bringing the number of Israelis killed since the start of the year to eight.
  • New Palestinian brigades become public, including the Aqbat Jabr Refugee Camp Brigade.
  • Ben Gvir calls for “Operation Defensive Shield 2”in the aftermath of the Ramot Alon car ramming.


Two years into the Second Intifada, Palestinian armed resistance factions started to target Israelis with increasing intensity. Following the killing of a hundred Israelis in a single month, the Israeli army launched Operation Defensive Shield

The operation entailed the wholesale reoccupation of the West Bank, transforming Palestinian population centers into warzones as Israeli tanks and missiles rained death and destruction.

But Israel also paid a high price. Although “Defensive Shield” was a nominal success, the fierceness of armed Palestinian resistance forced Israel to evacuate several settlements that were vulnerable to Palestinian resistance in 2005. In Gaza, this was known as the “disengagement plan,” which by admission of the Israeli government, was undertaken to “improve Israel’s security and international image.” 

But the lesser known case of Israeli territorial retreat was the area surrounding Jenin in the same exact year. Israel ended up evacuating four different settlements from the Jenin area. 

The reason, of course, was the fact that Jenin refugee camp was one of the most important havens of the armed resistance throughout the Intifada.

Make no mistake, this was no less than the partial liberation of a part of Palestine, no matter how small and infinitesimal it may seem. This is what analysts of this period often get wrong, believing erroneously that armed struggle has only ever brought on disaster for Palestinians in the context of the extreme asymmetry of power between colonizer and colonized. In fact, the only time Israel has ever given up territory has been through the use of force. Nathan Thrall recognized this well, knowing that Israel has only ever relinquished control over territory “under duress.”

Still, Operation Defensive Shield had pacified the resistance for a time — for what seemed would become the new normal of “security coordination” and “economic peace.”

No longer. After the past year of a resurging resistance movement — including the proliferation of “lone wolf” operations and the parallel formation of organized armed groups, which continue to spread in different parts of the West Bank — Israel had to mount another offensive.

In 2022, that offensive was started as “Operation Break the Wave,” meant to eliminate the resistance in Jenin and Nablus. It has so far failed to deliver on its promise.

If anything, the past year has witnessed a change in the dynamic of Israeli raids into Palestinian centers of armed resistance. It used to be that Israeli forces would enjoy free rein to enter any part of the West Bank to conduct arrests of a fighter or lone wolf suspected of carrying out an attack, further feeding the perception that the penetration of the Israeli surveillance state into Palestinian lives was total.

The search-and-arrest operations are now anything but straightforward. Every incursion into Jenin, Nablus, and most recently, Aqbat Jabr, requires that the army marshal progressively larger military forces, as well as increasingly more elaborate infiltration missions. All the while, the pace of operations does not seem to be slowing, even when Israel commits a massacre — or perhaps because it does.

As “Break the Wave” continues to falter with no real end in sight, some Israeli politicians are calling for a repeat of 2002, or an “Operation Defensive Shield 2.”

This remains a fringe demand among the Israeli fascist right, and Itamar Ben Gvir has been ridiculed by fellow Israeli politicians for it. The cost of an escalation of that magnitude remains a deterrent for Israeli counterinsurgency, despite recent protestations from Israeli rightists that the Palestinian Authority has outlived its usefulness as a subcontractor of Israel’s counterinsurgency strategy.

Things change quickly, however, and tides can easily turn when fascists are in power.

Important figures

  • 48 Palestinians have been killed in the first 45 days of 2023. 
  • 10 children have been killed in 2023.
  • The highest concentration of Palestinians killed this year are from the Jenin governorate, which continues to face daily incursions.
  • 173 Palestinians were killed in the West Bank and East Jerusalem in 2022, as part of Operation Break the Wave, while 49 were killed in Gaza. 
  • Since the Unity Uprising of 2021, Israeli forces as well as settlers have killed nearly 600 Palestinians.
  • Since 2021, every one out of fivePalestinians killed is a child or a minor.

Mondoweiss highlights

‘Our weapons are legitimate’: the Aqbat Jabr Brigade emerges, by Mariam Barghouti

Two Palestinians killed, including prisoner who died due to ‘medical negligence’, by Mariam Barghouti

Ben-Gvir calls for ‘Operation Defensive Shield 2’ following Jerusalem operation, by Yumna Patel and Mariam Barghouti