Gaza-Israel war may change Middle East -Abu Muaj and Abu Tahir Mustakim
When Narendra Modi’s India does bulldozer justice to none but Muslim protesters not even to the Khalistanists, Benjamin Netanyahu’s Israel does bombing justice to Palestinians who had been punished collectively. Failing to eliminate Gaza Strip’s ruling party Hamas, which launched blitzkrieg early on Saturday, Israel air force launched bombing spree on the civilian properties, UNRAW schools and shelters while hunting down Hamas freedom fighters. Till filing the report, the bombing-happy IDF killed over 1799 Palestinians in Gaza including 10 journalists while Hamas fighters killed around 1300 Israelis. The Israelis found the attack unprecedented in Southern Israel. Hamas freedom fighters must have a detour of Najd and Ashkelon, which once were Palestinian villages and occupied in 1948. The Palestinian freedom fighters, whose ancestors were from these areas, felt lucky to sojourn, though for a short time, their ancestral homes in Southern Israel from where their grandparents were evicted 75 years ago.
Operation Al-Aqsa Flood: The planning of the operation took somewhere between a few months and two years, per different accounts from Hamas leaders. The depth and magnitude of the attack were unprecedented and took Israel by surprise.
On October 7, Hamas launched a massive military operation into Israeli territory. The shooting of thousands of rockets into Israel was followed by an attack by land, air, and sea with fighters penetrating deep into territory under Israeli control. They attacked military installations and temporarily took over various settlements. The death toll among Israelis has exceeded 1,200, including more than 120 soldiers; dozens of Israeli hostages were also taken into the Gaza Strip.
The tactics we have seen Hamas use in their attack on Israel have been some of their most sophisticated yet. The group used air, sea, and land in what in military terms is known as multi-domain operations. It carried out initial attacks on Israeli observation posts using drones before its massive rocket attacks overwhelmed the Israeli Iron Dome defences.
These were what are referred to as shaping operations – in essence preparing for the next stage, the physical entry into Israel. Next was an unprecedented physical infiltration, attacking Israel from multiple directions, attacking Israeli military targets killing and capturing soldiers, and capturing military equipment.
Underpinning all these activities has been the use of the psychological element – including recording and broadcasting attacks in Israeli border communities and a music concert as well as capturing Israeli soldiers and civilians and taking them back into the Gaza Strip.
Hamas will have studied Israeli intelligence gathering, identified Israeli sources, and kept them focused elsewhere, in order to hide their preparations. According to news reports, Spearheaded by Hamas leader Mohammad Deif, Gaza authorities also have invested heavily in tunnel infrastructure, constructing an extensive network of underground passages that enable them to physically bypass Israeli checkpoints and mount surprise attacks.
Hamas appears to have learned from various sources, utilized lessons from past encounters with Israeli forces, studied the tactics employed by fighters in Jenin in 2002, and incorporated their own innovations.
They also seem to have taken inspiration from Hezbollah’s military infrastructure and rebel warfare strategies.
Past encounters with Israeli forces, particularly during the 2014 assault on Gaza, have taught Hamas the value of urban warfare and how to make the most of improvised explosive devices (IEDs), tunnel networks, psychological warfare, and asymmetric warfare.
At the end of the day, Hamas fought an army that had sophisticated heavy weaponry and air power. In the face of that weaponry, Hamas has nothing more than homemade IEDs, rockets, and light weapons supplementing a small number of more sophisticated light weapons it either managed to smuggle in or make at home.
This is why the group relies on tactics – using a strategy of hit-and-run attacks, ambushes, and sniper fire to minimize their own casualties and maximize the impact of their operations by reducing direct confrontations.
Despite Israel’s sophisticated network of spies, drones, and surveillance technology, it could not detect and preempt the attack. The damage done to Israel goes beyond the intelligence and military flop; it is also a political and psychological catastrophe, which will not go down well for its plans to be a regional leader of a new Middle East.
Images of Israelis fleeing their homes and towns in fear will be ingrained in their collective memory for many years to come. The day was probably the worst day in Israel’s history. An utter humiliation.
Nothing about this operation is surprising or unprovoked. It is a response that is to be expected from the Palestinian people, who have faced Israeli settler colonial rule and occupation for decades.
International law prohibits states from “any military occupation, however temporary”. United Nations General Assembly Resolution 37/43 also reaffirms that people struggling for independence and liberation from colonial rule have the right to do so using “all available means, including armed struggle”.
The late Palestinian-American scholar Edward Said once called Gaza the “essential core” of the Palestinian struggle. It is an impoverished, congested place inhabited largely by Palestinian refugees expelled from their homes during the Nakba of 1948. It previously gave birth to the first Intifada and has been hosting the bulk of the Palestinian armed resistance over the past few decades.
Gaza has also been under debilitating siege for 16 years, which has taken a heavy toll on its people but has failed to destroy their will to resist. The blockade was imposed after Hamas won the Palestinian Legislative Council elections in 2006, but its Palestinian rival, Fatah, along with Israel and its backers conspired to prevent it from taking power.
Hamas may appear to have fulfilled its declared short-term goals of deterring Israeli violations of the Al-Aqsa Mosque and taking hostages to bargain for the release of Palestinian political prisoners held in Israeli jails.
Three factors behind the attack: Hamas’s move was triggered by three factors. First, the policies of the far-right Israeli government enabling settler violence in the occupied West Bank and Jerusalem led to a sense of desperation among Palestinians and growing demands for a reaction. At the same time, the rising tensions in the West Bank caused by these policies necessitated the shift of Israeli forces away from the south and into the north to guard the settlements. This gave Hamas both a justification and an opportunity to attack.
Second, the Hamas leadership felt compelled to act due to the acceleration of Arab-Israeli normalization. In recent years, this process further diminished the significance of the Palestinian issue for Arab leaders who became less keen on pressuring Israel on this matter.
If a Saudi-Israeli normalization deal had been concluded, it would have been a turning point in the Arab-Israeli conflict, which may have eliminated the already weak chances of a two-state solution. This was also part of Hamas’s calculations.
Third, Hamas was emboldened after it managed to repair its ties with Iran.
Israel has struggled to recover from the attack. It has intensified its bombardment of the Gaza Strip and announced a total blockade on the coastal enclave, turning off electricity and blocking humanitarian aid. Netanyahu’s government was already facing domestic turmoil before the attack due to its judicial reforms; its stability will now be tested even further.
Conspiracy theory: Israeli leadership is trying to compare the October salvo with 9/11 of America and threatening to change the current map of the Middle East. Here analysts may smell rats in the threat of regional change. Small states in the ME may not be safe with their trucial existence. It may be the beginning of a new era with a changed map of the Arab countries. It may be a conspiracy hatched but kept secret for a long time.
When the Israeli assault ends, Hamas, which has gained more legitimacy in Gaza and the West Bank with its operation, will also face the challenge of translating it into policies and governance that would serve the Palestinians in the long term.
Given the current public mood in the Arab world after the Gaza attack, it would be too complicated to advance talks on a Saudi-Israeli deal. Most probably, these talks will be put on the shelf by the Saudis in the short term but not necessarily fully canceled.
These developments work in Iran’s favour. With the progress of Arab-Israeli normalization halted. Tehran can now pressure the US into re-entering a nuclear deal of some kind that would take some of the sanctions pressure off the Iranian economy.
Netanyahu has not elaborated on the next phases of the war, but he has received the unconditional support of Western governments to do what it takes, as long as it takes, to “defend Israel”. The administration of US President Joe Biden has gone even further, providing Israel with more arms and ammunition, dispatching its most modern and sophisticated aircraft carriers, the Ford, along with a number of destroyers to the Eastern Mediterranean, and beefing up other forces stationed in the region, enough to start World War III.
But, of course, much of the Western media won’t acknowledge facts and outrages of Palestinians. That’s because many of the reporters and columnists now gripped by the latest eruption of murderous madness in Palestine and Israel have always interpreted events through a prism chiefly dictated by Israel – whether they are prepared to admit it or not.
In this myopic calculus, Israel is always the victim, never the perpetrator. Israel’s understanding of history matters; Palestinians’ reading not only of the past but of the present and the future too, does not count. And, perhaps most indecent of all, Israeli lives and deaths matter; Palestinian lives and deaths don’t.
Human rights groups based in Jerusalem, London, and New York have published report after report that establishes, as a matter of international law, that Israel has, for a long time, been guilty of being apartheid – a state-sanctioned, systemic policy to impose ethnic supremacy over besieged Palestinians with brutal, grinding efficiency.
Many Western news outlets either dismissed outright or used the familiar vocabulary of denial to obscure the blatant truth.
Noam Chomsky in his book chapter “Gaza Under Assault” quoted a placard of an old man in Gaza that reads: “You take my water, burn my olive trees, destroy my house, take my job, steal my land, imprison my father, kill my mother, bombard my country, starve us all, humiliate us all, but I am to blame: I shot a rocket back.”
Mahatma Gandhi said, “Palestine belongs to the Arabs in the same sense England belongs to the English or France to the French.