As the Middle East Monitor (MEMO) highlights the human cost of Operation Cast Lead (War Diaries), Israel has during the last two weeks intensified its air strikes at civilian targets in the Gaza Strip, once again killing a number of Palestinians and causing extensive damage to properties. Media and military analysts in the region have discerned a clear pattern of activities that suggest the Occupying Power, Israel, is preparing the ground for another major onslaught into the Gaza Strip.
As was the case in the previous attack one year ago, the Occupier is again interpreting regional or international silence as a 'green light' for its next operation.
What is happening?
- The current attacks on the Gaza Strip are all aimed at civilian areas. Other targets include Palestinian resistance positions.
- On Friday 1st, January 2010, the Israeli Air Force bombed two tunnels in the Gaza Strip. Palestinians depend on the tunnels for food, medicine and other necessities. Because of the illegal blockade imposed by the Occupier the tunnels have become their main lifeline for survival.
- On Saturday 2nd January two tanks fired shells into the area east of the Shuja'iyya neighbourhood of Gaza City and northeast of Gaza City, while military tanks launched several artillery shells at the Shuja'iyya and Tuffah neighborhoods simultaneously.
- On Tuesday, January 5th 2010, an Israeli airstrike hit a group of Palestinian resistance fighters in Khan Younis, in south Gaza Strip, killing one and wounding four others.
- On Thursday 7th January, Israeli Occupation Forces (IOF) attacked the Rafah border area, killing three Palestinians, one of the causalities being a 14 year-old boy.
- Aerial strikes were also carried out in Gaza City, Khan Younis and Rafah, resulting in huge explosions.
- Earlier on Thursday, the Israel Air Force dropped thousands of leaflets over Gaza, warning residents to stay away from the border with Israel and to avoid involvement in 'smuggling'.
- Israeli forces completed on 8th January a large-scale military exercise in the Negev, the country's Channel 10 news reported these were in preparation for a military offensive against the Gaza Strip.
- An IDF strike east of Deir Al-Balah on Sunday 10th January 2010 has left three Palestinians dead, and four others injured.
How would the operation be carried out?
- Israeli media sources citing army officials indicate preparation for the IOF to infiltrate, invade densely populated areas, and use their specialised equipment to target the short-range missiles used by the resistance.
- The same sources confirm the recent exercise were conducted with new digital devices installed on Merkava tanks, which would allows soldiers in the units to track troops on the ground in densely-populated areas.
- There are several possible reasons for the current Israeli escalation:
- The government in Tel Aviv is gripped in the midst of a political and diplomatic crisis caused by Israel's growing international isolation. There is increased revulsion and anger with the Occupation's policies, namely its settlement expansion, house demolitions in Jerusalem and desecration of Islamic and Christian sites in the city.
- US Middle East envoy, George Mitchell, has recently threatened to withhold loan guarantees to pressure the Occupying Power to halt its illegal settlement activities. This move by the US, Israel's closest ally, is a reflection of the scale of International dissatisfaction and opposition to the Occupation policies.
- Added to this is the fact that Netanyahu has failed to bring Mahmoud Abbas back to negotiation table, with the latter still insisting that there can be no moving forward without an end to the settlement expansion policy.
- The latest preparations come amid Israeli claims of Hamas acquiring missiles that could target Israeli artillery brigades.
All in all, Israel has become a huge embarrassment and liability to the Western governments that have supported its military Occupation for more than four decades. All those that are seen to be close allies, including the United Kingdom and the United States, are finding this embarrassment a sore point and scar on their international image, especially at a time when they are in dire need of international support with their efforts in Afghanistan, Pakistan and most recently Yemen.
Most analysts concur that the failure of the Israel's military invasion last winter has strengthened Hamas as a governing body and boosted its image both within Palestine and across the region. Israel on the other hand emerged from the fiasco substantially damaged, not least after the Goldstone report called for the prosecution of its leadership for war crimes. Their troubles are set to continue for as long as they persist in the illegal occupation of Palestinian land.