It must be thrilling for Israelis to hear about a group of their army’s Special Forces carrying out a professional operation to kidnap leaders from the heart of the Gaza Strip, entering and leaving the enclave without a trace, and with none of the Palestinians knowing what’s going on. How exciting must an operation like this be; an operation to suit Israel’s nostalgia for the days when its achievements celebrated in its propaganda dealt blows to its enemies around the world.
The now former Defence Minister Avigdor Lieberman — he resigned earlier today — finally decided to order just that, and thought it would be appropriate to prove his skill in managing a military incursion after a wave of criticism from his colleagues in the government and the Israeli public on social media. The carefully planned operation took place under the cover of darkness on Sunday, even though international mediators had agreed a field truce between the Israeli army and Palestinian resistance forces, and had already put into effect arrangements to relieve the Israeli-led siege imposed on the Gaza Strip.
This sudden operation came at a time when the parties involved were optimistic, and it sought to capture Palestinian leaders quietly while denying that they were being held. All traces of the operation were to be erased expertly. The Special Forces used a civilian coach to conceal themselves in eastern Khan Younis. Some of the elite team were disguised in women’s clothing, with deadly weapons hidden underneath.
What could they do after the plot of their little jaunt was unexpectedly disconnected from the path laid out by the army leadership? This was another miserable failure to be added to the list of the reckless Israeli government’s record. It resorted to such a deceitful operation despite the truce arrangements put together by international mediators. When the Palestinians discovered this clumsy kidnap attempt on the ground, the Israel Defence Forces had to act quickly to contain the situation using the massive air power at their disposal to rescue the now not-so-elite team from the trap which it had set for itself.
The subsequent death toll of Palestinians — plus one senior Israeli officer — caused by the Israeli air strikes escalated the situation badly; it was almost out of control during the past two days. If it goes on to be completely uncontained, it will threaten the Netanyahu government’s attempts to warm its relations with Arab states acting on instructions from US President Donald Trump to normalise relations with Israel.
Throughout the two days of intense escalation, the Palestinians showed astonishing perseverance and discipline in their management of events, operating a joint operations room that sent warnings to the Israeli leadership that the continued bombing of civilian targets in the Gaza Strip would lead to a more serious Palestinian response. The resistance issued warnings to the Israeli people to remain in their shelters or steer clear of certain areas. The warning came after an Israeli coach carrying soldiers was hit by an anti-tank missile on Monday. The timing was deliberate; it came after the soldiers had disembarked, thus avoiding a heavy death toll which, it was calculated correctly, would have led to an intensification of the confrontation. At the end of all of this, the IDF has been left with a failure, which prompted it to destroy the most prominent Palestinian television station in Gaza in what looked like a fit of pique.
Calm has returned with the ceasefire and, despite the losses, wounds and rubble, the Palestinians have resumed their Great March of Return protests with a sense of triumph. Meanwhile, the Israeli public have learnt yet again what it is like to live under a reckless leadership that has no qualms about killing Palestinian civilians and destroying their facilities but is unable to break their indomitable will.
The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.