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Re-formulating the rules of engagement with Gaza

A resident, Maryam El Shawa reacts at wreckage of Hassona building after Israeli warplanes carried out airstrike towards the building in Rimal neighbourhood of Gaza City, Gaza on 26 March 2019. [Hassan Jedi - Anadolu Agency]
A resident, Maryam El Shawa reacts at wreckage of Hassona building after Israeli warplanes carried out airstrike towards the building in Rimal neighbourhood of Gaza City, Gaza on 26 March 2019. [Hassan Jedi - Anadolu Agency]

Last Monday morning, a rocket was fired from Gaza towards the settlement of Mishmeret, near the north-eastern part of Tel Aviv. The Israeli occupation announced that seven Israelis were injured. This was not the only impact of the rocket, as it was followed by other political, security and physical effects.

The rocket destroyed two buildings and affected about 30 other Israeli homes, according to Israeli media. This is the first time a Palestinian rocket has caused such destruction, which shocked the occupation. This caused it to mobilise about half of its army and deploy them along the Gaza fence, but Israel has not been able to take the decision to attack yet.

The rocket was preceded by many events and developments on the ground. Hours before the rocket was fired, the Israeli army oppressed the Palestinian prisoners in the Naqab (Ketziot) Prison. Before the rocket was fired, there were ongoing violations of the Al-Aqsa Mosque among other incidents. We cannot separate such developments from the situation in the Gaza Strip.

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The occupation’s actions are supported by various efforts to maintain and prolong the tragic situation in Gaza, with minor improvements, used like painkillers, if necessary. All of these efforts are working towards a strategy to ensure that the resistance does not use its weapons, while maintaining the state of exhaustion for the Gaza Strip and its people and fuelling the feelings of desperation and frustration.

A few weeks ago, the Gaza Strip witnessed a limited movement lasting two days under the slogan “We want to live”. Despite the legitimate demands of the movement, it was exploited and used to spread hatred and anger towards the resistance and Hamas. Some of the movement’s figures headed the movement with factional statements that harmed the movement and stripped it of its credibility and success.

The occupation and others bet on the explosion of the internal conditions in the Gaza Strip due to the harsh living conditions. They tried to delay all solutions and other options, as well as stall, in order for the resistance to appear indifferent and incapable, while simultaneously intensifying the siege. This was in hopes of causing internal strife and clashes and in hopes of the Gaza Strip fighting and destroying itself instead of the occupation engaging in a fight with Gaza.

Israeli forces intervene with gas bomb as people take part in a protest within the "Great March of Return" and "Palestinian Land Day" demonstrations, in Rafah, Gaza on 30 March 2019  [Abed Rahim Khatib/Anadolu Agency]

Israeli forces intervene with gas bomb as people take part in a protest within the “Great March of Return” and “Palestinian Land Day” demonstrations, in Rafah, Gaza on 30 March 2019
[Abed Rahim Khatib/Anadolu Agency]

The resistance dispelled the false image of incapability when it fired its rocket. It also made a statement two days ago, via Al-Qassam Brigades, saying that the resistance had carried out an early self-activation of the missiles, after the occupation had hoped to see the resistance clash internally, thinking that it was not ready and unwilling to confront it.

In recent days, the occupation has mobilised about half of its army near the separation fence with the Gaza Strip, according to reports. Despite the resistance firing a rocket at the occupation’s towns as a response to the Israeli attacks, the occupation seemed unable to make the decision to engage in a large scale confrontation with Gaza. The resistance has succeeded in imposing new rules of engagement, including the possibility of firing a rocket into Tel Aviv without entering into a war or a major confrontation.

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Timing was an important factor in achieving this. Netanyahu fears any uncalculated or unplanned confrontation with Gaza that could affect his presence in the Israeli elections, scheduled for 9 April, only a few days away.

It is therefore unclear whether the current understandings between the Palestinian resistance and the Egyptian-brokered occupation are real understandings that could lead to a truce that would end the siege, or just a temporary manoeuvre by Netanyahu to see him through the election.

It is, however, clear that the resistance and its factions will change the way they deal with the occupation on the ground, and their tools and choices will not be limited to supporting and backing popular movements and activities such as the Great March of Return and efforts to break the siege. I think that they will be more inclined to take the initiative if they feel they are faced with stalling and manoeuvres several times without real, significant and lasting guarantees.

This article first appeared in Arabic in Al-Arab on 1 April 2019

The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.

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