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Israel’s failures in confronting the resistance groups in Gaza

May 25, 2021 at 3:41 pm

Palestinian children hold candles during a rally amid the ruins of houses destroyed by Israeli strikes, in Gaza City on May 24, 2021 [MOHAMMED ABED/AFP via Getty Images]

When the latest Israeli aggression against the Palestinians in the Gaza Strip came to an end last Friday morning, the various shortcomings and errors of the occupation army and government, which may have compromised the objectives of the military offensive, started to unfold. They may require an internal investigation, as these mistakes contributed to reducing the army’s deterrence factor.

The Israelis are paying attention to what they describe as “a wave of misjudgement of the situation” that prevailed within the government and security agencies over the past few months. They thought that Hamas was preoccupied with lifting the siege on Gaza and addressing the Palestinians’ everyday issues and so would not dare to engage in a military confrontation. Not even, the Israelis believed, to defend Jerusalem, Al-Aqsa Mosque and Sheikh Jarrah neighbourhood. This has prompted the Israeli security agencies to demand answers for this false reading of the movement’s political and military orientations.

Even when Muhammad Al-Deif, the Palestinian resistance groups’ supreme commander warned on Friday 7 May of the repercussions for giving the go-ahead for the settlers to storm Al-Aqsa on 10 May, he was not taken seriously. He was believed to be playing mind games or trying to mobilise the Palestinians, rather than being a genuine threat. However, the defence of Jerusalem proved the sincerity of the threat, and Israel’s failure to assess the situation adequately.

Israel duly launched its 2021 aggression in the same vein as it ended its 2014 offensive, with air strikes on residential tower blocks intended to scare the Palestinians into submission, creating cracks in support for the resistance and pushing it to demand an end to the bombardment. However, the Palestinians emerging from the ruins of their buildings did not react as the Israelis expected them to. The occupation authorities were shocked to hear them call on the resistance to continue standing up to Israel and not to retreat, even though their homes had just been destroyed by the Zionist entity.

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When the resistance groups announced that their new defensive approach was “to respond to bombs with bombs”, and that they would target an Israeli building for every one destroyed in Gaza, the threat to buildings in Ashkelon and Tel Aviv was taken seriously.

Moreover, when the ceasefire agreement was announced, but before it came into force, the Palestinians expected Israelis to commit a massacre before zero hour arrived. The resistance groups warned that they would seek targets across Israel, including Acre in the far north of the country, if that happened. That put paid to any ideas that the occupation forces might have had about shedding as much Palestinian blood as possible before the start of the ceasefire.

The Israeli media has promoted the country’s air defence systems as being capable of countering various types of missiles. The famed Iron Dome missile defence system attracted more praise than any other. However, the rockets launched from Gaza were able to bypass all of the defence systems operated by Israel. Palestinian and Israeli photojournalists captured live images of the Iron Dome’s failure to counter the rockets.

The Israeli army started to analyse the reasons for this. Some attributed it to the sheer number of rockets fired. Each salvo consisted of no less than 50 rockets, and on one occasion Al-Qassam Brigades — the military wing of Hamas — fired 170 rockets in 90 seconds, which was difficult for the Iron Dome system to intercept.

Another strategy to divert Iron Dome missiles was to launch decoy missiles first so that Israel’s anti-ballistic missiles headed for them, which meant that all or most had been fired before the real rockets arrived from Gaza. Palestinian and Israeli bloggers labelled Israel’s much-vaunted defence system, with more than a touch of sarcasm, the “silk” or “plastic” dome.

Although Israel threatened a land invasion to root out the resistance, it did not happen. The factions responded with a similar threat about preparations for the invasion which left the occupation army in no doubt what its troops on the ground could expect to face within Gaza. Israeli soldiers were told that they would be turned from hunters into prey. Their political and military leaders decided against committing them to advance into the “Gaza swamp”.

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Israeli intelligence agencies tried hard to infiltrate the resistance communications network, to no avail. This resulted in many sites being bombed two or three times due to the failure to update Israel’s “target bank”. Technologically speaking, the resistance has extremely discrete and well protected communications, which cannot be intercepted. This helped to limit the number of casualties among the resistance fighters and made it impossible to eavesdrop on their tactical discussions. Eleven days of Israeli bombardment exposed the limitations of the Israelis in this respect.

Despite its vast technical and technological capabilities, Israel also failed to win the propaganda war through which it hoped to attach a veneer of legitimacy to its targeting of civilians in Gaza and win over public opinion. It underestimated the ability of social media to replace mainstream outlets in conveying the reality and brutality of what was happening on the ground. The destruction of the tower block housing the Associated Press and Al Jazeera offices, as well as residential units, clearly didn’t do Israel any favours. Massive demonstrations were held all over the world in protest at what the Zionist state was doing. In standing up to one of the best equipped armies in the world, the Palestinians took control of the moral and legal high ground.

Despite the relentless efforts of Israel’s digital warriors, they failed to promote the Zionist narrative. The failure was compounded by the personal testimonies of Palestinians caught up in 11 days and nights of heavy bombardment. The world knew that Israel targeted civilians deliberately, and bombed their infrastructure and even specific roads, making it impossible for ambulances to reach hospitals with casualties. The lies of the Israeli army about only targeting “terrorist” locations were exposed for all to see. No wonder that many Israelis are calling for an internal investigation into the government’s handling of the whole affair.

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