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A morning of victory in Jerusalem

May 26, 2021 at 1:39 pm

Palestinians gather at the Dome of the Rock to celebrate the cease-fire on 21 May 2021 [Eyad Tawil/Anadolu Agency]

Palestine awoke last Friday morning to a new reality. The death and destruction Israel had been visiting upon Gaza came to an end with a 2am ceasefire. More than 230 Palestinians, including 64 children, had been killed by Israel in the Gaza Strip in the preceding eleven days.

The new turn of events, though, was this: the ceasefire was effectively imposed on Israel by the Palestinians themselves, specifically by the resistance factions. The military wing of Hamas and the other armed resistance groups in Gaza worked together under a unified command and showed their massively increased capabilities compared with the previous major Israeli offensive against on Gaza in the summer of 2014.

Even in that assault, the resistance had been serious enough to prevent the Israelis from executing a full-scale ground invasion of Gaza. Israeli troops did not get very far into the Strip in 2014 before the Palestinian resistance fought them off. They were forced to retreat and began instead to destroy entire neighbourhoods from the air.

Israel’s 2021 eleven-day war was no less barbaric than the occupation state’s 51-day war seven years ago. In addition to those killed and injured, tens of thousands of Palestinians are now homeless. Entire apartment blocks were destroyed by the Israeli land, sea and air bombardment.

There is now a new calculation that Israel has to make due to the increased capabilities of the armed resistance. Palestinian fighters have proven their ability to hit targets all over occupied historic Palestine. No Israeli town or city is safe.

Israel’s “Iron Dome” missile defence system proved once again to be a paper tiger. Massive volleys of resistance rockets – combined with decoy and smart targeting strategies – totally overwhelmed the system, making it of little use. After the ceasefire, resistance spokespeople said that they had barely scratched the surface of their arsenal, and that they still have enough munitions left to carry on responding to Israeli bombs for another six months.

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The Israeli leadership now knows that, the next time it wants to launch another brutal war of aggression against Gaza, it will have to factor in the reality that millions of citizens will be forced to retreat to bomb shelters; that Israel’s main international airport will be shut down again; and that the Israeli economy will lose billions once more.

More than that, the Palestinian resistance groups in Gaza proved that they can and will respond to Israeli aggression anywhere in occupied Palestine, not only against the coastal territory. The first Hamas rocket volley was launched on 10 May, remember, in response to Israeli attacks and ethnic cleansing in Jerusalem.

Hamas politburo leader Ismail Haniyeh highlighted this point in a televised speech after the ceasefire came into effect. The movement’s armed wing had made similar statements all along. “The enemy has witnessed and understood that when we said, ‘Do not play with fire, remove your hands from Al-Aqsa Mosque,’ we knew what we were saying,” explained Haniyeh.

Israel is carrying out war crimes against worshippers at Al Aqsa Mosque - Cartoon [Sabaaneh/MiddleEastMonitor]

Israel is carrying out war crimes against worshippers at Al-Aqsa Mosque – Cartoon [Sabaaneh/MiddleEastMonitor]

Israel was given a two-hour ultimatum: end your attacks against Palestinian worshippers in Jerusalem or we will start to return fire. The Israelis didn’t take the warning seriously and ignored it, so Hamas opened fire.

Contrary to Israeli propaganda that Palestinian fighters using civilians as “human shields”, Haniyeh committed the resistance to the opposite: the fighters were clearly the protectors of the people of occupied Palestine.

“This is the resistance of the people of Palestine today,” said the former Palestinian prime minister, naming towns and cities all over Palestine, including some in the territories occupied in 1948 that today form the state of Israel. The resistance groups, he continued, “tell our people that we will be your shield and we will be your sword. Gaza held that sword very strongly… it hit the pillars of the enemy.”

Haniyeh made a point to thank those few states that have directly supported Palestinian fighters: “We also have the duty to thank those who have given arms and money to the resistance: the Islamic Republic of Iran, which has… given with all its support to its resistance.”

He also thanked Qatar and Egypt for what he said was diplomatic support. Egypt brokered the ceasefire between the Palestinian armed factions and Israel. Qatar is the gulf state where Haniyeh now lives.

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Notable by its absence from Haniyeh’s speech was any mention of Syria, which has also been known to support and supply Palestinian resistance factions. There was a breach between Syria and Hamas after the war broke out there in 2011; the Hamas leadership based in Damascus came down on the anti-government side and were obliged to leave the country. Nevertheless, a senior Hamas official, its spokesman in Beirut Osama Hamdan called the other day for a return to normal relations with the Syrian government.

Completely silent during this period has been Palestinian Authority leader Mahmoud Abbas. Protesters in Jerusalem on the morning of victory chanted slogans against him, denouncing him as a collaborator. Abbas has long been deeply unpopular with most Palestinians, due mostly to his only iron policy: that of “security coordination” with Israel. With calls for him to step down before he is removed from office, his days as “president” could be numbered. The morning of victory in Jerusalem could have far-reaching repercussions.

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