Why did Israel just attack Gaza and what does this mean?

On Friday afternoon the Israeli military began bombarding civilian infrastructure in the Gaza Strip, targeting a leading member of a Palestinian armed group known as the Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) movement. Israel quickly announced, following the initial attack, that it was beginning a military operation against the PIJ movement. So, what does this mean, what happened and why now?

The initial strikes on Friday killed ten Palestinians, including a five year old girl and woman in her mid-twenties. Amongst the dead was a commander, Taysir Jaabari, who was in control of the northern district of Gaza for Saraya al-Quds, the armed wing of the PIJ movement. Commander Jaabari was reportedly assassinated following a meeting which was said to have been a brief on discussions with Egyptian mediators, for preventing an escalation with Israel.

At around 9PM (Palestine time), the Palestinian Islamic Jihad movement decided to retaliate with a burst of around 100 rockets into Israeli settlement areas, resulting in minimal damage and no Israeli deaths. Prior to the PIJ movements response, the US ambassador to Israel, Tom Nides, tweeted that “The United States firmly believes that Israel has a right to protect itself. We are engaging with different parties and urge all sides for calm.” The message was telling, especially due to the fact that not a single rocket or bullet had yet been fired at Israeli targets, instead, it was Israel that had just aggressed and killed 10 Palestinians, injuring 55.

By Sunday morning, with hundreds of rockets having been fired at Israel and tens of tons of explosives dropped on Gaza, the death toll was the following: 31 Palestinians were confirmed dead by the Gaza Health Ministry, including at least 6 children and 3 women, whilst there wasn’t a single Israeli death or serious injury.

When the Egyptian-mediated ceasefire finally came into play, at 11:30 PM, the total death toll was 44, all of them Palestinian. Israel committed several massacres against Gaza’s civilian population, perhaps the worst occurring the Fallujah cemetery, located in Jabalia refugee camp, where an Israeli airstrike murdered five children. In total, 15 children and 4 women were killed, making up close to half of the casualties.

Why did this happen now?

The timing of Israel’s military operation is very telling, down to the very minute they chose to launch drone strikes into densely populated residential buildings. Israel’s military operation was very clearly an operation which sought to single out the PIJ movement. The interim-Prime Minister of Israel, Yair Lapid, further clarified who this is all about by stating that PIJ is the proxy of the Islamic Republic of Iran. Whilst this assertion is complete non-sense and PIJ had already been in existence for over a decade before receiving significant funding from Tehran, the group is certainly part of a close alliance with Iran.

At the time of Israel’s initial strikes, Ziyad Nakhaleh, PIJ’s secretary general, was being interviewed by Al-Mayadeen TV, during a group delegations visit to Tehran. Timing the strikes so that Ziyad Nakhalah would hear the news on air, sitting in a studio in Tehran, was no mistake. The message Israel was sending was indeed directed toward Iran and was meant to show the Iranian side that Tel Aviv is spitting in their face, tempting Iran to do something about it.

Since the war of May, 2021, the conflict between the Palestinian resistance factions in Gaza and the Israeli regime had been somewhat quiet, short of some minor bombings and rocket fire. Nobody expected that Israel would seek to go to war with Gaza at such a time, which is evidently why it was so easy for Tel Aviv to assassinate a high ranking official in the Islamic Jihad movement. It must be noted that Israel did not deploy a single soldier anywhere near the Gaza Strip, in fact, the soldiers were all hiding in fortified areas and fired from a distance that the Palestinian weapons are not capable of targeting them in. When we call this escalation a war, we must take note that Israel simply shot missiles from sophisticated systems and killed people who were posing no threat and were located in residential buildings. The two commanders of the PIJ movement that were killed, Taysir Jaabari and Khaled Mansour, were not actively participating in any military activity, but instead were killed alongside civilians in residential towers.

Israel is seeking to distract from, give concessions and send a message to Lebanese Hezbollah, which it desperately wants to avoid a serious escalation with. Hezbollah, unlike the groups in Gaza, is an extremely powerful military force with the capability of causing catastrophic damage to Israeli infrastructure, the likes of which we have never witnessed before.

Another element to this is the fact that Israeli elections have been called for November, meaning that both Minister of War, Benny Gantz, and Israeli Prime Minister, Yair Lapid, needed a show of force. Especially after all the “security failures” against Palestinian resistance fighters, that took place under the leadership of former PM Naftali Bennett, both Gantz and Lapid needed something to show the Israeli public that they are capable of battering Arabs. This round of escalation has represented a sort of political win for Lapid and Gantz, they can claim to have confronted Gaza without taking a single casualty. Despite it being expected if your soldiers are not actually fighting, but instead waging war through computerized systems and fighter jets that fly too high to shoot down, the Israeli public will feel pride in what took place.

Many try and deny this, but the Israeli public will truly believe that Israel just scored a real victory against Gaza and eliminated 44 terrorists. When confronted with the obvious civilian deaths, for example the women and children, they will justify it by saying that they were “collateral damage”, “they were human shields” and now the new one is to say “Palestinian rockets killed them”. Without going into why these are all ridiculous, if you look on social media at prominent Israelis and what they are saying, these are the three primary excuses that you are going to see. Some however accept that civilians were the targets and even think that this is a good thing, so either way, it’s a win for Israel in their minds.

Although the Palestinian resistance has claimed a win in this case, it is not a win. Neither side can defeat each other decisively, so Israel did not win in terms of achieving anything other than a few cowardly assassinations of PIJ commanders. Yet Israel took a symbolic win, it did exactly as it had planned to do. Tel Aviv has no real targets of military value, which it proved in this latest round, it did not put a dent in the military infrastructure of PIJ and it also failed at its objective of dividing the Palestinian factions, specifically Hamas and PIJ.  Hamas did not get directly involved in the fighting, but allowed for other factions, including PIJ, to fight and advised them. The Israeli military succeeded at winning against the Palestinian public, killing them and using massacres, along with sophisticated propaganda tactics, which caused many of them to lose hope and point fingers at different parties to blame them for not responding correctly. Ultimately, the ceasefire is only temporary and there will be much more to add to this story.

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By Robert Inlakesh

Robert Inlakesh is a journalist, writer and political analyst, who has lived in and reported from the occupied Palestinian West Bank. He has written for publications such as Mint Press, Mondoweiss, MEMO, and various other outlets. He specializes in analysis of the Middle East, in particular Palestine-Israel. He also works for Press TV as a European correspondent.

(Source: thelastamericanvagabond.com; August 9, 2022; https://bit.ly/3zIuGge)
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