By Robert Inlakesh
Israel’s approach as of late, when it comes to military escalation with the resistance factions in the illegally besieged Gaza Strip, has shifted to a strategy of great caution, something that just two years ago was not even close to the case. Back in 2018, Israeli strikes upon the besieged Gaza Strip were routine and all rounds of tensions were almost solely initiated by Israel. Yet, in 2020, we now see a very different approach from the Israeli occupation army.
This Sunday morning batches of rockets were fired from the besieged coastal enclave into adjacent settlement areas and even beyond into areas south of Tel Aviv. The rocket fire notably bypassed Israeli air defence systems and caused chaos amongst the Israeli public. In the past, Tel Aviv was thought to have been a redline for Israel and would usually lead to Israel disproportionately responding and exacting a cost on Gaza’s civilian population.
However, this Sunday, Israel’s response was to strike nothing of significance, only open land. In 2014 Israeli soldiers learnt a tough lesson, after entering into battle with the armed wings of Hamas and Islamic Jihad, suffering 67 casualties amongst their soldiers. Realistically, Israel know that the only way to deal a decisive blow to the Palestinian resistance, is to go in on the ground and take out some of the resistance’s underground infrastructure. Yet Israel is not ready to do this, especially now, as the Al-Qassam Brigades (Hamas armed wing) and Al-Quds Brigades (Islamic Jihad armed wing) have significantly developed their military capabilities. This is despite the fact that the Israeli military has been training extensively for fighting in ‘Urban Warfare’ settings.
The Palestinian resistance has shown through its development of its rockets, drones and on the ground military tactics, that it is now a force to be reckoned with. Just the fact alone that Israel is hesitant to launch its usual disproportionate reprisals against the resistance’s rockets is a huge step forward in terms of Gazan resistance’s strength.
This seems to be proving that the Palestinian resistance in Gaza is shaping up to follow in the footsteps of the Lebanese resistance in Lebanon. Lebanese Hezbollah, which was officially created in 1985 as a reaction to Israeli aggression and occupation of Lebanese territory, at first constituted a guerilla group armed with largely “primitive weapons”. However, with help from allies and over-time as the group grew, it became a real military force, which ended up liberating Southern Lebanon from Israeli occupation in 2000 and later in 2006 becoming the first Arab resistance organisation to hand Israel a decisive defeat.
For some time, the Palestinian armed factions in Gaza have lagged behind in terms of their military capabilities, largely due to lack of access to weaponry. Although recently, it seems as if the power of the Palestinian resistance is beginning to strike fear into the Israelis and dictate what moves they choose to make. This could be put down to the innovative ways in which Palestinian armed factions have used unexploded Israeli munitions and technology, that has been dropped, seized or landed in Gaza. Using engineers to morph these weapons, which were intended to be used against Palestinians, into weapons which can be used against Israel.
When Did Gaza’s Resistance Factions Begin To Show Their Developed Power?
Perhaps the first signs we saw of a different Gazan resistance was in November of 2018, when a team of Israeli special forces operatives attempted to kidnap a Hamas Commander in Khan Yunis (Southern Gaza). The Israeli operation was an embarrassing failure and resulted in the death of a Senior Israeli Special Forces Commander. The botched raid then broke out into a fire fight, in which overwhelmingly Palestinian civilians were killed by Israel.
Following the escalation, the Israeli military was demoralised, Israel’s Defense Minister, Avigdor Leiberman, was forced to quit and over 70% of Israelis had said they were dissatisfied with Netanyahu’s management of the situation. After this we saw a dramatic drop in the number of attacks on Gaza in 2019, although there were escalations resulting in again overwhelmingly Palestinian civilians being killed. However, in the case of the escalation just prior to the Eurovision contest hosted in Tel Aviv, Palestinian factions had in that case strategically escalated in order to have an impact on Israeli politics and to punish Netanyahu politically in front of his own population.
The thought of Palestinian resistance taking the initiative to dictate when fighting will stop and start is a significant breakthrough, that little to no Western analysts or pundits have picked up on.
Even in the last most recent round of tensions between Israel and Gaza in August, we saw that Israel bombarded the Gaza Strip for 19 days straight, yet hit nothing of real value to the resistance, nor did the Israelis cross the red line of committing wholesale slaughter of civilians. This escalation occured due to the fact that Israel had attempted to change the rules of engagement in Gaza, by responding to balloons flown by young people across the separation barriers. But Hamas and Islamic Jihad did not allow Israel to assert itself over the people of Gaza and instead rose to the occasion and decided to raise the stakes, to which Israel backed off.
Regardless of the power disparity between Gaza’s resistance groups and the Israeli military, in terms of weapons, the Palestinian fighters have managed to acquire weapons and tactics powerful enough to make Israel think twice when considering military action. This new deterrence capacity – formerly belonging to the Israelis – that has been acquired by the resistance, is not something to be overlooked, and is a major victory in helping prevent Israel from deciding it can simply kill thousands of civilians in Gaza every few years and not pay a price.