By: Prof. Dr. Mohsen Mohammad Saleh.
The Israeli aggression on Gaza Strip (GS), which lasted for two and a half days (5–7/8/2022) and was confronted by the Palestinian Islamic Jihad Movement (PIJ), was not just a passing event, but one with several implications, the most important of which are:
First: The aggression is a part of an Israeli strategy and a round of a broader plan, whose goals are evidently much broader than a mere reaction to field events. Since summer 2021, this strategy has aimed to diminish the accomplishments of the Sword of Jerusalem battle (dubbed by Israel Operation Guardian of the Walls) and erode its impact. It also aims to abolish the “connection” the battle established between the GS and Jerusalem and to undermine the idea of the “unity of the arenas.” Israel has come a long way in achieving its goal through the escalation of al-Aqsa Mosque raids and performing biblical rituals there. Israel scored more points in Ramadan, last April, when the Palestinian factions did not implement their threats to retaliate against the Israeli aggression on the Mosque. Consequently, Israel continues to single out Jerusalem (and its aggression against al-Aqsa Mosque has escalated concomitantly with the aggression on GS), while implementing its Judaization plan.
This also applies to the Israeli repressive measures in the West Bank (WB), as well as the increasing restrictions imposed on the Palestinians in 1948 occupied Palestine.
The Israeli plan aims to disable the resistance in GS, discredit it and portray it as powerless before its people and the Ummah (Arab and Muslim nations), or at least show that it is incapable of implementing its threats.
Also, within this strategy is to take the initiative and preoccupy the resistance in GS with the impact of the siege, the suffering of the people there, and the escalation of protests against the GS government so as to make exhausted and bring it down. It is meant to support the allegations that if the resistance is unable to break the siege and implement its plan, then why does it continue to cause people to suffer? Indeed, such allegations are what the “We Want to Live” movement—which recently has tried to restore its effectiveness—is seeking to spread among people, supported by the propaganda of the Palestinian Authority (PA) in Ramallah, as well as by the Arab normalization and siege regimes.
Therefore, the resistance forces should expect more planned Israeli campaigns and attacks, as it may have become more urgent for the Israelis and their allies to subdue GS in a race against time to make the environment better for Abbas’s succession.
Second: There is a common and arbitrary interpretation of the concept of the “unity of the arenas” which must be addressed and whose standards must be adjusted.
The link created by the Sword of Jerusalem battle in May 2021 between Gaza and Jerusalem, and the accompanying movement and interaction in the rest of WB, the 1948 occupied territories and among Palestinians abroad, gave resistance action a noticeable push and have confused Israel. However, it would be a mistake to think that GS would enter a war with Israel whenever there is a violation in Jerusalem, a crime in WB or an aggression in the 1948 occupied territories.
Wars have their balances, standards, criteria, circumstances, calculations and prices. While there is no slightest doubt about the heroic performance of the GS, the legendary steadfastness of its people, and the school of honor and dignity it presents to the world, there is no need to overload the Strip with expectations beyond what is possible. The unrealistic exaggeration of the resistance’s strength and capabilities is another way to dwarf the resistance and weaken its image and status. A realistic assessment of potentials is the right approach to right decision-making.
Therefore, the “unity of the arenas” must mean the involvement of each arena in confronting the enemy in coordination with the other arenas, each according to its capabilities and circumstances. Remarkably, it does not mean the entry of GS into war whenever an incident occurs here or there. Otherwise, the Israelis will be able to drag Gaza into wars and battles it is not ready for, whenever time and conditions are in Israel’s favor.
Third: There is a relentless Israeli effort to drive a wedge between Hamas and the PIJ.
Israeli propaganda which accompanied the aggression focused on separating these two factions, which are considered the most prominent in the Palestinian resistance action.
However, the leadership of the two parties issued many statements focusing on unity, brotherhood, respect and mutual appreciation. Also, the contacts between them and the arrangement for a joint meeting between the two leaderships helped cut off Israeli propaganda. Nevertheless, this does not negate that some circles affiliated with the PIJ criticized Hamas’s lack of involvement in the battle, while trying to exaggerate the role of the PIJ, at a time when Hamas members were disturbed by the PIJ’s unilateral decision to fight the battle.
Therefore, Hamas and the PIJ should expect more efforts by the Israelis, their allies, to target the cohesion of the resistance forces, and preoccupy them with internal conflicts. This must be met not only with meetings and discussions, but with unitary programs and coordination at all political, military, security, media and mobilization levels.
Fourth: The PIJ is a genuine Palestinian Islamic resistance faction whose sacrifices and solid stances cannot be ignored. However, there are questions related to its field action, which should be noted:
First: With all due appreciation to Sheikh Bassam al-Saadi’s position and role, was it appropriate to fight the last battle of Gaza and link it to the condition of releasing him? For the Israeli authorities practice arbitrary arrests in WB on a systematic and almost daily basis, targeting leaders of all factions, many of whom are from Hamas that leads GS. It is noted that hours after arresting al-Saadi, the Israeli authorities arrested the liberated prisoner and leader of Hamas in Nablus, Mustafa al-Shannar.
Secondly, if there is a leadership adopting the resistance project in GS and a Joint Operations Room that includes all factions, including the PIJ and Hamas, then why didn’t the PIJ call, for example, for an emergency meeting to take the most appropriate decision against the Israeli aggression and the crime of assassinating al-Ja‘bari, and why did the movement unilaterally take the decision?!
Thirdly, as long as the PIJ has escalated its defiance of the enemy and its field movements after the arrest of al-Saadi, why did it not take sufficient measures to protect its most prominent leaders from Israeli attacks. For there were three days between the arrest of al-Saadi and the assassination of al-Jaabari, during which Israel took a set of measures indicating its intention to escalate against the PIJ in GS. These measures included closing the Gaza crossings on 2/8/2022, raising the state of alert on the border with the Strip, and the approval by the Israeli chief of staff, on 4/8/2022, of a plan for curbing the escalation in GS. Ultimately, the assassination of al-Jaabari in a well-known location that is easy to watch, was not a loss for the PIJ only, but for all Palestinian resistance forces, the Palestinian people and the Ummah.
Fourthly, we cannot ignore much of the talk in the Gazan street about local rockets falling in GS rather than the Israeli side thus causing damage and casualties among Palestinians. Reports by the Israeli army tried to invest in this, claiming that out of every five rockets fired by the resistance one fell in GS. We would not have to discuss this issue had it not been for the confusion that accompanied it. Thus, the PIJ, along with the authorities in GS, need to investigate this matter, uncover the circumstances, address the flaws, if any, and confront any malicious propaganda in return.
Fifth: In light of the foregoing, it is not appropriate to blame Hamas for not participating in the battle, where such engagement would likely lead to a broader and more ferocious confrontation. Hamas might have had to reconsider its decision had the battle lasted for a longer period. However, at the same time, Hamas, which controls GS, not only opened the way for the PIJ to fight the battle, but also provided logistical and information support, and coordinated with the PIJ through the Joint Operations Room. Its media focused on supporting the resistance and the PIJ and holding the enemy responsible.
It appears that Hamas’s general assessments were not in favor of dragging GS into a new battle, and it has already reached the same assessment last April, despite the dangerous escalation in al-Aqsa Mosque and Jerusalem, notwithstanding the high tone of threats launched by the resistance.
The Israeli occupation has prepared well for this battle and chosen the timing that best suits its interests. It was clear to the leadership of the resistance in Gaza that the popular atmosphere was not interested in a new war, and that the political calculations and assessments and the field conditions were completely unfavorable for waging a war that would serve the resistance. Therefore, its decision has nothing to do with claims of Turkish, Qatari, Egyptian or Iranian regional pressure.
Accordingly, the most important lessons drawn from this round are that Palestinians must be wary of the Israeli strategy towards the resistance after the Sword of Jerusalem Battle, they must establish the concept of the “unity of the arenas” on clearer and more firm footing, and must work on strengthening the unity of the resistance factions. Other lessons are that engaging in battles must be in accordance with conditions that best serve the resistance (unless if imposed on it); and the traps set up by Israel must be dealt with wisely and firmly.
Al-Zaytouna Centre for Studies and Consultations, 18/8/2022