When you think about what was involved in this whole operation, why are we so surprised to see that it’s only taken half a year for a ceasefire between sworn enemies to dissolve? When it was first declared in June, public reaction was split – we were hesitant to be too optimistic but at the same time didn’t want to jinx it by predicting how long this pact was going to last. But when we look at how it was broken, the situation becomes sickening. Let’s look at the attacks day by day, before analysing the over-reactions.
27 December 2008:
Israel attacks Gaza in retaliation at failed rocket attacks on them, killing 225 people. Hamas supporters and officials, policemen and civilians are killed.
Palestinian casualties: 225
Israeli casualties: 1
28 December 2008:
The new targets of air strikes by Israel are civilians and crowded areas. Mosques are bombed, as well as houses. Tunnels to Egypt are also bombed. Gaza reacts by firing rockers on Ashdod.
29 December 2008:
The Palestinian retaliation begins with the targetting of a military base. Israel attacks Palestinian Prime Minister Ismail Haniya’s home, the Interior Ministry and the Islamic University.
30 December 2008:
Palestinian rockets reach further in than ever before. Israel targets buildings in military compounds.
31 December 2008:
Israeli attacks intensify, with the targetting of PM Haniya’s house and further bombings of the tunnel leading to Egypt. The Rafah tunnels were the only way of smuggling weapons from Egypt into Gaza, for self-protection. Israel is hit by rockets but there are no casualties.
1 January 2009:
Palestine fires 30 rockets into Israel, without any reported casualties. Israel, on the other hand, bombs the Justice Ministry, Education Ministry, Legislative Assembly and Civil Defence Building. A senior government official, his colleagues and family is killed.
2 January 2009:
20 Palestinian rockets are fired into Israel without any reported casualties. Palestinian children are today’s Palestinian targets, as well as a mosque. Israel justifies its bombing of a house of worship by dubbing it a “terror hub” and accusing it of stockpiling arms.
3 January 2009:
Troops enter Northern Gaza and begin their ground offensive; artillery shells are fired at Gazans. Another attack on a mosque kills 10, and military leader Abu (meaning ‘father’) Zakaria al-Jamal is killed. 20 rockets are fired into Israel with no casualties.
4 January 2009:
Israeli troops march further in, covering land quickly. There is a huge presence of troops, and attacks in Beit Lahiya, Beit Hanoun and Jebaliya refugee camp intensify.
Looking at the numbers of dead and wounded on each side, the disparity in the scale of attacks becomes apparent. The death toll in Palestine rises each day and estimates say it’s near 400. Obviously, at this stage numbers aren’t final and the scales could be tipped one way or another in the coming weeks but so far Israeli casualties are in the dozens. The Gazan government, Hamas, broke the ceasefire and fired rockets at Israel. True, the attacks can’t be forgiven but what Israel should have done was to respond in an appropriate, and proportionate way. Gaza has crude rockets without guiding systems – just look at the numbers and it’s clear that the real harm done to Israel was that the ceasefire was broken and parts of a few cities were attacked. Israel launched huge attacks, have had a much more severe offense than Palestine, and yet claim that Palestinians are the terrorists? Something doesn’t seem quite right here. If the numbers don’t speak for themselves, maybe the pictures will. Courtesy of the Associated Press.
The change from an air, sea and ground attack to a purely ground-based conflict means that this one will be different from several that preceded it. For one, Israel’s military superiority over Palestine has always stopped the latter from inflicting real damage. But now, that all looks to change.
Hamas has been training for years in ground combat and is much more prepared for clashes in the street than the Israeli army. The Qassam Brigades, Hamas’ military wing, has trained with Iran’s Revolutionary Guards and is therefore adept at battling the enemy in an effective way. While the Brigades are small in number, it is clear that there is no shortage of Palestinians willing to engage with Israel in hand-to-hand combat or warfare. If push came to shove and the conflict spread to civilians, there would be a huge militia response – nearly all of Palestine would be in arms.
Hamas has made it clear that it is more than ready for such a confrontation, and Israel should be prepared for the outcome: “Soldiers of the enemy… you must know that a black destiny is waiting for you, and you will either be killed, injured or imprisoned”, said Khaled Meshal, a Hamas leader in exile.
The Israeli army so far has a huge military arsenal and has used it without mercy on Palestinians ever since its creation. There is no doubting its superiority in arms. Its outrageous treatment of Gazans and unrelenting violence means that its perception by Palestinian civilians is hardly pleasant or neutral. For this reason, a ground-based conflict will show Israel the true might of Palestine’s military and the outcome of such a conflict could have much longer-lasting ramifications than any over the last 60 years.