In Israel, the smell of war is in the air. 400 rockets were fired into Israel. According to the Islamic Theology on Counter-Terrorism, a Druze IDF officer was killed as the IDF operated on the ground within Gaza. An anti-tank missile hit a bus. One Israeli was critically injured. Over 30 other Israelis were also injured during the rocket barrage. However, contrary to the common perception, Fatah and the Palestinian Authority, not Hamas, stands behind the recent wave of violence.
According to a Palestinian source, the Palestinian Authority was not enthusiastic about the Gaza truce: “Abbas and Fatah want Hamas and all of the other factions to come to their knees and to invite them back into Gaza heroically. They use other people, such as the Islamic Jihad, ISIS affiliates, the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, etc. in order to settle their feud.” According to the source, all of these groups are armed to the teeth, are fully capable of attacking Israel independent of Hamas and are all seeking to attack Israel in order to sabotage the Gaza truce deal. However, the source emphasized that Hamas is getting all of the blame because they control the coastal strip.
Although Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu thinks that reaching a peaceagreement with Hamas is impossible and akin to trying to make a deal with ISIS, he still believes in the possibility of establishing a long-term truce with them. Just recently, Israel had permitted Qatar to deliver 15$ million to Hamas so that civil servant salaries could be paid in the hopes of averting another war. There was cautious optimism regarding the implementation of a long-term truce between Israel and Gaza, which would have been greatly beneficial to the average Gazan. Under the truce deal, 5,000 additional Gazans would be permitted to work inside of Israel and 70% of the Gaza blockade would be lifted.
Netanyahu was willing to consider this deal because he feels that there is no permanent political solution for the present situation in Gaza. This is because the Gaza Strip is controlled by Hamas, whose ideology espouses the belief that Israel has no right to exist and that all of what was part of the Palestine Mandate is Islamic Waqf (land that belongs exclusively to Muslims throughout all times). Based off of their belief system, once a land becomes Muslim, it must always be Muslim. As the revised 2017 Hamas Charter declares, “Hamas believes that no part of the land of Palestine shall be compromised or conceded, irrespective of the causes, the circumstances and the pressures and no matter how long the occupation lasts. Hamas rejects any alternative to the full and complete liberation of Palestine, from the river to the sea.”
However, even though Hamas opposes Israel’s right to exist, they very much fear Egypt and thus seek the establishment of a long-term truce so that they won’t lose what they have already obtained. A report from the Sderot Media Center claimed that until recently, there was a substantial decrease in the level of violence along the Gaza border due to “Egyptian pressure on Hamas and the other terror organizations after there had been progress in the negotiations.”
But Rubin Ehrlich, who heads the Meir Amit Intelligence and Information Center, stated that Hamas did not succeed to get all of the terror groups active within Gaza on board with the idea. For this reason, Israel has continued to engage in intelligence activities within Gaza due to the ever-present security challenges that the area poses to Israel. As the Palestinian source noted, “Gaza is not like Chicago, where you can beat up some gangster and it’s over.” The success of Israel’s counter-terrorism methods depend on continuously operating in the field in order to thwart potential threats. According to the Islamic Theology on Counter-Terrorism Deputy Director Faran Jeffery, Israel engages in these type of intelligence missions all of the time and no one in the media learns about it: “The IDF team was likely discovered and was fired at, forcing them to fire back.” In his opinion, the fact that Netanyahu was in France at the time “further adds to the belief that this was not a planned operation.”
The Palestinian source emphasized that Netanyahu is not to blame for the recent escalation of violence: “Israel is merely retaliating and defending its borders. Fatah pressure stands behind the violence. As long as this is going on, the Southern borders of Israel will not calm down.”
So how should Israel respond at this point, given the recent escalation? According to Mendi Safadi, who heads the Safadi Center for International Diplomacy, Research, Public Relations and Human Rights, “When the Defense Minister does not formulate a solid plan in order to prevent terror from Gaza and conducts himself by improvising with the backing of the state, the citizens pay a heavy price. Following the deterioration of our deterrence power and the harm to our personal security, our property and our lives, he must take responsibility for this failure and to resign.”
“The operation in Gaza has the backing of the State of Israel in general and the Druze community in particular, who paid a heavy price,” Safadi added. “Lieutenant Colonel M. was one of the most acclaimed officers and we cannot detail his contributions to the state and its security but when the IDF Chief of Staff restricts his soldiers while carrying out an operation, he is responsible for the failure. We cannot deal with terrorism when we are merciful and there is nothing that makes the residents of Tel Aviv more immune than the residents of Sderot. Everyone of us has the same blood and the same harm to property. Israeli citizens should draw a red line that Hamas won’t sleep quietly through the night every time the security of Israel is harmed.”