The situation in Israel was grim as the residents near the border panicked as regular rockets were fired at them.
New Delhi: The 66 hours of intense exchange between the State of Israel and the Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) terror group ended with a ceasefire at 11.30 PM on 7 August, but there’s still an uneasy calm in the parts of Southern and Central Israel and the war is far from being over in Gaza. The operation “Breaking Dawn” launched by the Israel Defence Force (IDF) was against military infrastructure (including military posts, weapon manufacturing facilities and weapons stores) and targeted the PIJ operatives who were planning to carry out an attack.
The crisis started with the arrest of Bassam al-Saadi, the head of the PIJ in the West Bank and his closest aide Asharaf al-Jada on 1 August in Jenin by an Israeli special forces operation. The PIJ was increasing its presence in the West Bank and as the statement from Israel’s Security Agency, Shabak mentioned that Al-Saadi was behind the military buildup in the region. Even though the PIJ lacked the power and efficiency in the West Bank when compared to Gaza, it was still important for Israel to contain their buildup which might escalate its military capabilities in the future.
The PIJ after the arrest of Al-Saadi alerted all its units and according to intelligence reports, they were planning attacks on Israel using anti-tank missiles close to the border region. The IDF had closed all the roads near the Gaza Strip to avoid any civilian casualties and much of Israel’s southern part was under lockdown from 2 August. he IDF Foreign Press Desk, in an interview with this author, mentioned that they identified Islamic Jihad threats within the Gaza Strip and prepared in accordance, moving troops to secure areas further away from the protective barrier and closing surrounding civilian infrastructure. The IDF also stationed additional units from the Armoured and Artillery Corps in the region to respond in the event of an escalation.
Israel hence took the initiative to neutralise the threats and surprised the PIJ by using its Air Force to strike their Northern commander, Taysir Al-Jabari’s apartment in the Palestine tower on 5 August, along with the other terror cells which were planning to use anti-tank missiles. On 6 August, Israel also eliminated Khaled Mansour, the commander of the Southern Region and one of the founders of the Al-Quds Brigades group in the Gaza Strip. The choice of targeting Al-Jabari was very calculated as he was planning the attacks from Gaza in coordination with the leadership in Lebanon and he was one of the most prominent leaders of the movement after the death of Baha Abu Al-Ata in November 2019.
RETALIATION FROM PALESTINIAN ISLAMIC JIHAD
The Palestinian militant organisations retaliated after the death of Al-Jabari and Mansour by firing around 1,000 projectiles toward Israel, targeting the southern region of Tel Aviv, west of Jerusalem and Beer Sheva of the Negev desert. While the range of the rockets shows that some of the rockets have reached Central Israel but most of them were targeted around the cities near the Gaza border. The Israeli Iron Dome defence system successfully intercepted between 96% to 97% of the rockets and around 160 rockets fell short of crossing the Gaza border killing at least 9 people, the IDF said. The Hamas-run Health Ministry mentioned the death toll to be 44, but didn’t put out an exact number of militants in that figure. The total death toll the IDF also mentioned that over 140 assets belonging to the PIJ were also destroyed.
The situation, however, in Israel was grim as the residents near the border panicked as regular rockets were fired at them. There were red alert sirens heard in Central and Southern Israel as incoming rockets were detected. India Persaud Journalist with i24 news and creator of the Inside Israel Show was caught in a similar situation where she had to sit in a bomb shelter. In an interview with this author, she mentioned that during an interception “the entire community shakes and you can feel it in your body. When you hear the boom sound, it gives you a feeling whether you will even make it.” She further added that life in Tel Aviv was at a standstill and the beaches were empty as people feared they might not find a bomb shelter nearby if they are at the beach.
NON-INTERFERENCE POLICY OF HAMAS
Hamas wasn’t involved in this conflict and possibly it might still be recovering from the damages of the last war or it wants to hold on to humanitarian assistance from the Israelis. Eli Karmon, Israeli Political Scientist and Senior Research Scholar at the International Institute for Counter-terrorism mentioned that Hamas will be “satisfied with the PIJ being hit especially since it was turning out to be a significant military force and acting against the interest of Hamas at times. It was also strengthening its bases in the Hebron, Jenin and Nablus area which would impact Hamas’ plan of taking over the Palestinian authority. Hamas also ‘realised the economic loss that it might encounter with the Gaza border being closed’ and especially essentials like fuel running out.”
IMPACT ON THE UPCOMING ELECTIONS
There has been no escalation after the ceasefire but the PIJ will rebuild its military capabilities and a new generation of commanders will replace the ones killed in the operation. There are no status-quo changes in Gaza in the long term and the humanitarian crisis will see no end. There has been contradictory messaging on the condition for a ceasefire as PIJ expects the release of Al-Saadi but Israel denied any agreements like that. Eli Karmon mentioned that the release of Al-Saadi isn’t very clear but “the only concession Israel will make is to liberate Khalil Awawdeh, who is arrested by an administrative order and was not put on trial.” With the upcoming elections in November, Yair Lapid, without any military background, managed to successfully lead the operation and also reached out to Gazans with an alternate way of putting away endless bloody confrontations and embracing a life of dignity and peace. The operation overall sends a strong and clear message to Iran and its proxies and sets a rule in Gaza of deterring using military force even when the enemy is preempting a move. Will this operation affect the outcome of the election and the popularity of Yair Lapid? Only time will tell.
Ratnadeep Chakraborty is the Co-founder of an independent media company that covers the spheres of strategic affairs called The Honest Critique. He is also the host of the podcast series, Line of Truth. Ratnadeep writes on issues related to the developments in West Asia particularly Israel, terrorism and non-state Militant actors.