Gaza and the war of attrition

Hamas Fighter

After 10 days of fighting in Gaza the Palestinian resistance have destroyed 100 Israeli military vehicles that included tanks, large-scale bulldozers and troop carriers. This is in addition to tens of soldiers killed and injured on the streets of Jabalia, its Camp, Al Zaitoun neigborhood of Gaza City and Rafah.

The figures were given recently by the Izz Al Din Al Qassam military spokesman Abu Obaida, Friday evening. He says the war by the Palestinian resistance on the Israeli army which started a protracted onslaught on these areas of Gaza, is being carried with renewed sense of purpose and destiny.

He adds Palestinian are alive, well and kicking despite the deadly onslaught against them over the last eight months and are ready to meet and stay steadfast against the Israeli invaders. This is not the first time they have entered these places. In Al Zaitoun, they entered the area for the third time. The case is the same for Jabalia. The battle raging now is the second in as many months.

The Israeli army have already said that they already eradicated the presence of Hamas from the north but this is clearly is a wrong assumption. If this was the case, they wouldn’t keep coming back for more with the tactics of the resistance movement far superior, relaying on urban warfare and ease of movement in addition to the deep underground tunnels they are coming out from.

In Al Zaitoun, the Israelis are being hammered with their tanks proving awkward and bulky and resistance fighters having greater edge, moving faster and quicker whilst carrying their “carry on” missiles and shells.

They are already reports the Israeli army had to withdraw from this neigborhood under heavy fire. Now, the battle is continuing in Jabalia and its camp where Palestinian fighters are increasing the tempo through its home-made launchers, missiles, shells, grenades and drones.

Abu Obaida says this is an unequal war between the resistance against one of the strongest armies in the world. However, he adds, the resistance is ready for a long drawn-out conflict if there need be. While he says Hamas is ready for a negotiated settlement in the interest of the Palestinian civilians – over 35,000 killed with 15,000 children and 10,000 women dead – the resistance is ready to continue this war against the Israeli enemy for a long-time if this is what’s required. It is already becoming a war of attrition.

Just before the onslaught on north Gaza, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and the Israeli army were on the verge of another protracted attack on Rafah which has 1.4 million displaced refugees. Some of them – 600,000 so far – are relocating north to Al Mawasi as per the instructions of the Israeli army before a full-blown attack.

However, the Israeli push into Jabalia – which they are yet to penetrate – means their calculations, especially Netanyahu and his Chief of Staff Herzi Halevi may now be altered. Excluding the fact there are now growing mutterings of grievances about the war, the Israeli army is over-stretching itself after months of fighting all over Gaza and may have pushed the Rafah offensive to a later unknown date.

Netanyahu, while insisting on military incursion into the southern city, maybe holding back due to a number of factors. The Israeli army is one, with the other to do with the fact the Palestinian resistance is putting up a strong fight with Israeli soldiers killed and tanks and troop carriers destroyed daily and  Hamas snipers on their trail. The final factor maybe to do with the US President Joe Biden who has repeatedly warned the Israelis not to enter Rafah without a credible plan to protected the displaced Palestinians there.

But can the Americans be trusted since they continue to be the major supplier of weapons to Israel in this drawn-out onslaught. Regardless, Netanyahu might to this as an opportunity not to order a full invasion of Rafah to ease the political heat on him, primarily from the army and the relatives of the 100 and so hostages that continue to be held by Hamas.

He would also be satisfying the call from Biden for the Israeli army is already in east Rafah, hostages’ relatives may continue to be hopeful because they fear a full-scale onslaught will definitely mean their death and dampen voices of dissent among the officers and soldiers. Such manouverings also, may satisfy the extreme rightwing in his coalition cabinet that want him to invade Rafah and end the presence of Hamas.

But this might be a parochial view because of what is happening in northern Gaza which may have indeed pushed back the Israeli offensive in Rafah for further months as the Israeli army is now trying to eradicate Hamas in the north but with no apparent success and is being clobbered daily.

This apparently is becoming a major worry for the Israeli army itself. Some fear if the bloodiness become unbearable soldiers would simply refuse to obey orders if the battles increase and the end of the war is not insight. Already 900 Israeli mothers wrote to Defense Minister Yoav Gallant telling him they don’t want their sons to serve in Gaza.

Gallant, a man who is seen to represent the Israeli army already called on Netanyahu to start looking for a political solution for Gaza rather than continue a war in which the army would lose the “gains” it made in the enclave as he claims, and particularly in light of the fact the army has already said it doesn’t want to stay in Gaza in the so-called “day after”.

Such comments have upset the extreme rightwing lead by Itamar Ben Gvir and Bezalel Smotrich who are calling for the resignation of Gallant with the latter accusing for working for Hamas.

This war has proved divisive for the Israelis themselves, right up from the higher political echelons down to the man-in-the street with endless debates of what to do next. Such internal bickering may only end when the guns are down, the Israeli hostages return and a real political solution is found to the Israeli occupation of Palestinian lands. 

Dr Asmar is an Amman-based writer covering Middle East affairs

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