Amid Israeli warplanes roaring over the Gaza Strip and the Palestinian resistance struggling to defend against the Israeli occupation’s aggressions, regional political and security delegations are busy shuttling between Tel Aviv, Cairo, Doha, Sharm el-Sheikh, Ramallah, and Gaza, in intensive efforts to reach an elusive agreement.
Although only about 1,000 Christians remain in Gaza, according to the census conducted after the May war, the besieged enclave is desperately hoping for gifts from Santa in these next few weeks.
This timeline is significant for reasons beyond Christmas: Palestinian resistance factions have given mediators, especially the Qataris and Egyptians, a year’s-end deadline for the Israelis to implement their post-war promises from six months ago … or else.
Or else what? Resistance sources say that preemptive preparations for a future confrontation are in rapid progress. However, the armed factions have not yet reached a state that would allow them to fight a major war and emerge victorious, as in last May.
According to the sources, this in no way should suggest that the resistance isn’t ready or willing to confront Israeli aggressions at a moment’s notice.
A few weeks ago, Gaza witnessed the overflight of Israeli jets in what many say were maneuvers coordinated with other nations, including Arab states. Others believe that the maneuvers were executed to “update the bank of targets” – the sites Tel Aviv aims to bomb during the next confrontation.
No real reconstruction work has commenced in Gaza nearly seven months after Israeli warplanes carpet bombed the occupied strip. Gazans’ lack of desire for another confrontation with the Israelis was also made evident by the fearful reaction to a recent interview with Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) Secretary General, Ziad Nakhaleh.
During an interview on 24 November on the popular Al Mayadeen channel, Nakhaleh confirmed that “the resistance restored its military capabilities after the Battle of Saif al-Quds (May 2021) and strengthened its weaponry with continuous manufacturing,” adding that “drones are in Gaza, which the resistance manufactures inside the Strip.”
Even more significant was his declaration that the killing of any PIJ cadre would result in the bombing of Tel Aviv. The Cradle has discovered that Egypt was made aware of Nakaleh’s designs in October, which aided the two sides in reaching a satisfactory understanding – with follow-up from Hamas.
The Cradle’s sources also revealed that Nakaleh’s televised announcement came after Gaza’s resistance factions had completed their retaliatory preparations. This information was echoed by Nakhaleh, who said “the resistance workshops never stop working … Everything we lost in this war was compensated and what we had was reinforced, and we are ready for the battle to continue with the same performance and strength.”
During May’s 11-day war, several manufacturing workshops belonging to the resistance sustained significant damage. But this did not actually affect the manufacturing process during or after the war. Our sources say that the resistance retained their ability to continue the uninterrupted bombing of Israeli cities for up to six months.
This is thanks to specific methods used to protect the workshops, which cannot be detailed for obvious security reasons. Our sources confirmed that even if a security breach occurs and a particular workshop is bombed, the tools in it will remain intact.
Resistance factions say there’s also evidence that refutes Israeli propaganda that these capabilities were affected by the heavy bombardment. Over the last two months, between six to nine test missiles were fired every week towards the Mediterranean Sea, with the aim of improving the range, accuracy, and quality of the explosives.
Most importantly, the performance of the armed Palestinian factions during May’s war has reportedly increased widespread support for the resistance in Gaza. This can prove to be crucial for the resistance to obtain new technology. While the Americans and Israelis, in cooperation with the Egyptian army, focus their efforts on the Sinai and the Mediterranean Sea to prevent the entry of weapons, it appears that Iran and the resistance in Gaza bypassed the Sinai route years ago.
Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz revealed on 23 November that a drone launched by Iran from Syria in February 2018 “was not on a direct attack mission… instead, it was used to deliver TNT explosives to militants in the West Bank.”
“Iran has been using drones to transfer weapons to its proxies for use in attacks,” Gantz added.
As a result of this, Israel has been ever more focused on drones headed towards the occupied territories.
The Cradle’s source says that Gaza’s resistance factions emerged from the last war with a set of crucial military, security, and field-level understandings: “These findings are now being used and the flaws are being quickly remedied, because another round might be close and sudden.”
During his recent statements, the PIJ Secretary General concluded: “The enemy will avoid responding to Gaza, because it realizes that a military operation on the Strip will be met with a harsh response. The enemy will realize that it has failed to tame Gaza through war, and that its only recourse now is to do so through economic means.”
The Cradle contacted political authorities in both Palestine and Egypt to find out what these ‘economic means’ were, and whether they can prevent a new war or extend/cancel the deadline set by the resistance for the end of this year.
Our sources explained that there is “active political movement” in the Egyptian-Israeli and Qatari-Israeli communications – with vigorous US interest – to “buy calm” in the occupied Gaza Strip. Over the past two weeks, high-level intelligence delegations from these nations have met in Sharm el-Sheikh and Cairo, and then separately in Tel Aviv.
Here, the Egyptians proposed a long-term ceasefire agreement in Gaza lasting for five years or more. However, Hamas and other resistance factions refused to limit the agreement to just Gaza.
Instead, they requested that the agreement explicitly include the occupied territories of Jerusalem and the West Bank.
To this, the Egyptians responded that Hamas is not in control of the West Bank and that this responsibility fell to the Palestinian Authority (PA). On the issue of Jerusalem, they said it is linked to the Israelis and the US.
Experts say that this proposal could have worked, and was possible and even necessary before war in May, “but what comes after the Sword of Jerusalem is not the same as before. We have been fighting for 10 years to lift or just ease the blockade, and we did not get that. But today, we do not need to solve the issues of Gaza alone, if we are able to unite the homeland.”
Indeed, even the Egyptians noted that Hamas’ tone and way of thinking changed after the Sword of Jerusalem battle. Israel’s western allies have become increasingly apprehensive over the fact that Gaza’s resistance factions are refusing to answer a nagging question: Will Gaza participate in any battle sparked by the regional Axis of Resistance?
When their first proposal was shot down, the Egyptians rushed to discuss an “unannounced calm” in Gaza, the start of reconstruction and economic recovery, and a prisoner exchange process.
Sensing the devil in the details, Hamas fired back by announcing they had not discussed any “calm” before the prisoner exchange was finished, as they did not want to deprive themselves of the opportunity to capture more soldiers if Israeli aggressions continued.
Thanks to this persistence, Cairo announced that it would offer an initiative to Tel Aviv so that the exchange of prisoners coincides with the start of reconstruction. But a dilemma remains: The PA opposes any reconstruction process that excludes them and will even work to block it.
In the face of this, Egyptian intelligence offered to bypass the PA if Hamas agreed to the first offer: a prolonged calm in Gaza. To this, Hamas replied: “This is not our problem … We await your response.”
After that Egyptian concession, Hamas decided to make the task easier for Cairo and sent a detailed proposal explaining its vision for the Palestinian arena. Days later, the Egyptians rejected this plan, drawing the ire of the entire resistance camp who railed against Egypt’s procrastination in reaching solutions and delaying the reconstruction of Gaza.
It now seems that the discussion of ‘economic means’ has been separated from the issues of a truce, prisoner exchange, or reconstruction initiative. The foreign priorities have been made clear: economic benefits to Egypt and Washington’s demand for “calm.”
The former is evidenced by the commencement of several reconstruction projects in the Gaza Strip that will be headed by the Sons of Sinai Company, said to be secretly owned by Mahmoud El-Sisi, the son of Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi. In the past, it was expected that Egypt’s army would facilitate reconstruction with Gazan contractors.
Other “economic means” already underway include an increase in trade activity between Gaza and Egypt, which will provide decent income for the Hamas-run government in Gaza.
But heavy taxes levied by the Egyptian army remain an obstacle to economic recovery, despite Cairo’s promises that it will resolve the issue soon.
Meanwhile, Qatar and Egypt are pressuring Hamas to reduce its demands as a way to “satisfy” the US, in turn allowing Doha and Cairo to ease relations with Hamas.
The Qataris made this clear when they told Hamas that they intend to establish major projects in Gaza – more than from Egypt – but that they have not yet obtained a green light from Washington.
This ‘fantasy’ green light is reportedly contingent on Gaza’s resistance factions effectively laying down their arms, allowing Tel Aviv to focus on other fronts, such as Lebanon, Syria, and Iraq, without the “Gaza headache.”