Only about half of the 160 rockets (Israel says 400+) fired by Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) on the mass of Israeli settlements flanking the Gaza Strip were intercepted by Israel’s US-funded Iron Dome systems.
This, in itself, is a major military and psychological achievement for the Palestinian resistance. The settlers have lost their security, their time to leave has come.
The PIJ cleverly handled the pre-battle phase by stepping up armed military confrontations in the West Bank, entering into strategic operational coordination with Fatah’s Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigade – particularly in Jenin, Nablus and Tulkarem – and besieging and forcing a curfew on more than 1.5 million Israelis in the southern settlements adjacent to the Gaza Strip.
These confrontations were in retaliation for Israel’s targeting of PIJ’s cadres throughout Palestinian territories this summer. But it was the Israeli leadership which decided on war and must take responsibility for the consequences of its decision, regionally and internationally. The PIJ lured Tel Aviv to war without firing a single missile, and herein lies the miracle.
A war or a skirmish?
The battle is still in its infancy, and in its first two days was limited to the PIJ alone, which stands with its resistance fighters in the face of the mighty Israeli military machine.
The participation of other Palestinian factions in the battlefield, especially Hamas, is still not excluded.
The PIJ’s announcement on Saturday that its military forces are mobilized and prepared may be the first step to what comes next.
It is Israel that began the airstrikes and violated its commitments to previous agreements, most notably by initiating and executing a campaign to assassinate PIJ leaders: most recently Tayseer Al-Jabari, their field commander in the Gaza Strip, and a number of his fellow fighters. For this, Tel Aviv will now have to pay a heavy price.
The resistance in the West Bank and Gaza Strip and their constituents are rushing to join Hamas and its fighters, missiles, drones, and frogmen into the confrontation; to provide protection to the more than two million Palestinians currently under Israel’s absolute rule in Gaza.
The most frequent question asked in the West Bank and Gaza Strip today is “where are Abu Obeida, Mohammad Deif, and Yahya al-Sinwar?” – in reference to the military spokesman of Hamas’ Al-Qassam Brigades, its supreme military commander, and Hamas’ political leader in Gaza, respectively. “How long will they be absent from this battle?”
Israel’s big problem
Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz may have launched the airstrikes on the Gaza Strip on Friday, but he will not be the one to decide the battle’s conclusion. As in the Sword of Jerusalem (Saif al-Quds) conflagration in May 2021, which Gantz incorrectly predicted would last at least a week, he cannot control the outcome of this fight.
That May, to Israel’s utter horror and confusion, for the first time in decades, West Bank, Gaza and 1948 Palestinians banded together to confront Israel over its provocative storming of Al-Aqsa Mosque in East Jerusalem. In one short month, Tel Aviv’s decades-long systematic efforts to separate and compartmentalize these three Palestinian areas was decimated.
Gantz, his army, and his prime minister (Benjamin Netanyahu) were impotent in the face of the multi-front Palestinian response. It was US President Joe Biden who begged Egyptian mediators for a quick intervention because Israel could not sustain the repercussions of one more missile hitting Tel Aviv.
Will Hamas join the fight?
It is clear that Hamas cannot stand by while Israeli raids kill children and bomb towers in the Gaza Strip.
Although somewhat restrained by its Turkish and Arab allies, Hamas – a resistance partner to the PIJ – must ultimately listen to its Palestinian, Arab and Muslim constituents, or risk losing much in the short and medium term.
Daoud Shihab, spokesman for the PIJ’s Al-Quds Brigades, has already said “No” to Arab mediators led by Egypt. The PIJ believes that this is not the time to calm down, but to confront Israel’s aggression, avenge the Palestinian martyrs and ask:
How dare the mediators resume their efforts, talk about ceasefires, and try to halt a justified Palestinian response. Did the Israeli enemy respect its commitments to rebuild the Gaza Strip, refrain from assassinating the leaders of the resistance, and ease years of a harrowing siege?
“We have been deceived by the mediators,” says Mohammad Al Hindi, a member of the Political Bureau of the PIJ movement.
When General Benny Gantz says that his current Gaza operation is to strike the entire PIJ network – in parallel with strikes directed by his security forces in the West Bank – he reveals his plan for a “fitna” (inner rebellion) to tear apart the unity of the resistance and instigate a factional war between the PIJ and Hamas movements. Greater awareness and discipline is required to thwart Gantz’s plan, specifically by Hamas.
On Friday night, the PIJ’s Secretary General Ziad Al-Nakhala declared in an on-air interview with Al-Mayadeen that this war is open: there are no red lines and it will continue until victory.
Nakhala also said he may issue instructions to the PIJ delegation to refuse Egyptian mediation in Cairo, and halt ceasefire negotiations that will serve Israel’s interests only and save Tel Aviv from this trap it fell into with eyes wide open.
A war until liberation?
This is a war that will last. It comes as a precious gift to the Palestinian people and their resistance, and the coming days will reveal shocking and terrifying surprises for the Israelis that will send millions of them into shelters and global isolation.
Hezbollah’s Hisham Safieddine, executive council chairman of the Lebanese resistance movement, recently said: “The resistance has obtained strategic weapons that will break the balance of power, and the enemy’s attempt to prevent their arrival has failed.”
To this he added: “we must be present and not be affected by propaganda media campaigns that want to undermine our capabilities – by the Israeli, US and Gulf media and some of their ‘mignons’ in Lebanon. We will not give up our wealth [natural resources] in our territorial waters,” which means that the gas war is very imminent.
We are facing a war that may have begun in the Gaza Strip, but could, with just one ill-timed spark, transform into a regional war involving many other resistance factions. This comes at a time when western colonialism is facing two major power wars – in Ukraine (with Russia) and East Asia (with China).
Millions anticipating the appearance of Hamas’ Abu Obeida with his red kefiyah may not have to wait long. The Sword of Jerusalem II is in the running to be a much larger and more dangerous confrontation than the Sword of Jerusalem I.
Airports may close very soon, and thousands of Israeli settlers may take to the seas in search of safety from the retaliatory missiles of the resistance. Watch this space and its developments in the coming days.