Israel-Palestine conflict: What is it all about?

May 19, 2021 3:53 PM

“The Germans destroyed our families and homes. Don’t you destroy our hopes.” The Palestinians, then unaware that a separate territory would soon be carved out from amidst their lands (which was announced a year later in 1948), welcomed the aggrieved Jews with open arms.

israel palestine conflictIsraeli attacks have targeted many locations that were suspected to be tunnels for Palestinian militants in Gaza besides targeting the residences of senior Palestinian militant leaders. (Photo source: Reuters)

By Aziz Haider, 

Around the time India was witnessing the first pangs of freedom, in 1947, a ship full of Jewish refugees landed on the coast of Palestine, with banners which read: “The Germans destroyed our families and homes. Don’t you destroy our hopes.” The Palestinians, then unaware that a separate territory would soon be carved out from amidst their lands (which was announced a year later in 1948), welcomed the aggrieved Jews with open arms.

All this while, the land has continued to shrink for the Palestinians, who once considered the entire region as their territory, while Israel, the new homeland of the Jews not only continued to gain on wealth, prosperity and might but also on territory, obviously at the cost of the Palestinian lands, situated as they were right amidst nearly half a dozen foes, who refused to acknowledge the country and also conspired and plotted to obliterate Israel from the map of the region. Consequently, at least 4 wars were raged against Israel, first in 1948 itself, then in 1967 and 1973 and, later the Hezbollah-Israel war, fought in 2006. Israel convincingly won the first three wars, obviously because of support of the US, except for the 2006 skirmishes with the Hezbollah, where the Israeli losses were far enough for it to be called an outright victory.

One of the biggest mistakes that Israel committed in 2006 was to enter its forces into Lebanon, which enabled Hezbollah guerillas to inflict good enough losses on the Israeli Defense Forces or IDF as they are called. Is it for this reason that the IDF has so far refrained from entering its soldiers inside the Gaza territory and confined itself to where they have an outright advantage over Palestinians i.e. use of air and missile power. As per reports, IDF has even dropped US-made MK-84 – one of the heavy unguided bombs – which owing to the high amount of explosive content packed inside, is capable of destroying metal and concrete and forming a crater 15 m wide and 11 m deep. Building after building is being destroyed and obviously the casualties are mounting, including those of women and kids. Israel’s severe attack is aimed at destroying the network of tunnels inside Gaza, some of which even enter the neighbouring Israeli or Egyptian territory and are even rumoured to go as far as the West Bank, more than a 100 km away.

There have also been rumours of Israel firing 8 internationally-banned phosphorous shells on Gaza. Israel has also made an unprecedented bombardment of economic facilities in Gaza this time, owned by the private sector, as well as several transport trucks in Rafah. Israel takes plea that these facilities were being used by Hamas to hide their rockets and ammunition.

Israeli attacks have targeted many locations that were suspected to be tunnels for Palestinian militants in Gaza besides targeting the residences of senior Palestinian militant leaders. One such attack led to the killing of Hussam Abu Harbeed, who was the Commander of the Northern Brigade in the Al Quds Brigade, and was Israel’s most wanted man for about 15 years.

What has fueled the Israeli anger against Hamas and the Palestinians living in the Gaza strip is the barrage of thousands of missiles, even though crude, which they have fired upon the Israeli towns and cities. Though most of these rockets were intercepted by the now-famous Iron Dome system, many escaped being destroyed mid-way and fell on the Israeli towns, inflicting damage and casualties. The Palestinians, who till now showed themselves as oppressed to the world through fighting the world’s most sophisticated army with stones, have now acquired fire-power that is capable of penetrating the shield of safety that the Iron Dome provided so far.

The rocket attack was initiated by Hamas but Al-Qassam Brigade felt left behind from all the publicity that Hamas was getting. Soon it too was propelling rockets at Zionist targets.

The growing mistrust between the Palestinians and the Jews has resulted in several street fights and skirmishes in various towns inside Israel. Violent clashes in various areas in Jerusalem have been reported with Palestinians attacking settler buildings and putting police vehicles on fire.

The growing distrust and enmity between the two sides was perfectly reflected in a social media post where a Jewish child, approx 8 years old, was seen carrying a M4A1 rifle next to an IDF soldier in Al-Shuhada Street in the Hebron area to counter the demonstrations of the Arabs. On the other hand, social media was witness to another photograph of a young Palestinian boy, far younger than the 8 year old Israeli kid, and in his nappies, carrying a milk bottle in one hand, and a big sized rock in the other.

These two pictures perfectly reveal the anomaly that exists between the two warring sides with Israel surely having a far greater edge over the Palestinians. Israel has tried to win the propaganda war by repeatedly showing to the world how the Palestinians repeatedly attack their soldiers and civilians with stones, the Palestinian claim that due to Israel’s regulation for compulsory military service of men & women, these ‘civilians’ are just reserve duty members for Israel; a view not taken up by the world. Israel views every stone that is hit towards its civilians and force as an existential threat against the country.

Israel has vowed to continue its attacks until the last remnants of Palestinian capability to attack Israel remains. Palestinians too are now asking for truce, as they know the more the war continues, world opinion is shifting towards them. There is also a major risk of this war escalating so much so that Israel may end up fighting a 5-front war. There’s already Hamas on one side and there is Hezbollah in Lebanon and on Golan heights in Syria and anger against Israel is also brewing up in neighbouring Jordan. The Palestinians within Israel, in particular Jerusalem, could make it a 5-front war.

Sheikh Safiuddeen, head of Hezbollah’s executive council has already issued a statement as per which “Hezbollah is looking for the day on which it joins the Palestinian Resistance to fight against the Israeli enemy on all fronts.”

Israel too knows the threat and has opened up bomb shelters in the Galilee in the North. There are reports of IDF (Israeli Defence Force) firing bullets and a stun grenade at a Lebanese Army Intelligence patrol near the fence between the two countries, in retaliation to 6 projectiles fired from Lebanon towards Northern Israel. On the other hand, Lebanese media has reported that the IDF has launched light bombs in the area of Miss al-Jabal in southern Lebanon.

The real threat is the entry of powers outside of the region that are already rolling up their sleeves in the vicinity. Russia is just next door, across the border in Syria and has helped Hezbollah fight against the US-supported militant groups who were aiming to oust Bashar al-Assad. China has set up a military base in Djibouti while Russia’s penchant for warm waters continues; it is looking for a base in neighbouring Egypt as well. Iran’s presence in Syria and Lebanon and perhaps even in Gaza is known to the world. While Turkey has already given an offer of assistance to the Palestinian Government, as per which it would provide aid through the seas.

Israel is surrounded by the Arab countries for whom, despite the fact that President Trump tried to bring some of them to make good ties with Israel, it is very difficult to ignore the raging public opinion against Israel. The force with which Iran, Turkey and in particular China and Russia urged for the UN session on Israel-Gaza conflict led to President Biden announcing immediate support for Israel, which could boomerang with China, Russia, Iran and Turkey using it to woo the countries in the region against the US and Israel. Already, an article has come up in a Chinese backed newspaper talking of how US (mis)treats the Muslims.

It is because of these adversaries who are looking to secure their foothold in the region that Biden has hurriedly approved a US$ 735 million worth of weapons for Israel. There could be no other reason as Israel is already a major exporter of weapons and its army is one of the most equipped armies in the world.

Biden perhaps knows that the US is less relevant than ever this time in Gaza. This could be one reason for the immediate announcement of weapon support to Israel. The Palestinian resistance has placed Israel and its supporters in an unprecedented deadlock. While Israel would like to end the Palestinian firepower once and for all, it knows that if the war continues for long, other countries might get sucked in, which would not be to anybody’s advantage. Sanity therefore is in an immediate ceasefire and curb on all hostilities.

(The author is an Independent Analyst. Views expressed are personal and do not reflect the official position or policy of Financial Express Online. He can be reached at: azizhaider1@gmail.com)

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