Another Israeli-Palestinian preventive war


Since last Friday Israel has been relentlessly bombing targets in the Gaza Strip, the open-air prison where 2.3 million people are surviving as best they can. The current Israeli prime minister, Yair Lapid, describes the action as "a precise counter-terrorist operation [to abort] an immediate real threat from Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ), a tentacle of Iran, an operation aimed at killing innocent Israeli citizens".

Israel's highly effective secret services had alerted Lapid's government that the arrest of a senior PIJ leader in the occupied West Bank would be met with a deluge of missiles and mortar shells. Accordingly, Lapid authorised the army's chief of operations, Oded Basiok, to launch a massive arrest operation in the West Bank of PIJ leaders, which was completed on Saturday night with the arrest of the 20 most prominent members, and the destruction in Gaza of the strongholds that serve as safe havens and launching points for attacks on Israel.  Basiok's report to his head of government could not have been more succinct: "The leadership of the military wing of Islamic Jihad in Gaza has been neutralised", which in military parlance translates as physically and definitively eliminated. Among those "neutralised" was the top leader of PIJ, Tayssir Al-Jabari.

Deluge of missiles neutralised by Iron Dome

The Jihad counterattack has not been long in coming, so that no less than 400 missiles and howitzers have been launched from Gaza on Israeli territory in just three days, with special emphasis on the two most emblematic cities: Jerusalem and Tel Aviv, whose inhabitants have seen the sound of sirens announcing imminent attacks return. Much of this deluge of missiles has been intercepted by the so-called Iron Dome mechanism, a system whereby each enemy missile is destroyed by two converging missiles. It is a system that is as effective as it is extremely costly, as the cost of the two neutralising missiles amounts to almost a million euros, to destroy rockets whose rudimentary manufacture barely exceeds 800 euros at best.

This new Israeli-Palestinian clash is the most serious since the clashes of May 2021, when 260 Palestinians were killed compared to 14 on the Israeli side. Then as now, the Jihad described those clashes as a "war", "unleashed by Israel", according to one of the spokesmen of the JIP, Mohammed Al-Hindi, who also announced that "the current battle has only just begun".

An announcement that Israel does not take lightly, since it has decreed a succession of bombardments on Gaza for at least another week, "until it completely neutralises" a terrorist organisation, considered as such by Israel, the United States and the European Union, and which Lapid describes as a "tentacle" of the Iranian regime.  

This is also a torrid August in the Israeli-Palestinian territories. Repeated clashes between Palestinian citizens and Israeli security forces so far this year have already left more than 70 Palestinians dead, further heightening hostility and incidents in Israel's Palestinian-majority towns and villages. This new episode of Israeli-Palestinian 'war' will undoubtedly aggravate this climate of mistrust, if not outright hatred, between the two communities.

For the time being, Egyptian President Abdel Fatah Al-Sisi is multiplying his efforts to avoid escalation, although he has already been met with Israeli refusal to alter his plans: "it is not in our plans," says an Israeli spokesman, "to negotiate a ceasefire now".

And, as always, the greatest impact of this umpteenth Israeli-Palestinian episode will be felt by the Gazans, whose usual hardships will be compounded by the destruction of their only power plant and the tightening of the blockade on access to essential goods and merchandise. The border crossings have been closed by Israel, which has so far failed to respond to the anguished appeal of UN humanitarian coordinator Lynn Hastings, demanding that at least food, medical supplies and fuel be allowed into the Gaza Strip".   

The eternal Israeli-Palestinian problem, far from a solution in sight, seems to be worsening and becoming entrenched again, now in a geopolitical context of serious tensions, which are no longer confined exclusively to the geographic scope of the Middle East.