At 5 pm on Monday, the Palestinian resistance in Gaza had issued a one-hour ultimatum to the Israeli occupation authorities, calling on them to end their month-long aggression against Muslim worshippers in Al Aqsa Mosque; refrain from evicting Palestinian families in Sheikh Jarrah; and release Palestinian prisoners detained since the start of the latest increase in tensions in mid-April, which also saw the start of the holy month of Ramadan.
Across the nominal border, the Israeli authorities were confused as they did not believe that the resistance would dare to issue an ultimatum to a country with the strongest army in the region and one of the best equipped in the world. However, the one-hour ultimatum passed, and just two minutes later seven rockets were launched towards Israeli settlements in occupied Jerusalem.
This was confusing for the Israeli political and military leadership; it was the first time that they had had to deal with such serious warnings. The Israeli authorities had asked the settlers’ to cancel their provocative march commemorating the day in 1967 that Israel’s occupation of East Jerusalem began, but did not respond to the other demands. Then the Israeli police raided Al Aqsa Mosque and attacked the Palestinian worshippers inside, broke windows and furniture, and fired tear gas and rubber-coated bullets and sound grenades, causing hundreds of casualties.
Israeli police support Israeli settlers in their theft of Palestinian homes in Jerusalem – Cartoon [Sabaaneh/MiddleEastMonitor]
In response to the Israeli aggression, the Palestinian resistance increased its rate of rocket fire towards Israeli cities and settlements. It renewed its warning and called for the Israeli forces to end the siege of Al-Aqsa Mosque and pull back. The occupation forces met the resistance demand, but this prompted a new Israeli stance.
In Israel, political, military and security analysts could not grasp what was going on in the minds of their politicians and senior military officers, because it was clear that they did not know what to do in this unprecedented situation. Reports came in about Egyptian, Jordanian, Saudi and UN efforts to broker a ceasefire, but the resistance insisted on going ahead until new rules of engagements were fixed.
According to Israeli writer and Arabic affairs specialist Gal Berger, the Palestinian resistance had achieved its goals in its confrontation with Israel. “Hamas could reinforce itself as the defender of Jerusalem,” he told Israel’s Channel 11 TV, “as it is trying to create a new rule which stipulates the fact that any attack on Jerusalem will have an immediate response from Gaza, whatever the price is.”
He pointed out that the resistance in Gaza could have received a ceasefire proposal, and it could have accepted it; not because it was hurt by the response of the Israel Defence Forces, but because it had achieved its goals. In Israel, the leadership believes that Hamas was commissioned by all the Palestinians in the occupied West Bank and Jerusalem, as well as the Arab citizens of Israel, and not just in the Gaza Strip. The attacks by Hamas on Israel, it is believed, hurt the occupation state.
Alex Fishman of Yedioth Ahronoth said that the Palestinian resistance broke all records with its first attack which “broke” the IDF. “Hamas proved its courage when it issued its first-ever warning to Israel regarding its behaviour in Jerusalem,” he acknowledged. The Palestinian resistance in Gaza is mobilising all of the Palestinian community, not just in Gaza. Fishman called on the Israeli leadership to hit Gaza hard, otherwise, the resistance will never be deterred in the future. Going even further, he said that the Israeli leadership should not succumb to international pressure for a ceasefire, in order to kill resistance once and for all.
I am sure that Israel is thinking about this, but the issue is now out of its hands. “It is too late for the Israeli occupation to think of a very short strike against the Palestinian resistance and go back with an easy victory,” said Abu Obeida, a spokesman for the Hamas military wing, Al Qassam Brigades. “We are ready for this battle and we have enough equipment and plans for a very long battle.”
In less than 24 hours, the Palestinian resistance launched about 300 rockets towards Israel, including some with the range to hit Jerusalem. Israeli writer and analyst Yossi Yehoshua described it as a victory for Hamas in the first round by targeting the occupied city regarded as its “united” capital by Israel. “The Israeli leadership does not know what to do and the Palestinians in Jerusalem, the West Bank and Israel are happy.”
My evaluation is that Israel will accept a ceasefire by the end of today or by tomorrow at the latest, for a number of reasons: it does not have enough knowledge about the resistance capabilities, including long-range rockets with 80kg warheads; the economic crisis which has been hitting Israel since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic; the Palestinian consensus that Hamas won through its resistance and popular Arab and international support; and the possibility that Israeli leaders who are involved in attacking the Palestinians could face trials at the International Criminal Court.
With regional and UN attempts to put a ceasefire together, the US called for both sides to deescalate the tension. It is also pushing for a ceasefire, but the situation is different this time. If Israel rejects the ceasefire with Palestinian conditions today, it will be shocked into accepting one after it sees what the resistance is planning for it tomorrow.
The Palestinian resistance is ready and waiting for the Israelis, said one senior member of Al Qassam Brigades. “For every Israeli plan, we have a counter-plan, even to the routes of Israeli flights which have refrained from using Ben Gurion Airport.”
Israeli Defence Minister Benny Gantz has said that he will send Hamas and Islamic Jihad backwards in return for every day that they fire rockets towards Israel. “Following the Israeli offensive on Gaza in 2014, Gantz claimed that he sent us back to the Stone Age,” said the Al-Qassam Brigades member, “but we are still here fighting and preparing for the big battle of liberation. It is not him who decides the rules of engagement, but us.”