Israel and Hamas: Around and around we go – analysis

Israel has a working policy in the north, why can’t it do the same in the south?

Soldiers taking part in an IDF drill simulating war with Hamas (photo credit: IDF SPOKESPERSON'S UNIT)
Soldiers taking part in an IDF drill simulating war with Hamas -photo credit: IDF SPOKESPERSON’S UNIT)

Let’s be real. It’s not some major achievement. It’s just the end of yet another round of fighting between Israel and Hamas.

Several rounds of violent clashes between the Israeli military and terror groups have taken place in the Gaza Strip. All of them ending without any solution.

The last three weeks of incendiary and explosive balloons, along with rocket attacks and retaliatory airstrikes, were just business as usual.

Except that this time, they ended without any fatalities and both sides made public statements regarding the ceasefire.

On Monday, Hamas explicitly stated it had agreed. Israel tacitly acknowledged the agreement by promising to reopen the fishing zone and border crossings and resuming fuel transfers if calm is maintained.

On Tuesday morning, IDF Spokesperson Brig.-Gen. Hidai Zilberman spoke to both Army Radio and KAN Radio, saying that “last night’s statement by Hamas is due to a change in our policy of sovereignty violation.”

Zilberman credited the ceasefire to near-nightly airstrikes by the Israeli Air Force on some 100 Hamas targets including observation posts, underground infrastructure, and munition caches “along with the severe sanctions we placed on them” such as closing the crossings and fishing zone as well as the stopping of fuel for Gaza’s electricity.

The spokesperson also said that growing concerns about the coronavirus outbreak in the Strip and the promise of Qatari aid money also helped bring the latest fighting to a close.

“At the end of the day, the strikes, sanctions, corona, and money is what brought them to make their statement,” Zilberman saidHours before the ceasefire was announced, Defense Minister Benny Gantz met with IDF Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. Aviv Kochavi, the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT) Maj.-Gen Kamil Abu Rukun and the IDF’s Military Advocate General Brig.-Gen. Sharon Afek.

The topic of discussion, of course, was Gaza.

Prior to the meeting, Gantz spoke with The Jerusalem Post and said that Israel had changed its security policy and that no balloon or rocket had been left unanswered. “A balloon is just as unacceptable as rockets, but we decide the strength of the response based on our interest,” he said, adding that Israel would be “happy” to help Gaza medically regarding the increase in Coronavirus cases if “they will come to their senses and take the security aspect away in order to fight corona. But it’s in their hands.”

So they came to their senses? Or was it both sides understood it’s just another round in the many yet to come.

Both Hamas and Israel are too preoccupied right now to have escalated to a full-blown battle or a round similar to Operation Black Belt in November 2019, after the IDF killed Palestinian Islamic Jihad leader Baha Abu al-Ata.

Coronavirus, possible elections, recession, you name it. Both sides, which are capable of causing much more damage to each other, did not see the need to escalate further. Just like the last round in April.

But nothing has changed since then. And nothing will likely change in the near future.

The pressure will once again build up until balloons and rockets are launched from the blockaded coastal enclave, and the IDF will beat its drums of war before a ceasefire is agreed to.

Let’s also turn northwards, where the IDF has been on high alert for over a month in anticipation of an attack by Hezbollah, in retaliation for a July 20th airstrike blamed on Israel which killed a member of the group.

Since then, there have been no attacks blamed on the Jewish State. None, until last night.

Less than an hour after Hamas announced the ceasefire, Syrian air defenses were activated against “hostile targets” in the skies over southern Damascus.

Tuesday’s airstrikes are estimated to have killed some 11 people.

Though Israel has remained mum on the strikes, Gantz and Zilberman both hinted that the IAF was continuing its “war-between-wars” campaign on its northern front, stopping weapons shipments from getting to Hezbollah.

“We have freedom of operation to act in order to implement our agenda over Syria and the region. We will continue our activity across the region.. our only interest is security. That’s it,” Gantz told the Post hours before the strikes.

Echoing Gantz, Zilberman said that “the IDF is working day and night to secure strategic objectives with a series of operations, especially in the northern sector.”

Unlike the south, where Israel seems to be going around and around in circles with Hamas, the IDF has a clear strategy and goal in the north. And nothing is getting in its way. Not corona, not possible elections and not tensions with Hezbollah.

So why can’t we stop the cycle in the south? The ritual escalations can stop, but the right strategy has to be found and implemented.

That strategy obviously has to be political, not military.

By ANNA AHRONHEIM – THE JERUSALEM POST

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