TThere have been many signs in recent years that the world’s preoccupation with global dangers ranging from climate change to the war in Ukraine has left it increasingly jaundiced by regular reports of conflict between Israel and the Palestinians.
But it would be a spectacular mistake to think that the events precipitated from Gaza in the early hours of Saturday morning are somehow just “the same thing.”
Although the estimated figure of 2,200 to 2,500 rockets fired from the Gaza Strip in a few hours is high, such attacks have been numerous in the past.
But the unexpected and large-scale infiltration of armed Hamas and Islamic Jihad militants into the heart of southern Israeli communities, killing, injuring and kidnapping civilians as well as soldiers, is deeply disturbing. In fact, this did not happen much before the Second Intifada of 2000 to 2004 or during the four deadly wars in Gaza this century.
Many details about how events unfolded remain unclear.
In time, there will undoubtedly be an internal investigation in Israel into why its highly sophisticated intelligence services did not see the operation taking place on the last day of the Jewish holiday of Sukkot.
Or how his army failed to prevent militant units – apparently led by Mohammed Deif, the Hamas military leader who was seriously wounded and almost killed by the Israelis in 2006 – from leaving the famously well-fortified coastal enclave in which there are some two million Palestinians. detained.
But that will hardly answer the question of what Hamas, as the dominant faction inside Gaza, thinks this unprecedented carnage will achieve.
It is of course too easy to list the real grievances of ordinary Palestinians that Hamas can claim to address. These include the long siege of Gaza that has virtually destroyed its internal economy and the recent blocking, in response to protests along the border separation barrier, of allowing up to 20,000 people each day to work in Israel.
There has been a serious rise in violence in the occupied West Bank – on both sides, but seriously fueled by increasing aggressiveness, often with tacit acceptance of the army – against their Palestinian neighbors by Jewish residents of settlements deemed illegal by most Western governments. in international law.
And the most frequently claimed by Hamas leaders this weekend – the “desecration” of Jerusalem’s Al-Aqsa Mosque by far-right Israeli settlers choosing to pray nearby. Palestinians see this as a violation of the delicately maintained status quo around the mosque compound, which Arabs call Haram al-Sharif and Jews call the Temple Mount.
Perhaps Hamas felt incited by what the rival Iranian-backed faction, Islamic Jihad (and some of its own militants), said about its apparent inaction in the face of rapidly deteriorating conditions. life of Palestinians.
But none of this fully explains – or justifies in the eyes of many friends and foes of the Palestinians – the escalation of its modus operandi to the ground attack on southern Israeli communities that began yesterday.
Especially since the war now declared by Netanyahu will, and in fact is already endangering, the lives of countless Palestinian civilians in Gaza, even a ground invasion of the Gaza Strip, which Israel opposes since 2014, is not necessarily excluded.
A driver in Gaza who I have known for 20 years called me and said: “Everyone is afraid in Gaza. Nobody knows what will happen.
Hamas may have concluded that with Israel torn by internal dissension over efforts by the most right-wing government in its history to neutralize its Supreme Court, the country had weakened to a point where it the opportunity to strike.
And certainly some of the intelligence failures he was able to exploit may have been the result of domestic distractions.
The problem, however, with this argument is that the far-right ultranationalist politicians within Netanyahu’s coalition and, to a large extent, at its head, will be among those calling for the most extreme measures against Gaza.
Additionally, as Saturday’s protests against the Supreme Court overhaul were called off, Army reservists who had suspended service in protest began returning to duty in a show of national unity.
It may also be that the dozens of Israeli hostages that armed factions are now holding inside Gaza – like the frightened woman shown in the unauthenticated but plausible video under armed guard on a Gaza street – could deter Israel from take complete action. a large-scale attack on the Gaza Strip. But for now, that seems a far from bankable proposition.
Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant said Saturday that Hamas had made a “serious mistake.” This sounds like standard Israeli rhetoric, familiar from many other conflicts with Gaza.
Events in the coming days or even hours are almost impossible to predict. But for now, it would be foolhardy to assume that this time Gallant was wrong.
Donald Macintyre is the author of “Gaza: Preparing for Dawn”