By Liam Bailey
The biggest shock in operation "Autumn Rains" is the strength of the Gaza Palestinians resolve.
Operation Autumn Clouds (1) has, so far been very similar to all Israeli operations against its Palestinian occupants in recent times, openly disproportionate, extremely indiscriminate against civilians, disregarding of International Law in the hope of breaking their enemies resolve and unsuccessful in their aims. Do Israel’s leaders still think that if they kill enough civilians, especially children, eventually the Palestinian majority, those not active in the resistance will say enough is enough and pressure the terrorists to stop attacking Israel… a strategy that’s past causes its future failure?
A lot has happened in the last few days of Israel’s latest Gaza strategy… The Israeli Security Cabinet proposed expanding the Gaza offensive in a more determined effort to halt the Qassam attacks Wed. 22. There were 80 rocket attacks in the ten days before the meeting. The day after the meeting; Nov. 23 Israel rejected what was hailed as a landmark truce offer from Islamic Jihad leader Khader Habib. Habib said Hamas and Fatah, as well as several smaller groups had agreed an offer to halt rocket attacks if Israel halts its Gaza offensive, in a meeting with the Palestinian Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh. Haniyeh has since confirmed the report. Also Nov. 23, a 64 year old woman blew herself up in a revenge suicide attack –the oldest of the 100 suicide bombers to attack Israel in the last six years- against Israeli forces sweeping the Jebaliya refugee camp. Just a day later two anti-tank missiles were fired at an IDF engineering vehicle and two Palestinians were shot dead in a gunfight. The gunfight was triggered by militants setting a bomb off near IDF forces in Gaza. One of the Palestinians killed has been confirmed by Hamas as a militant and cameraman from the group’s armed wing, the other, tragically, a ten year old boy. Some reports say the boy was armed, others call him a militant but I refuse to, I would say mislead and murdered.
Despite the 105 Palestinians killed since operation Autumn Clouds began Nov.1, according to the Palestinian maan news agency quoting medical staff. Autumn Clouds -commonly for Israel of late- has so far failed to achieve its aim of stopping the Qassam rocket attacks. When asked about the planned expansion of the operation an IDF spokesman said there have been 157 rockets fired from the strip this month. Attacks which killed two Israelis in Sderot. Autumn Clouds is the continuance of Operation Summer Rains, according to the same maan news agency figures the combined death toll for the operations is 400 Palestinians since Summer Rains began Jun. 2006. An operation total that does not tell the misery caused by the deaths of innocent civilians, like the 20 Palestinians killed, mostly children in the inerrant shelling of Beit Hanoun Nov. 8; another example of Israel’s indiscriminate use of its superior weaponry, designed to break Palestinian resolve, instead strengthening their will to resist.
The predecessor of the latest offensive, Operation Summer Rains (2) was the biggest military operation in Gaza since the Israeli disengagement Sep. 2005 ended Israeli military rule in Gaza. Disengagement however didn’t end the occupation as far as the Palestinians were concerned.
Israeli troops surround Gaza, its aircraft fly over it and it has closed the crossing to Egypt stranding hundreds of people, Mohamed Edwan head of the Palestinian president’s press office told the World Peace Herald. Disengagement was presented as a change in Israel’s strategy toward the occupied territories, unfortunately that was as far as it went. The disproportionate violence continued, as did the Palestinian rocket attacks.
Israel fired (3) between 7000 and 9000 heavy artillery shells into Gaza, killing 80 Palestinians in six months between its withdrawal in September 2005 and March 2006, Palestinian rocket attacks are estimated at 1000 for the same period. A further 5100 Israeli artillery rounds were fired tit for tat between the end of Mar. 2006 and the end of May 2006, with 800 Qassam rocket attacks. June 9 saw Operation Summer Rains was sparked off by a cross border raid Jun. 25 in which militants from several Palestinian groups, including Hamas’ military wing killed two IDF soldiers and captured Corporal Gilad Shalit.
Within hours of operation summer rains starting several Palestinian civilian population centres were targeted, bridges were destroyed effectively splitting Gaza in two and Gaza’s only power station was destroyed leaving the population without power and water. If anything, dealing with the trauma of almost constant bombardment (4) and frequent ground force incursions (5), both killing many Palestinian civilians, while an international boycott of the elected Hamas government placed them in extreme poverty; quite possibly left Palestinians with only one thing; their religion to believe in, their religion to get them through.
Like Operation Autumn Clouds, Operation Summer Rains failed to achieve its aims of ending the frequent Qassam rocket attacks launched against Israel from the Gaza strip, and freeing captured Israeli corporal Gilad Shalit.
Therefore, Summer Rains offensive and its many expansions strengthened the Palestinian resistance. So, Israel can expand its current Gaza offensive forever more, it can send every IDF soldier into Gaza and increase bombardment and artillery shelling ten fold and the Gazan’s resolve will remain intact and rockets will still land in Israel. The Palestinians will still fight by whatever means available for the return of their holy land, and the right of their brothers, descendants of those cruelly expelled by Israel 1948-49 (6) to return to an independent Palestinian state, at the same time ensuring that the thousands of Palestinians killed in the decades of conflict haven’t died in vain.
So, their will be no peace in the Middle East till Israel is ready to compromise, returning the land it gained in the 1967 six day war (7) would certainly be a step in the right direction. If Israel did this perhaps the Palestinians would in return compromise on some of the terms of the right to return, which Israel can’t grant fully and maintain a Jewish state. A recent poll (8) suggested most Palestinians would only return to live in an independent Palestinian state, if that can ever be established.
As I detailed in my last article (9) Israel currently has no incentive to make any sort of compromise. Only the UN, which –largely because of the U.S- has failed miserably in the past, can motivate Israel into such a compromise and only in line with a change in U.S policy towards the Jewish state. I have come to believe a new resolution calling on Israel to return the land gained in the six day war, creating an independent Palestinian state in the West Bank and Gaza -as Hamas has called for (10)- and granting Palestinians directly descended to those expelled in the 1948 war (11) the right to return and live peacefully in the newly formed Palestinian state. Alongside a U.S threat to stop acting as a shield, financially and militarily unless Israel follows the resolution to the letter is possibly the only way to achieve a peaceful resolution to the Israeli Palestinian conflict.
* Liam Bailey (email@example.com) is a UK freelance journalist. He is trying to draw attention to better ways world governments could handle crisis points like the Israeli/Palestinian conflict.
(5) i http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2006_Israel-Gaza_conflict#IDF_enters_Southern_Gaza
iii http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2006_Israel– Gaza_conflict#Ground_Operation_in_Northern_Gaza_Strip