An Outright Israeli Defeat or ‘Tactical Victory’ in Jabaliya? – ANALYSIS

Israeli analysts think Israel has failed to subdue Hamas. (Design: Palestine Chronicle)

By Palestine Chronicle Editors

Why did Israel return to Jabaliya, in northern Gaza, on May 12, and why did it withdraw fully from northern Gaza on Friday?

Former Israeli minister Haim Ramon said in an interview on Friday that Israel has failed to subdue what he described as ‘the weakest enemy of Israel’.

In the same interview, with the Israeli newspaper Maariv, Ramon said that Israel is on the brink of an unprecedented strategic defeat in Gaza. 

But this is where Ramon goes wrong in his analysis. According to the former Israeli minister, Hamas has been able to rebuild its strength everywhere Israeli forces have withdrawn, highlighting the army’s ‘surprise’ at the number of Palestinian Resistance fighters in Jabaliya.

Ramon is wrong because we have no evidence to suggest that the Resistance in Jabaliya was destroyed in the first place, in order for it to be ‘rebuilt’ later. 

It is clear that the Israeli military, and analysts, continue to be driven by guesswork, maintaining the same false understanding of the capability of the Palestinian Resistance in Gaza, which preceded the Al-Aqsa Flood operation. 

Earlier, Israel’s Channel 13 quoted Israel’s top National Security Advisor Tzachi Hanegbi as saying that Israel had not achieved any of its goals in the Gaza Strip. 

“We did not eliminate Hamas, we did not provide conditions for the return of prisoners, and we did not return the residents of the Gaza envelope to their homes safely,” he said. These views are largely consistent with growing mainstream consensus among Israeli military analysts. 

So if this is the case, why did Israel return to Jabaliya, in northern Gaza, on May 12, and why did it withdraw fully from northern Gaza on Friday?

Israeli Forces Withdraw from Northern Gaza – Extensive Damage and Casualties

Back to the North 

Long before Israel designated Rafah to be ‘the headquarters of Hamas’ in Gaza, northern Gaza was the main battleground for the Israeli army.

Following weeks of battles, which led to the expulsion of nearly a million Palestinians to the south, the Israeli army declared that it had destroyed Hamas and other Resistance groups in the north.

Yet, almost immediately after its initial withdrawal, the Resistance was back. Police affiliated with the Hamas government were organizing traffic and ensuring security. It seemed that the Israeli onslaught in the north made little difference in terms of the fighting capabilities of Hamas or its administrative power. 

This compelled a return to northern Gaza. It is possible that the Israeli army had assumed that the second round of fighting would be much easier, considering the repeated claims by Israeli army spokesman Daniel Hagari that Hamas was crushed.

The opposite was true. 

The army’s 98th Division had itself suffered, according to Israeli claims, the killing of ten officers and soldiers and the wounding of many more during 20 days of fighting.

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Palestinian Resistance claims, supported by documented video evidence, show that the number of Israeli dead and wounded must have been much higher.

To deepen the Israeli army’s wound, Abu Obeida, the military spokesman for the Al-Qassam Brigades, announced on May 25 that a number of Israeli soldiers had been captured – while others were killed and wounded – in a major ‘complex Resistance operation’ in Jabaliya. 

True, the Israeli army has destroyed over a thousand homes, civilian shelters and UNRWA schools during its latest onslaught, but it was forced to leave and hurriedly so, under the attacks of the Resistance groups in the area. 

Defeat in Jabaliya 

Does this mean that Hamas has ‘rebuilt’ its forces in Jabaliya?

Before the war, the Al-Qassam Brigades operated based on a fixed number of brigades, each permanently operating within designated regions in the Gaza Strip. 

The war, however, has forced a change of tactic, where these brigades can retreat or return, often using underground tunnels, to areas that are strategic and defensible from a guerilla war point of view.

This explains why resistance operations continue to take place in Beit Lahia and Beit Hanoun, the northernmost Palestinian towns – close to the Israeli border –  and Juhr Al-Dik, a very short distance away from the fence separating Gaza from Israel. 

This does not mean that the Resistance has rebuilt its forces there but that it maintains an element of fluidity, its winning card against the Israeli army in the last eight months.

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Based on this logic, it makes little sense for Israel to claim even ‘tactical victory’ in Gaza, a term that has been used to illustrate that some kind of ‘victory’ has been achieved, in an otherwise losing war.

It also makes no sense for Israel to declare Rafah, Khan Yunis or certain hospitals in the Strip to be the ‘headquarters of Hamas’.

The Resistance does not fight a war of position, but rather a war of maneuver. This applies to the rank and file as much as it applies to the leadership. 

Instead of concluding an unfinished battle in Jabaliya, Israel has once more demonstrated that a military victory is not possible, neither eight months after the start of the war, nor at any point in the future.  

For Israel, Jabaliya was an outright defeat, even if Hagari and other Israeli military spokesmen insist on using the term ‘tactical victory’. 

(The Palestine Chronicle)

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  1. Reminds me of Sir Robin in Monty Python and the Quest for the Holy Grail: “Bravely taking to his feet\ He beat a very brave retreat\ Bravest of the brave, Sir Robin” Well, the IDF haven’t yet discovered either the Holy Grail or the Lost Ark in the Tunnels of Hamas, and Indiana Jones is much, much, much too old to help them …

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