This morning Israel ended an effective truce with armed groups in Gaza, and carried out the extrajudicial execution of Ahmed al-Jabari, the commander of the military wing of Hamas.
Israeli attacks today killed at least seven people including two young girls in Gaza.
Aside from the fact that it almost always violates truces and ceasefires, seeking escalation where instead there could be calm, what motives might Israel have?
Israel’s “Minister of Home Front Defense” [Avi Dichter] says Gaza must be “reformatted” as if it were a computer hard drive, just like Israel did in the West Bank in 2002 during a series of massacres it called “Operation Defensive Shield.”
Israel’s Ynet reported in Hebrew that Dichter
said in a closed meeting, in the course of his visit in the south under the escalation, that “there is no other choice, Israel must carry out a formatting action in Gaza, actually format the system and clean it out, the way we did in Judea & Samaria during Operation Defensive Shield.” Dichter added that it is only in this way that the military deterrence will return.
Israel credits these attacks with turning the Palestinian Authority (PA) into an even more obedient partner of the Israeli army in suppressing Palestinian resistance. In the 2000s, under the supervision of US general Keith Dayton, PA forces were re-made into a more effective Israeli proxy force to suppress any resistance, particularly from Hamas.
Ron Ben-Yishai, a Ynet columnist with close ties to the “security” establishment wrote that the attack on al-Jabari and other anticipated attacks “was planned a long time ago, but it was postponed due to the election campaign.”
Ben-Yishai did not specify whether he was referring to the US election that saw President Barack Obama re-elected on 6 November, or the Israeli election scheduled for January.
The goal claims Ben-Yishai is to “restore [Israel’s] deterrence through a series of painful attacks on top military figures and assets belonging to all the terror organizations in Gaza, with an emphasis on Hamas.”
Dichter’s call for “Defensive Shield”-like devastation and killing has been echoed in the Israeli press. Reuven Berko, a commentator in Israel Hayom wrote:
Israel must not serve as a capricious victim of one or the other organization of bearded persons. It must bomb the [Gaza] Strip and cause unprecedented damage to activists and infrastructure, without exposing its soldiers to direct contact. Gaza is a chronicle of sisyphic combat, which will be decided in deterrence founded on damages [described] by orders of magnitude, so each individual soldier should be spared. Since the alternative for the Hamas leadership is already ready in Gaza, only a very few of the old timers should be retained as a ‘focus of knowledge’, with [this knowledge] burnt into their consciousness, to retain the memory and the deterrence.
Effectively, Berko is calling for mass elimination existing leadership, and its replacement with one more pliant to Israel’s wishes.
Israeli targeting of civilians
As Ben-Yishai acknowledged, Israel’s escalation of attacks on Gaza began not – as Israeli propaganda usually claims – after Palestinians fired rockets toward civilian areas, but after Palestinian resistance fighters targeted and hit Israeli forces enforcing the siege and occupation of Gaza.
It was Israel that “retaliated” by shelling civilian areas killing and injuring dozens of civilians in recent days. Before today’s additional victims, Israel’s attacks had claimed a high toll on Gaza. Between 8 and 13 November, Israel killed 6 Palestinian civilians in Gaza, including 3 children and injured 52 others, including 12 children and 6 women, according to the Palestinian Centre for Human Rights.
As of 6 November – before the latest orgy of killing by Israel – 71 Palestinians had been killed by Israel in the Gaza Strip in 2012, and 291 injured, according to the UN’s Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. In the same period 19 Israelis had been injured by Palestinian fire from Gaza and none killed.
While today’s attacks are defined as “limited” and even “surgical” in Israeli terms, that is not how they are seen in Gaza.
“Gaza has been enduring Israeli policies of extermination and vandalism since 2006. We reiterate our condemnation of the international conspiracy of silence and Arab impotence in the face of these continuous Israeli crimes,” said the One Democratic State Group in a statement, also signed by the University Teachers Union and the Palestinian Students’ Campaign for the Academic Boycott of Israel.
“We note that not a single action against Israel has been taken by any Arab country. Will the Arab Spring stand aside and watch while we are being butchered? Empty rhetoric will no longer be accepted. Words of condemnation have to be translated into action.”
The statement called for an escalation of global campaigns of boycott, divestment and sanctions and other forms of protest against Israel.
With thanks to Dena Shunra for translation.