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Gaza residents fear another Israeli military offensive

Israel/Palestine
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Israeli soldiers attend a training simulating fighting in Gaza, at an Israeli military training base near South Hebron Hill on November 17, 2012. (Photo:  Edi Israel/FLASH90)

Israeli soldiers attend a training simulating fighting in Gaza, at an Israeli military training base near South Hebron Hill on November 17, 2012. (Photo: Edi Israel/FLASH90)

Gazans fear another Israeli military offensive is imminent, as Israel flexes its military muscle and Egypt joins the band, beating the drums of war.

In November 2013, the Israeli military simulated a ground incursion into Gaza. The move came weeks before Israel stepped up its threats against the Gaza Strip.

I have received two inquiries from overseas friends during the past few days regarding the high-pitched Israeli threats against Gaza, and Hamas in particular. The last one was asking for confirmation that Israeli TV channels warned foreigners in Gaza to immediately leave, in anticipation of military action. The people here are accustomed to such intimidations. However, the explicit statements of Israeli officials, the latest of which is Netanyahu’s ‘to teach Hamas a lesson very soon’ threat, drew attention to the prospect of a war targeting the unarmed, before proceeding to the armed citizens of Gaza.

Both Israel’s 2008-2009 and 2012 offensives were said to be aimed at removing the threat of the firing of crude rockets into Israeli territory. However, this goal was never achieved: on the contrary, the assaults only resulted in many casualties, the majority of them being civilians. Up to 82% of the 1,400 and 103 out of the 156 Palestinian deaths killed during Operation Cast Lead and Pillar of Defense respectively were civilians.

Drones

The low-flying Israeli drones are a permanent source of fear for the Gaza population. Israel, as it did in Operation Pillar of Defense one year ago with the extrajudicial targeting of Hamas’s armed wing leader Ahmed al-Jabari, may launch a new offensive with a drone-propelled attack. Many here consider drones, locally known as ‘Zannana’ (which means the buzzing [of a plane]), is more than just a spying machine, but an everyday teaser and TV watching ‘spoiler’ as satellite TV signals are jammed. Nowadays, they are ‘buzzing’ in an increasingly abnormal fashion. They serve as reminders of previous Israeli wars.

Iron Dome repositioning

Moreover, deploying the rocket-intercepting Iron Dome system brings the bunker mentality to mind, characterizing the state of Israel in any approach to aerial warfare. A month ago, Israel redeployed three missile batteries near the southern cities of Beersheba, Sderot and Ashdod, part of the military’s “preparation for a possible escalation,” according to the Israeli defense minister. However Hamas, who governs the Gaza Strip, has recently asked Palestinian factions to maintain the Egypt brokered cease-fire agreement secured in November 2012 after Israel’s eight-day offensive.

War campaign

By internationally campaigning for an upcoming war against the blockaded Gaza Strip, Israel is attempting to humiliate Hamas, by blaming certain Gaza factions for the escalating wave of violence. This comes after the killing of six Palestinians from Gaza since December 20 – when Israeli troops shot a Palestinian who was near the northern Gaza border dead, allegedly in retaliation to Palestinians’ launching of a mortar round that hit southern Israel – which marked the start of the current unrest.

As usual, in the meantime, Gaza’s militancy is being inflated as being on par with Israel’s. The Israeli ambassador to the United Nations, Ron Prosor, recently complained to the Security Council and to UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon over two Gaza rockets that haphazardly hit the Negev, causing no physical injuries or damage.

The people of Gaza – isolated

To Gazans, the year-long rule of Egypt’s deposed President Mohamed Morsi constituted a kind-of breather in the midst of a suffocating seven-year-long blockade.

Restrictions were eased on the Rafah crossing, an undreamt-of move that Gazans enjoyed, albeit temporarily and not fully. I myself enjoyed traveling outside Gaza just 30 days before Morsi’s ouster. I was a member of a delegation of three professors and some 30 youths who were selected for a training course in teaching Arabic for non-Arabic speakers, part of the Islamic University of Gaza (IUG) programme in the city of Al-Arish in northern Sinai.

Before we headed to Egypt, the coordinator of the course told us that as a Gaza delegation, it was a miracle to get approval to enter into and stay in Egypt for a week. However, on the day of our departure, we had to wait five hours at the Egyptian passport administration for our passports to get stamped. We were eventually permitted to pass, but an IUG professor was turned away, ostensibly for security reasons.

Under Morsi’s rule, some 50,000 Palestinians born to Egyptian mothers, mostly from the Gaza Strip, enjoyed being granted Egyptian citizenship, while 3500 others were on the list. Those who did acquire such nationality were exceptionally ecstatic, after having felt underprivileged with the Palestinian passport–not a treasure to be in possession of, especially when it comes to traveling to Arab countries. However, the joy was short-lived: with the rise of a new authority in Egypt, some were stripped of their Egyptian citizenship, and the feeling of rejection was redoubled.

Stricken economy

After the ousting of Hosni Mubarak, the uninterrupted flow of smuggled goods and basic materials like fuels and building materials allowed for a relative uptick in the economy and a sense of normalcy in the lives of the Gazans. When the military seized the reins in July 2013, the tables turned again. Seven months have passed now, many jobs have been lost and the unemployment rate is expected to rise further.

Gazans trapped in politics

The once cordial Hamas-Morsi relations didn’t fundamentally change the status quo in Gaza. And now, despite Hamas’ outspoken statements denying interference in Egypt’s affairs and the unrest in the Sinai Peninsula, Egypt cannot help but point fingers at Hamas, only adding to the woes of the non-partisan people of the beleaguered enclave.

The Arab peoples’ focus on their own political upheavals has added to the Gazans’ fear of being trapped in a new Israeli military escalation.

Abdulrahman Murad
About Abdulrahman Murad

Abdulrahman Murad is a Gaza-based blogger and freelance journalist. His writings have appeared on Middle East Monitor and ALRAY Media Agency. Follow him on Twitter: @abedomer

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14 Responses

  1. just
    just
    January 30, 2014, 10:11 pm

    “Gaza residents fear another Israeli military offensive”

    I fear for the people of Gaza and for the lives of every Palestinian. The forbearance of the Occupied and beleaguered Palestinian people in the face of such violence and theft is truly something to behold.

    Israel is itching to commit more ethnic cleansing– I hope and pray that the “West” will “get it”!

    • Daniel Rich
      Daniel Rich
      January 31, 2014, 3:36 am

      @ just,

      Q: Israel is itching to commit more ethnic cleansing– I hope and pray that the “West” will “get it”!

      R: The ‘West’ will ‘get lost’ and Israel will ‘get away’ with it [as per usual]. No matter where I look, I see row upon row of spineless millionaires politicians… That sight is a sad sight. A very sad sight.

    • just
      just
      January 31, 2014, 7:22 am

      “I hope and pray that the “West” will “get it”!”, and stop Israel before it commits any more mass murders.

  2. bilal a
    bilal a
    January 31, 2014, 12:00 am

    Who are the Arab Spring ‘Liberals’ supporting the as Sisi coup and a new military incursion into Gaza? How much of the Arab spring was paid for?

    In early January, Cairo publicly hosted the first conference of a new anti-Hamas youth group called Tamarud, or rebel, the same name used by the Egyptian youth movement that led last year’s protests against Mursi.

    Members of the Palestinian Tamarud stood with the Palestinian flag wrapped around their necks to highlight what they called Hamas’s crimes against activists in Gaza….

    Hamas has accused Tamarud members of being Israeli agents…

    The aid Egypt will mainly provide to the anti-Hamas groups will be logistical not financial. Tamaruds don’t cost much,” one Egyptian security official said.

    http://www.reuters.com/article/2014/01/14/us-egypt-gaza-idUSBREA0D09D20140114

    • Justpassingby
      Justpassingby
      January 31, 2014, 3:51 am

      Disgusting that these “tamaruds” rather support a brutal occupation regime than their own flesh and blood in Gaza.

      No wonder Israel and US are happy with Egypt.

      • K Renner
        K Renner
        January 31, 2014, 4:28 pm

        What twisted logic makes you think that Egyptian nationalists somehow support the Israelis saturating Gaza with white phosphorus or high explosive?

        The situation in Egypt regarding the Sinai has nothing to do with “supporting Israel”– it has to do with Zawahiri and the Al Qaeda affiliates in the Sinai that are attacking the army, the police, and regular Egyptian people.

        If Hamas turned a blind eye to extremists crossing the Gaza-Egypt border, then the responsibility falls on them to deal with them appropriately. They have nothing to gain from looking the other way for the sort of people who want to turn Egypt into some kind of Zawahirian takfiri state.

        This situation is markedly different then the one that Israel created and perpetuates, and one shouldn’t assume that the “Tamarod” are somehow anti-Palestinian and pro-everything Israel does to Palestinians.

    • just
      just
      January 31, 2014, 7:27 am

      “Tamaruds don’t cost much.”

      Mercenaries. Lovely.

      We do it too. We dub them “contractors” and they cost a lot, but they are mercenaries.

    • K Renner
      K Renner
      January 31, 2014, 4:49 pm

      The Sisi “coup” was in response to an abuse of power by the Muslim Brotherhood and the allowance of poisonous, extremely sectarian people to speak openly to like-minded individuals in the worst way of ultra-conservative Islamism.

      Remember the conservative Islamist/Salafist “go to Syria to fight a holy war and slaughter the Alawis and the Shia’a and everyone who is against a conservative Islamist state”?

      Morsi stood around and did nothing about it. He was seen to have accepted this sort of sectarian filth or otherwise was openly associating with the sorts of people spewing it.

      I understand that Hamas acts in response to varying Israeli actions and abuses, but they are far from perfect in any way, shape or form– someone criticizing them in Gaza is by no means an Israeli agent or somehow supporting disgusting Israeli “collective punitive” attacks on Gaza.

  3. puppies
    puppies
    January 31, 2014, 7:43 am

    “helot, a state-owned serf of the ancient Spartans. The ethnic origin of helots is uncertain, but they were probably the original inhabitants of Laconia (the area around the Spartan capital) who were reduced to servility after the conquest of their land by the numerically fewer Dorians… Owing to their own numerical inferiority, the Spartans were always preoccupied with the fear of a helot revolt. The ephors (Spartan magistrates) of each year on entering office declared war on the helots so that they might be murdered at any time without violating religious scruples. It was the responsibility of the Spartan secret police, the Krypteia, to patrol the Laconian countryside and put to death any supposedly dangerous helots…”
    (Encyclopaedia Britannica)

  4. LanceThruster
    LanceThruster
    January 31, 2014, 12:49 pm

    What acts of perfidy have the Gazans supposedly committed this time?

    MURDER as cover for THEFT is *not* SELF-DEFENSE! ~ LT

  5. NickJOCW
    NickJOCW
    January 31, 2014, 12:51 pm

    The thorn in the ME has gone septic, gangrene will soon set in.

  6. Abierno
    Abierno
    January 31, 2014, 3:26 pm

    Be very concerned. Netanyahu is caught between his coalition and the US. In such
    situations, it is suggested that he sees it as time to start a war(s) to raise the ante.
    Also, given the instability in Syria, its spillover into Lebanon, the restoration of the
    military dominated autocracy in Egypt, the alliance of Israel with the Saudis, from a the point of view of one of the strongest military forces in the middle east, this may seem an opportune moment to attack on several fronts. All of these factors are exponentiated by the fact that since Lebanon 2006, Cast Lead and Pillar of Fire, Netanyahu knows that Israel can kill as many civilians as they “need” to with impunity from international pressure. At this time, Netanyahu has indicated he is more than ready to go it alone with Iran (hence the need for the Menendez bill to insure US military support). He has most recently not only threatened Gaza with infinite pain but also threatened the civilian population of Lebanon, with the accusation that throughout the country, in the mostdensely civilian populated areas, Hezbollah has placed rocket launchers. He has threatened massive civilian annihalation in Lebanon; it goes without saying this may well be the goal in Gaza. Israel has long been preparing for multi front wars – in his view this may be the time to strike. Such action would be directed to his declared need to greatly expand Israeli occupied territory in the Golan Heights (wherein Israel has recently signed agreements with European oil companies), reoccupation of Gaza (assuming the natural gas deposits off the Gaza coast) and
    southern Lebanon (assuring Israel of significant additional water supplies.) Not only
    would such wars bring financial gain to Israel’s 1% but, more important, would
    strongly reinforce Netanyahu as a “powerful” leader, standing up to US interests in
    peace. Since he feels that Israel “owns” our Congress, he expects no blowback
    from the US. All of this rationale is exceptionally worrisome – with the Chinese
    solidly in Iran, with Russian warships in the Mediterranean, his narcissistic warmongering proprosals have all the ingredients necessary for the third world
    war, an event that could prove exceptionally destructive for Israel.

  7. Citizen
    Citizen
    January 31, 2014, 6:09 pm

    I guess Gaza needs Lt Brad Pitt and his big gorilla to bump a few helmeted heads?

  8. LESMama
    LESMama
    February 1, 2014, 12:40 am

    BDS has people pressuring Israel to improve its policies toward Palestinians, but what about Egypt? Why do we all just accept that Egypt will have nothing to do with Gaza?

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