by Hugh Fitzgerald
Hamas apparently believes its own propaganda, and remains under the illusion that it was the “victor” in the recent war with Israel in Gaza. It has already forgotten how, in the last week of the war, it — Hamas — was desperate for a ceasefire, and it was the IDF that wanted to keep going, and only reluctantly agreed to a ceasefire after pressure from President Biden. Biden had publicly declared that he wanted the ceasefire to begin on May 19; the Israelis managed to ignore that demand and kept delivering punishing blows against Hamas for two more days, before Prime Minister Netanyahu and his security cabinet decided it would be politically prudent to call a halt on May 21.
Hamas has chosen in mid-June to break the ceasefire, not with rockets, but with nearly two-dozen incendiary balloons to set Israeli farms and forests alight, and Israel has responded with a handful of airstrikes on Hamas armed compounds. The story of this flare-up is here: “Israel Strikes Hamas Sites Over Fire Balloons,” Algemeiner, June 16, 2021:
Israeli aircraft struck Hamas sites in Gaza on Wednesday [June 15] after incendiary balloons were launched from the Palestinian enclave in the first such attacks since a fragile ceasefire ended 11 days of deadly fighting last month.
The violence poses an early test for the government of new Prime Minister Naftali Bennett, whose patchwork coalition came to power on Sunday on a pledge to focus on socioeconomic issues and avoid sensitive policy choices towards the Palestinians….
Unfortunately, it’s not up to Israel if it can put relations with the Palestinians on the back burner while the new government deals with “socioeconomic issues.” When Hamas violates the ceasefire of May 21, and tries to set thousands of dunams of Israel land on fire, Israel has no choice: it must respond to make sure that Hamas discontinues this renewal of aggression. And that’s exactly what Israel did: a carefully measured response, consisting only of a handful of airstrikes on Hamas compounds. Not a pummeling of Hamas, but a stern warning to it. Next time, the response will be very different.
Israel’s military said its aircraft attacked Hamas armed compounds in Gaza City and the southern town of Khan Younis and was “ready for all scenarios, including renewed fighting in the face of continued terrorist acts emanating from Gaza.”
The military said the strikes came in response to the launching of balloons laden with incendiary material, which the Israeli fire brigade reported caused 20 blazes in open fields in communities near the Gaza border.
A Hamas spokesman, confirming the Israeli attacks, said Palestinians would continue to pursue their “brave resistance and defend their rights and sacred sites” in Jerusalem….
What “rights and sacred sites” in Jerusalem does Hamas need to defend? The sacred sites of all three monotheisms are scrupulously protected by the Israelis (as they never were when Jordan held East Jerusalem and the Old City from 1948 to 1967); there is complete freedom of worship. Israeli police on the Temple Mount are not there to harass Palestinian worshippers, but instead, to ensure that peace is maintained. That means they are there, in case of murderous rioting by Palestinians hurling rocks at Jewish worshippers at the Western Wall some 70 feet below, or at the police themselves, to suppress the rioters. And they are also there – which is never mentioned by Arab propagandists or by the Western media — to prevent Jewish visitors to the Temple Mount, the holiest site in Judaism, from saying prayers or even silently mouthing them, lest that offend Muslims on the site. That is how Israel bends over backwards, denying Jews their rights to say prayers at their holiest site, so as to accommodate Muslim sensibilities.
Hamas no doubt felt it had to do something to signal its opposition to the Flag March, even though some changes had been made to the march’s route to lessen tensions, including making the marchers avoid walking straight through the Muslim Quarter. Instead, they had to hug the border of the Quarter, by walking through the Muslim Market. Hamas figured the dozens of incendiary balloons it let loose were enough to satisfy the Palestinians; desire that some damage be inflicted on the Zionists for holding the march at all. So “Hamas is standing tall against the Zionists” by letting incendiary bombs loose over Israel, in order to set Israeli farmland on fire.
Hours before the overnight strikes, thousands of flag-waving Israelis congregated around the Damascus Gate of Jerusalem’s Old City before heading to Judaism’s holy Western Wall, drawing Palestinian anger and condemnation.
As with the May war, this flare-up in mid-June was started by Hamas, which sent dozens of incendiary bombs over Israel where, when they landed, set farmland and woodland aflame. Israel had to make some response, lest Hamas be emboldened to continue its aggression. It chose a few Hamas armed compounds where there were no civilians who might be injured; there appear to have been no Hamas casualties, either, perhaps reflecting Israeli warnings to flee targeted areas. The Israel response was meant to be carefully calibrated: enough to send a message, but not enough to start another war. If after this Hamas doesn’t get the message and renews its attacks on Israel – by incendiary bombs or rockets – the Jewish state’s response will have to be much harsher. Hamas continues to misread – to exaggerate — its own strength, and to minimize that of the Jewish state. Its leaders are delusional; they think they “won the war” with Israel because they are still standing – but they are standing in the rubble of 258 buildings that have been totally destroyed.
Hamas was saved – just – by the bell that Joe Biden rang when he called for a ceasefire on May 19, a call that Israel ignored so as to deliver two more days of devastating blows to Hamas, finally deciding to observe that ceasefire on May 21. Since then Hamas has declared its “great victory” over the Zionists; the mountains of rubble in Gaza City and Khan Younis, the killings of 25 senior Hamas commanders, the destruction wrought on Hamas’ billion-dollar tunnel network, tell a different story.
Israel’s patience with Hamas is at an end. If even a handful of rockets launched from Gaza land in Israel, or if there are more incendiary bombs let loose over Israel to set more farmland aflame, Israel will no doubt respond with great ferocity. It wants the peace between Hamas and Israel to be maintained not for weeks, or for months, but for years. Israel is tired of “mowing the lawn.”
First published in Jihad Watch.