By Col Alok Mathur, SM (Veteran)
The violence in East Jerusalem was triggered on the tenth day of Ramadan (Laylat a Quadr), when Israeli security forces prevented a mob of Palestinian Arab worshippers, which was supported by Hamas to move towards Israeli controlled Al Aqsa. 300 Palestinians and some Israeli troops were injured in the clash. On 11 May 2021, Palestine militant group Hamas opened up with BM 21 GRAD batteries and rockets in Israeli towns of Ramon, Beer Sheba, Ashdod and Tel Aviv killing about 10 Israeli citizens including one lndian Nurse.
Finally, Israeli Prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu called emergency war council meeting and ordered mobilisation and retaliatory action by Israeli Defence forces (IDF). War planes bombarded the Hamas (Militant Terror group) vital targets including headquarters, camps, anti-air batteries, rocket launch pads and tunnel network connecting Sinai and Gaza strip in south west corner of Israel hugging Mediterranean Sea.
Palestine President Mahmoud Abbas has confirmed 100 casualties, 600 wounded and mass destruction of buildings including residential complexes. Israeli Defence minister Benny Gantz has ordered mobilisation of additional division and an armoured brigade to launch offensive in Gaza. Meanwhile, Israeli Air Force (IAF) fighter jets are carrying out selected destruction of Hamas strong holds and announced that top militant leadership of Hamas has already been neutralised. Hamas spokesman Abu Ubaida has claimed that they have fired 300 plus Qassam rockets on Israeli towns and will continue the freedom struggle. Truce efforts by Egypt, Qatar and United Nations have failed so far. US President has supported Israel’s right of self defence and despatched an envoy Hady Amr for negotiations. Russian President Vladimir Putin and UN Secretary general Antonio Guterres have appealed for end of hostilities for world peace, but so far in vain.
Israel, homeland of Jews, is located on the eastern coast of Mediterranean sea in Middle East Asia. It is surrounded by Lebanon in North, Syria in Northeast, Jordan in East and southeast and Great Egypt in south west and south. Jerusalem is the proclaimed capital but de facto centre of power is Tel Aviv. It is a multiparty republic with one legislative assembly with 120 members. The President is Reuven Rivlin. Prime Minister is Benjamin Netanyahu, a war veteran. . The population is approx 9 million. The total area is 21,643 sq kms. It consists of lengthy coastal plains, highlands in North, and central regions and Negev desert in the south and running along eastern borders is Great Rift Valley of 251 km long River Jordan originating from Lebanon Mountains in North, to Sea of Galilee (Lake Tiberias) and discharging itself in to 400 metre below sea level salty Dead Sea.
Israel, only Jewish nation in world, has history rolling back to pre biblical era. The region was part of mighty Roman Empire and later, formed part of Byzantine Empire. It came under Islamic caliphate in 700 ACE. The whole area was known as Palestine and remained under several Islamic dynasties. Finally, it was part of great Ottoman Empire. After World War I; it was placed under British mandate by League of Nations. Even before the mandate, large number of Jews with a desire for separate Jewish homeland immigrated to Palestine, the holy land. There was a heavy migration of persecuted Jews from all over the world towards Palestine. During World War II, Holocaust perpetrated by Nazi Germany, under which millions of innocent European Jews were tortured and killed in gas chambers, caused en masse immigration of Jews to this region, however it flared up in to clashes with local Arab native clans. United Nations planned to partition Palestine into two separate Jewish and Arab states on 29 Nov 1947 but Arabs rejected the plan. Israel achieved statehood on May 14, 1948.
A new nation was born but with hostile Arab neighbours. The first war on Israel was launched on 24 May 1948 .The joint armies of Egypt, Syria, Lebanon, Jordan, Iraq and local Palestine volunteers invaded Israel. Ben Gurion was the nominated PM and minister of defence and Chief of Staff Yigael Yadin’s immediate mobilisation not only saved Jerusalem but stalled attack by Arab legion. The second war was launched by Israel on Egypt as it had signed a treaty with Czechoslovaks for Soviet arms and nationalised Suez Canal in July 1956 and was called Sinai Campaign, again under Ben Gurion. British and French supported Israel in this campaign for vested interests. It was an all out victory. Israeli troops reached Suez canal threatened Cairo in south west and also captured West Bank and Golan Heights. Israel fought another war with Egypt and others in 1967 as President Abdul Naseer, who acquired massive military aid from Soviets wanted to teach lesson to Jews. Arabs were annihilated again in six days war. Yom Kippur War was launched on 6 October, 1973 – the holiest day of Jewish calendar, by joint forces of Syria and Egypt to win back lost territories of last war. Jordan had warned Israel but no action was taken. After initial setback, Israel fought back and regained all lost territories by 25 Oct 1973. Later, to ensure tranquillity, Camp David accord, a bilateral peace treaty was signed on 17 September, 1978 between Israel PM Menachem Begin and Egyptian President Anwar Sadat, coordinated by President Jimmy Carter at White house, Washington.
GAZA Ribbon strip is approx. 363 kms long. It is located on southern western corner of Israel linking with Sinai Egypt to southern edge and Mediterranean Sea coast to the west with population of 10 lakhs. It was handed over to Palestine Liberation Organisation in 1993-94 and permitted self-rule in Gaza as part of peace agreement under UN. The population is 95% Palestinian Arabs and 5% Jew settlers in kibbutz. Similarly in West bank, (5900 sq km area), also partial self rule was initiated with aim of lasting peace.
Prime Minister of Israel, Ariel Sharon unilaterally decided to withdraw from the Gaza Strip in 2005. The Jewish settlers were forced to leave their homes in spite of resistance, and evacuated to main land and seek new homes for safety reasons. Gradually, all elements of IDF also were withdrawn, a goodwill step towards providing autonomy to Palestinians and run their own affairs. Whole world welcomed it including Arab fraternity. Yasser Arafat was the founder chairman of Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO) from 1969 t0 2004. Ramallah was declared as capital of Palestine. Palestine legislative council was formed. Mahmoud Abbas is the current chairman and president of Palestine. PLO was responsible for several attacks on American and Israeli citizens. The worst dastardly terrorist attack was carried out by PLO supported Black September group in 1972 Munich Olympics killing Israeli Athletics team followed by 1974 school bus hijack and killing 26 Israeli students and coastal road massacre of 37 students by Al Fatah.
The present crisis is linked to Hamas, an acronym for ”Harakat al Mukwana al Islamiya”, raised in 1987, which is a Palestinian Sunni Islamic fundamentalist organization and has a militant wing lzza din al Qassam brigades. It has social service wing also. Hamas won legislative election in 2006 and took over control of Gaza Strip after departure of IDF. This group has overshadowed PLO and taken over the role of continuing the struggle. The chief of political bureau is Ismail Haniyeh. The main spokesman is Fawzi Barhoum. Their main arsenal is Qassam I and Qassam 2 Rockets for attacking in range Israeli towns. Israel has launched number of operations to neutralise this menace since 2008. Operation Cast Lead was launched in 2008, as Hamas was shelling continuously and attacking with missiles on towns of Ashdod, Ashkelon, Yavne and Beersheba. On 27 Dec 2008, IAF F-15 Jets attacked a graduation ceremony of Qassam brigade fighters and killed 150 terrorists in Arafat city and subsequently destroyed command posts, missile sites and training camps of Hamas. Three brigades entered Gaza strip along with two armoured brigade and cleared all booby traps and machine gun nests. Hamas cadres were paralysed. Human bombs were shot dead. The operation was called off after 22 days after achieving objective of destroying HAMAS military capabilities and command structure. Israel suffered 10 casualties and Hamas counted 1400 cadres dead, 4000 houses destroyed and 48 Government offices burnt. Operation ‘Pillar of Defense’ was initiated in 2012, to eliminate Ahmed Jabari, Chief of Staff. He was the mastermind of overseas relations, fund raising and weapon procurement for militant wing and has directed number of operations against Israeli citizens. On Nov 14, 2012, he was blown to pieces as his Silver KIA SUV was hit by two missiles fired from armed drone in GAZA city, along with Raed Atar, commander of southern wing force. Next day Israeli jets bombarded long range Fajar missile sites. Hamas also retaliated with 1500 rockets but most of them were neutralised by lron Dome umbrella. 120 Palestinians were killed.
Hamas headquarters and training camps were destroyed. The operation was terminated on 22 Nov 2012. Another operation named’ Protective Edge’ was launched in 2014 again against Hamas as three young boys were kidnapped and killed by terrorists in west bank. Gaza celebrated on killings and launched missiles and rockets on Israeli settlements in nearby towns. A new tunnel war was started by Hamas. Terrorist teams used tunnels to carry out killings in kibbutz and vanish back. The troops entered Gaza once again and destroyed 32 tunnels. Hand to hand fighting took place. IDF suffered 66 casualties and 1600 Palestinians including 700 terrorists were also killed. Iron Dome missile shield intercepted 773 Qassam and M75 hostile missiles and saved civilian population. The operation Preventive Edge was terminated on Sep 2014 after two terrorists responsible for kidnapping were identified and killed in Hebron. The never ending story of Gaza continues even after bloody rounds of 2008, 2012, 2014 and now 2021. Israel will go full blast after Hamas.
-The writer is an Indian Army veteran and a defence analyst. He has keen interest in geo-strategic affairs and writes regularly on internal and external affairs issues related to India and neighbours. The views expressed are of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the views of Raksha Anirveda