Avi Melamed ~ Inside The Middle East
Following the shooting of a long-range rocket from the Gaza Strip targeting the center of Israel, on Monday, March 25th, Israel attack military positions of Hamas and Islamic Jihad in Palestine in the Gaza Strip. Israel’s retaliation sparked 36 hours of exchange of fire between the sides. As of March 28th, the hostilities have ceased. Yet it is Important to note that beginning Friday, March 29h Hamas plans massive riots on the Gaza-Israeli border. This could lead to a rapid escalation of the current violent round.
At the time this report is being written, I want to share with you some observations:
Information evaluated as reliable indicates the people Gaza are increasingly concerned with the possibility of a massive Israeli attack. Hamas, as of the time of this report – must be tuned to that message.
Hamas is engaged with ongoing talks with both Egypt and Qatar. Both Egypt and Qatar are interested in calming the tensions. Egypt does not want tensions in Gaza to ignite unrest in the streets of Egypt and Qatar has a lot of investments in Gaza. Hamas is tuned to that interest.
The Palestinian Authority – PA (the ruling power in the West Bank), led by President Mahmoud Abbas, keeps a low profile vis-à-vis the current tensions. Another military round in Gaza will play into the hands of the PA who argues Hamas’ way has brought nothing but catastrophe to the Palestinians and their cause. In that context, one should note that Hamas formally holds the PA responsible for the demonstrations against Hamas that took place in March 2019.
The most significant piece of the puzzle at the time this report is being written is the Islamic Jihad in Palestine, (IJIP) the second largest military power in Gaza. IJIP is an Iranian proxy. Hamas and IJIP cooperate in their military actions against Israel. However, in the past – and particularly over the last year – IJIP, under the orders of Iran, has been dictating the reality on the ground by acting independently through launching rockets on Israel, therefore, dragging Hamas to numerous short rounds of exchange of fire with Israel.
Iran constantly strives to fuel the flames in Gaza, hoping it will lead to a massive military collision between Israel and the Gaza-based Palestinian groups. The Iranian interest in this is further boosted given a recent attack on an Iranian base in north Syria on March 27th which was attributed to Israel.
For Iran, a war in Gaza will at the same time, divert attention from Iran’s aggression in the region and will exhaust Israel.
Iran wants to spark an Israeli Palestinian war. IJIP may dictate the course of the next 36 hours.
Here is a video from today (Friday, March 29, 2019) from Al Quds TV (a Gaza based Hamas Television Station) of a Senior Leader of Islamic Jihad in Palestine IJIP states the Palestinian protest scheduled for Saturday March 30th will be “peaceful.” “Peace” and “Peaceful” are words IJIP never use. And that is suspicious, I suspect IJIP is planning to a launch war on Israel and building the case to justify it within Palestinian and Arab public opinion.
And here is a link to a video which further boosts my suspicion that IJIP is laying the groundwork for a war with Israel. This is a video http://saraya.ps/play/2022/ posted on the official website of the Military Wing of Islamic Jihad in Palestine, (Saraya al-quds) in which the spokesman say “the Killing of Palestinian civilians will bring war upon Israel.”
Prediction: The situation is highly flammable. A rapid deterioration, leading to a widescale conflict within the next 24 hours is unfortunately a very real scenario.
While yet again both Israelis and Arabs are expressing feelings of “we’ve been here before and nothing changes” and “no one comes up with an out of the box approach,” I would like to take the opportunity to share an out of the box approach for a possible sustainable arrangement I proposed in April 2016.