A NEW PAGE IN THE ISRAELI-PALESTINIAN CONFLICT
M. Y. Borodina
A. A. ERMAKOV
I. V. RYZHOV
Doctor of Historical Sciences
Lobachevsky State University of Nizhny Novgorod
Keywords: State of Israel, Israel Defense Forces, Gaza Strip, Hamas,
A characteristic feature of the Middle East conflict is that each "peaceful breakthrough" is usually followed by a new round of armed confrontation1. The Israeli operation Unbreakable Rock, which began on the night of July 7-8, 2014, opened a new page in the conflict between the Jewish State and Palestinian extremists. Since the full implementation of the so-called unilateral disengagement plan in the middle of the last decade, Israel has conducted a series of operations against the military units of the Gaza Strip, but the summer war of 2014 was the most violent.
It is appropriate to recall that the beginning of the twenty-first century was marked by the so-called second intifada, during which the armed conflict between the Jewish State and Palestinian groups reached a new level. Defensive structures on the Israeli border with the Palestinian enclave have reduced the operational and tactical capabilities of militants operating in the Gaza Strip. The use of the "security fence" allowed the Israelis to more successfully prevent the operations of Palestinian militants on their territory. 2 In the current situation, they resorted to the use of rocket weapons, which made it possible to move the war far into the depths of Israeli territory. After that, rocket attacks from the Gaza Strip became an ongoing "headache" for Tel Aviv.
The Israeli leadership's response to the attacks of Palestinian militants was a series of military operations, accompanied by artillery and air strikes,as well as targeted elimination of militants. 3 The success of the targeted operations was due to a high degree of coordination between the Israel General Security Service (Shin Bet) and the IDF Air Force. 4 In the period from 2006 to 2012, the leaders of the Popular Resistance Committees, Jamal Abu Samhadana and Zuhir al-Qaisi, as well as the head of the military wing of Hamas (the Shahid Izz ed-Din al-Qassam Brigades), were killed in such operations Ahmed Jabari 5.
The largest operations were Operation Summer Rains in 2006, as well as Operations Cast Lead and Pillar of Cloud in the winter of 2008/2009 and, respectively, in the fall of 2012. Operation Summer Rains consisted of 9 different sub-operations, at least two of which were Oaks Basani" and "Autumn Clouds" - were specifically aimed at combating rocket attacks on Israeli territory by Gaza radicals.6
During the armed conflict, the Jewish State was able to provide an innovative response to the challenge posed to it by the Palestinians. This response was Israel's implementation of the Iron Dome missile defense system project7. The dome's high performance allowed Tel Aviv to avoid conducting a ground operation in the Gaza Strip during Operation Pillar of Cloud.
However, despite the" Iron Dome", rockets remained an important military tool of the Palestinian militants. Their use of rocket weapons disrupts the normal course of daily life of the Israeli people.
it leads to casualties and destruction, and interceptions of missiles are relatively expensive.8 Each missile shot down during Operation Pillar of Cloud cost the Israeli budget about $60,000.
Since Operation Pillar of Cloud, Palestinian militants have invested heavily in strengthening their missile capabilities. The result of this training was the creation of an arsenal of about 10 thousand missiles-slightly less than the Hezbollah fighters had in 2006. With such a stockpile of rockets, the militants of Hamas and its allied groups operating in the Gaza Strip were going to wage war for a long time.
The March 2014 escalation of relations between Israel and the Hamas-allied Islamic Jihad, whose leadership takes an irreconcilable position towards the Jewish state, was a signal of the readiness of Palestinian extremists to resume a large-scale confrontation.9
Palestinian militants conducted an operation against Israelis under the conditional name "Blown Silence", during which dozens of rockets were fired at the territory of the Jewish state. At the same time, members of the Islamic Jihad coordinated their actions with Hamas.
After the "Blown Silence", a new large-scale confrontation at the southern borders of Israel became inevitable. It began with Operation Bring Back the Brothers, which was carried out by the Israelis in the West Bank from 13 to 30 June 2014 in response to the abduction of three students of a religious school by Palestinian extremists. During the operation, Israeli security forces were tasked with weakening Hamas ' infrastructure.
Thousands of Israeli soldiers, border guards, police and intelligence officers participated in the operation. Hundreds of radicals were detained by the security forces, many weapons and ammunition were seized, and several weapons "laboratories"were liquidated. In addition, the IDF special forces discovered a powerful underground infrastructure in Hebron, which the militants planned to use in sabotage operations against Israelis.
Against the background of these events, the Gaza extremists went all-in, sharply intensifying rocket attacks on Israeli territory in order to gain political gains. They said they would not stop attacking until their demands were met, the main one being the lifting of the blockade on the Palestinian enclave. This demand of Hamas was largely due to the actions of Cairo, which aggravated the humanitarian situation in the Gaza Strip.
The fact is that at one time the Palestinians ' response to the blockade was a significant restructuring of the economy of Gaza10, which was made possible by the creation of a network of tunnels on the border with Egypt. These tunnels were also used to obtain industrial equipment and goods, as well as to smuggle weapons. For this latter reason, the Sisi regime has begun destroying the tunnels connecting the Palestinian enclave to the Sinai Peninsula.
As rocket attacks from Gaza intensified, Tel Aviv was increasingly inclined to conduct a large-scale military operation on the territory of the Palestinian enclave.
The Israeli large-scale operation "Unbreakable Rock" against the military units of the Gaza Strip began on the night of July 7-8, 2014. During the campaign, Tel Aviv paid special attention to the situation near the northern border of the Jewish state.
A significant influence on the course of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict has been exerted and continues to be exerted by Hamas ' ally, the radical Shiite organization Hezbollah ("Party of Allah"), which has been morally and financially supported by Iran since its foundation. 11
During the fighting in the summer of 2006, Tel Aviv had to fight a war on two fronts, focusing on the events in Lebanon, where the IDF was confronted by Hezbollah , an incomparably more dangerous enemy than the militants of Hamas and its Palestinian allies. Despite Israel's efforts, the campaign against Hezbollah ended in failure for the Jewish State.12
Based on the experience of the fighting in the summer of 2006, already in the course of preparing for Operation Cast Lead, the leadership of the Jewish state took into account the possibility of opening a second front by Hezbollah militants. The unfavorable military and political situation along the northern border of the Jewish state also limited Tel Aviv's ability to maneuver during Operation Pillar of Cloud in 2012.13
The course of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict was influenced by the break between Hamas and the previously allied regime of Bashar al-Assad. Palestinian extremists, unlike Hezbollah, did not support Damascus and engage in hostilities with opponents of the Assad regime. Thus, the possible overthrow of the Assad regime and the elimination of Iranian influence in Syria would not have disastrous consequences for Hamas, which cannot be said about Hezbollah.
The collapse of the so-called "Axis of Resistance" (Hezbollah-Syria-Iran) would have dealt a severe blow to Hezbollah, since Syria was a key link in the supply of Iranian weapons to Lebanon: Iranian planes were unloaded in Damascus, and then weapons and ammunition were transferred to Hezbollah militants.14
Participation in the fighting on the side of the Bashar al-Assad regime resulted in heavy losses for Hezbollah. Situation for
"Hezbollah" was aggravated by the fact that two warring groups - the "Islamic State" and the "al-Nusra Front" - united against it. Radical Islamists are not only active in Iraq and Syria, but also seek to penetrate the territory of Lebanon, which also leads to the deep involvement of Hezbollah in the fighting with the opponents of Damascus.
Hamas ' contradictions with members of the Axis of Resistance, as well as Hezbollah's involvement in the fighting against the jihadists, helped maintain the status quo on Israel's northern border, which was important for Israelis due to the military potential of the Allah Party.
Despite the success of the Jewish state in developing a missile defense system, a new conflict with Hezbollah does not bode well for Tel Aviv. "Hezbollah doesn't just have a lot of missiles - they have missiles with warheads weighing half a ton; Hamas has never dreamed of such missiles. Compared to them, the tube rockets that Hamas launches at us are just child's talk, " said Amos Yadlin, former head of Israel's military intelligence (AMAN).
Before the start of Operation Protective Edge in Tel Aviv, various scenarios of confrontation with Palestinian extremists were being worked out, up to the overthrow of the Hamas government in the Gaza Strip. The IDF was prepared for any scenario. "If we are told to defeat Hamas, we will occupy Gaza in 10 days. Another year or two will be required for raids and targeted elimination, dismantling of the terrorist structure, as was the case during Operation Protective Wall in 2002 in the West Bank. " 15
At the same time, such a scenario would be extremely undesirable for Tel Aviv, since an attempt to seize the Gaza Strip would result in huge human losses, which would result in a surge of criticism from the world community. Should we also say that the reoccupation of Gaza could have negated the efforts of the international community to resolve the Palestinian-Israeli conflict?
Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman said: "Hamas initiates rocket attacks when it is convenient for it; it decides how and under what conditions to conduct military operations. We, in turn, limit ourselves to reacting to terrorist attacks, and no matter how harsh this reaction may be, it just remains a reaction. Thus, Hamas determines the course of the war, making life unbearable for Israelis in general, and most of all for residents of the south of the country."16
The growing military potential of the militants operating in the Palestinian enclave pushed Tel Aviv to expand the scope of the operation. A further increase in Hamas ' combat capabilities in the Gaza Strip could lead to the emergence of a "second" Hezbollah on Israel's southern borders. In the current situation, Tel Aviv has set a goal to weaken the military potential of Hamas as much as possible.
The head of the Knesset's Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee, Ze'ev Elkin, outlined several levels of goals: "The most basic goal, without which there is nothing to talk about at all, is to stop shelling Israel and restore calm ... there are also additional tasks: such as the maximum weakening of Hamas, the destruction of a large part of its missile potential. " 17
To solve these tasks, the Israeli Army carefully prepared for the operation. "A year ago, we realized what Hamas was preparing for, and decided to "decompose" this group into components, which will allow us to fight it more effectively ... We have identified the "pain map", identified the pain points that will be particularly sensitive in the event of war, in order to deprive Hamas of its attacking potential and doom it to a long and expensive process of rebuilding it. The need for rehabilitation will also be an important deterrent. " 18
Various elements of the military infrastructure of the Palestinian militants - arm depots, weapons" factories", underground rocket launchers, bunkers, etc. - became" pain points". Special attention was paid to tunnels.
The maximum weakening of Hamas was impossible without a large-scale ground operation in the Gaza Strip. Developing its plan, the Israeli side proceeded from the fact that most of the militant military infrastructure is located in densely populated areas of the sector. However, a ground operation in this area, as well as an attempt to seize the Palestinian enclave, would inevitably lead to huge losses of life among Palestinians and military losses of the Israeli army. As a result, it was decided to send a ground operation against the tunnels dug by the militants into the territory of Israel to carry out sabotage operations.
At the initial stage of the operation, the Israeli side, adhering to the tactic of "remote fire", caused significant damage to the military infrastructure of the Palestinians through artillery and air strikes. Finally, on the night of July 17-18, 2014, a large-scale ground operation began on the territory of the Palestinian enclave.
In order to reduce their losses, the militants of Hamas and its allied groups retreated into densely populated residential areas in advance, and the clashes were local in nature. Dozens of IDF soldiers were killed and hundreds wounded during the operation. The most bloody operation for the Israel Defense Forces was in the Sajaiya quarter, under which Hamas built an entire underground city. Destroying dozens of tons-
On August 5, 2014, IDF units left the Gaza Strip, many of which led to the territory of Israel.
A heavy blow was also inflicted on the Palestinian missile arsenal that had been built up over the years. However, a significant part of the militants ' military infrastructure could not be destroyed. The Palestinians also retained most of the personnel of the paramilitary units. As a result, at the end of the ground phase of Operation Protective Edge, Hamas retained the ability to wage a "war of attrition" against the Jewish state, which determined the further course of the military-political campaign.
At the final stage of Operation Protective Edge, the Israeli armed Forces once again adopted the tactic of "remote fire". It is significant that even in the extremely unfavorable conditions of the "war of attrition" for the Jewish state, Tel Aviv did not dare to reoccupy the Palestinian enclave. The 50-day war in Gaza ended on August 26, 2014.
INFORMATIONAL AND PSYCHOLOGICAL CONFRONTATION
Against the background of the armed confrontation between the Palestinians and Tel Aviv, an information and psychological war unfolded, during which the opposing sides pursued their political, ideological and propaganda goals.19
One of the integral components of information and psychological warfare is the" war of perception " of conflict-the struggle for the minds and hearts of people. This "war" is characterized by considerable attention to ethical and legal aspects. And since international law is mainly focused on inter-State conflicts, the use of military force against non-State actors in international relations, including Hamas, sometimes puts Tel Aviv in a difficult position.20
For the armed forces of the Jewish state, the situation is complicated by such a feature of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict as the impossibility of clearly defining the enemy on the basis of the basic distinction for classical wars: soldier - civilian 21. In addition, in the Gaza Strip, the militants ' military infrastructure is covered with civilian objects in order to reduce the likelihood of IDF rocket and bomb attacks on it. The Palestinian militants are using this tactic to prevent the Israelis from fully realizing their military and technical superiority.
During Operation Cast Lead, Israel lost the "war of perception" of the conflict outside its own territory, because the Israelis were not sufficiently active in promoting their actions in the world - demonstrating to the world community efforts allegedly to minimize the death of civilians in the Gaza Strip.22
The fighting in the Gaza Strip in the winter of 2008/2009 provoked a negative reaction around the world. For Tel Aviv, the situation was compounded by the critical withdrawal of the Goldstone 23 Mission, established by the United Nations to investigate violations of international humanitarian law during Operation Cast Lead.
In turn, Operation Unbreakable Rock has become a new stage in the information and psychological confrontation between Israel and the Palestinians. The fighting in the Gaza Strip in the summer of 2014 resulted in the death of hundreds of Palestinian civilians, which was extremely painful for the international community. The international community was divided into two camps: those who recognized the Jewish state's right to self-defense, and those who accused Tel Aviv of excessive use of force.
US President Barack Obama, in a telephone conversation with the Prime Minister of the Jewish State, Benjamin Netanyahu, said that "... the images of the devastation in Gaza distance the international community from supporting Israel. " 24
At the same time, Tel Aviv and Hamas took into account the experience of the previous stages of information and psychological confrontation, which had a significant impact on the course of the armed confrontation. Thus, during Operation Unbreakable Rock, a humanitarian cease-fire repeatedly came into force, which became an important component of the "war of perception" of the conflict. This made it possible, firstly, to reduce civilian casualties among the Palestinian enclave, and secondly, which was especially important for Tel Aviv, to reduce damage to the country's image in the international arena. However, from a military point of view, the ceasefire was beneficial to the Gaza militants, who effectively used the breaks in the fighting to regroup their forces.
THE EGYPTIAN INITIATIVE
On July 14, 2014, Egypt launched a "peace initiative" that called for a bilateral cessation of hostilities. Tel Aviv agreed to accept the Egyptian offer, but the Hamas leadership, on the contrary, officially notified Egypt of its refusal. Ongoing consultations, mediated by the United States, the United Nations and Egypt, aimed at a ceasefire in the Gaza Strip, finally led to the fact that after the announcement of a 72-hour truce in Gaza on August 5, 2014, indirect negotiations began in Cairo with the participation of delegations from both warring parties.
Among the main issues were the following: opening of checkpoints on the border with Gaza for the delivery of goods under international control; elimination of destruction in the Gaza Strip.
Gaza under the control of the" national unity government "of Fatah and Hamas; construction of a port and airport in Gaza; solution of the problem of electricity supply to Gaza; expansion of the permitted fishing zone near the coast of Gaza; release of militants released from Israeli prisons under the "Shalit deal", and then again arrested during operation "Bring back the brothers"; removal of the economic blockade from Gaza.
The negotiation process in Cairo was not easy. Fierce fighting, mutual claims and irreconcilability of the parties repeatedly put it in danger of failure. But despite all the difficulties, after several rounds of negotiations, Israel and Hamas still accepted Egypt's proposal for an indefinite cease-fire.
By retaining the ability to wage a "war of attrition", the Hamas leadership has secured considerable freedom of maneuver in the confrontation with Tel Aviv. During the 2014 summer campaign, Tel Aviv's success was very limited. For a while, the Jewish State managed to achieve the basic goal of Operation Protective Edge, namely to stop the shelling and restore calm.
At the same time, the Israelis have not been able to achieve the maximum weakening of the military potential of Hamas. This is evidenced by the fact that, despite the overwhelming military and technical superiority of Israel, the militants of Gaza ended the war, retaining their military potential.
Based on the historical past, namely the results of operations "Summer Rains", "Cast Lead" and "Pillar of Cloud", it is safe to say that the lull will sooner or later be replaced by another round of armed confrontation.
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15 Cit. by: IDF: It will take 10 days to occupy Gaza -http://mignews.com/news/arabisrael/world/030814_183422_89442.ht ml
16 Cit. by: Lieberman: deliver a devastating blow to Hamas -http://mignews.com/news/arabisrael/world/200814_140214_74534.ht ml
17 Cit. By: Ze'ev Elkin: the operation will end when Hamas throws out the "white flag". Интервью - http://www.newsru.co.il/israel/ 13jul2014/elkin_int_701.html
18 Cit. by: Senior Army source: The IDF has trapped Hamas - http://www.newsru.co.il/israel/ 13jul2014/brifing_a207.html
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24 Cit. by: Transcript of Netanyahu and Obama's phone conversation - http://www.newsru.co.il/israel/29jul2014/perevod_719.html
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