Conflict Alerts

Conflict Alerts # 542, 11 August 2022

Israel-Gaza: intermittent attacks end with Egypt-UN mediated ceasefire
Lavanya Ravi

In the news
On 5 August, Israel bombarded the Gaza strip of Palestine with missile attacks killing at least 45 people, including 16 children, and injuring more than 260. The “pre-emptive” strike by Israel called operation Breaking Dawn lasted three days. In retaliation, on 6 August the Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) launched a volley of 1,100 projectiles targeting Tel Aviv and other heavily populated areas of Israel. 

On 8 August,Tthree days after the raids and counterattacks, an Egypt-UN mediated ceasefire was agreed upon. The PIJ demanded the release of its officials, Khalil Awawda (within the day) and Sheikh Bassam al-Saadi (within two weeks) to uphold the ceasefire. An Egyptian delegation in Tel Aviv was working on the release. The ceasefire has been upheld by both sides, but they have reserved the right to respond if the truce is breached. 

On 9 August, an emergency UN Security Council meeting was held to discuss the situation in Gaza and the ceasefire agreement. Israel’s Ambassador Gilad Erdan called for the UNSC to place “full accountability” on the PIJ, stating “They fire rockets at Israeli civilians while using Gazans as human shields. This is a double war crime.” A UN Special Rapporteur, meanwhile, termed Israel’s strikes “illegal and irresponsible” and has called for an investigation to check if Israel had breached international law. 

Issues at large

First, Israel’s motive behind the attack. Israel in the past week carried out raids on the Jenin refugee camp and arrested Bassam al-Saadi, a senior member of the PIJ. Israel then proceeded to launch a “pre-emptive” strike to prevent the PIJ from responding to the raids and arrests. Additionally, Israel’s interim Prime Minister Yair Lapid is hoping to be elected to power in general elections scheduled for November 2022. This attack can be seen as a political move to display power and ensure he gets elected.

Second, PIJ’s retaliation. The PIJ’s poorly planned attack resulted in 200 projectiles falling inside Gaza and injuring more civilians. As a result, Israel and its allies feel justified to brand PIJ as terrorists and support Israel’s right to defend itself. Israel has blamed the PIJ for the deaths of Gaza’s residents and launched an investigation into the errant missiles that hit the strip.

Third, Israel’s targetting of high-ranking officials of PIJ. In its attack, Israel killed two commanders of the PIJ, Tayir al-Jabari of the al-Quds brigade and Khaled Mansour from Jabari’s southern counterpart. Israeli attacks are aimed at weakening any resistance by Palestine and targeting its senior officials reduces the military might of Palestine. 

Fourth, US support for Israel. The US Ambassador to the UN, Linda Thomas Greenfield, has supported Israel’s right to defend itself against terrorist threats and many US officials have sent out tweets appreciating the Iron Dome system. The US has firmly stated its support for Israel in the international arena. 

Fifth, regional divide on the attacks. The countries that have signed the Abraham accords such as the UAE, Bahrain, and Morocco have refrained from condemning Israel’s attacks. At the same time, Iran which supports and funds the PIJ warned that Israel will pay a heavy price for these attacks. Egypt, Turkey, and Qatar have condemned Israel’s aggression. 

In perspective
First, relief to Gaza’s residents. The blockade imposed by Israel on Palestine has been lifted as a part of the ceasefire agreement and humanitarian aid has been flowing into the Gaza strip much to the relief of its residents. The only power plant in Gaza, previously shut down due to the raids, received fuel shipments, and power has been restored to the Gaza strip. The ceasefire provides time for injured civilians to recover and mourn their losses.

Second, the fragility of the truce. The terms of the truce are contingent upon Israel releasing the PIJ officials it arrested. Both sides have explicitly stated that they reserve the right to respond if the truce is breached. There is a high risk that any side may launch another attack in what they consider a breach. 
 
Third, Israel’s recurring attacks. Israel undertakes pre-emptive attacks on various locations in Palestine stating that it's defending itself from Palestine’s terror attacks even when there has been no provocation. In the current round of attacks, Israel has punished Gaza before it responded, which does not justify its claim of self-defence. Against this backdrop, similar incidents, such as what happened in the early week of August, are likely to recur in the Israel-Palestine conflict.

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