It may be premature to make a definitive evaluation of the first 50 days of the Israeli onslaught against the Gaza Strip, or foresee what will happen the day after the four-day truce that began on Friday along with the first batch of prisoner-swaps.
What is clear, however, is that Hamas' Gaza leader Yahya al-Sinwar — who fired the first shot in this war with the 7 October raid on military bases and settlements in the Gaza 'Envelope' that stunned the Israeli military and political establishments — has succeeded in imposing his terms.
Sinwar and his right-hand man, Qassam brigades commander Muhammad Deif, spent three years preparing methodically for this war. They have managed it with a high degree of skill and intelligence acumen that has amazed friend and foe alike. In contrast Israel's leaders, the Netanyahu-Gantz-Gallant trio, have pursued a vindictive nihilistic approach that has caused them major military, political, and diplomatic losses, while failing to achieve their declared aim of destroying Hamas and other resistance groups despite 47 days of vicious carpet bombing of defenceless civilians.
The gauge of victory or defeat in war is not the number of casualties. The Vietnamese suffered more than 20 times the number sustained by the US yet still emerged victorious in the end. The same can be said of the Taliban in Afghanistan. History is replete with similar examples.
What makes the current war in the Gaza Strip different to all previous Arab wars with Israel is the leadership, specifically on the Palestinian side. Sinwar's leadership has combined unshakeable resolve with masterful planning, preparation, execution, and timing both in military and intelligence terms. He caught Israel unawares by maintaining an astonishing degree of secrecy and confining knowledge to a small highly trusted circle. Not even Hamas leaders based abroad had prior knowledge of the October 7 attack or even preparations for it, according to a source close to the Qassam brigades.
Comment: While this is not totally true (some in Israel knew the attack was coming), the raid was executed with all the praise Atwan bestows on it. Swift, disciplined, and focused on the objective of taking hostages to trade for Palestinians held by Israel. The majority of the subsequent destruction and mayhem can be laid at Israel's door.
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- Netanyahu turfed out defense minister in July because he warned of a Hamas attack
- The Evidence Israel Killed Its Own Citizens on 7 October
What ensued was an earth-shattering blow to the Israeli occupier state, which took the battle right to the enemy, killed hundreds of its soldiers and settlers and captured scores, and shook the very foundations that underpin it: awe, deterrence, security, stability, military superiority and international sympathy and support.
Netanyahu and his generals' agreement to negotiate over the terms of the temporary truce was a first mark of defeat. They complied with Sinwar and his aides' conditions and effectively recognised their movement after trying to disdain and demonise it. They fell into his snare. They were blinded by their arrogance and sense of superiority from correctly assessing their enemy, which has learned from the failures and mistakes of previous Palestinian leaders — those who shackled the Palestinian people with the Oslo accords and the outrage of security cooperation, placed all their eggs in the basket of the US, Europe, and the so-called international community, and staked everything on soliciting their sympathy and friendship. The Palestinians' new leaders do not ride in luxury cars and private jets but live under the ground.
All the US and Israel's intelligence agencies and spy satellites have failed to detect Sinwar's whereabouts, his operations room, the tunnels connecting to it, or the underground missile and drone factories. They just withdrew from the Shifa medical complex after claiming his operations room was beneath it. Next, they'll say it's somewhere in southern Gaza and use that to unleash another phase of genocidal war, for which they'll end up paying a heavy price in revenge for every Palestinian they kill. The Palestinian people do not forget or forgive.
I can't predict what will happen after the four-day truce expires, but I suspect, from the experience of other wars, it is likely to be extended. Either way, what matters is the existence of a different, courageous Palestinian leadership; sophisticated resistance groups prepared to sacrifice their all and reflecting a new stage in the culture of resistance; and the warm, supportive, and cohesive embrace of popular backing. That is what causes such consternation and dejection in Israeli ranks.
'Lesser' Israel is being shaken and 'Greater' Israel derailed, not by Arab armies and generals but by Palestinian resistance and mass Arab and Islamic popular support for it. This could ultimately herald a wave of change in the Arab world that sweeps away rulers and regimes, like that which followed the 1948 Nakba.