ANALYSIS: Why the Israeli Military Limited the Latest Gaza Confrontation

The situation in the Middle East and Israel’s position in it is much more complicated than the conflict with Hamas and PIJ in Gaza alone.

By Yochanan Visser | | Topics: Iran, Gaza, Hamas
Downtown Gaza City during a limited confrontation between Israel and local terrorist forces. Photo by Atia Mohammed/Flash90
Downtown Gaza City during a limited confrontation between Israel and local terrorist forces. Photo by Atia Mohammed/Flash90

Another Gaza war seemed inevitable earlier this week after terror groups in the coastal enclave began new rocket fire on southern Israel. There was an obvious reason why it didn’t come to war, but that was not understood by most of the Israeli population and media.


Hunger strike

On Tuesday, it appeared that another war would break out between Hamas, the Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) and the Israeli army.

This happened after it was revealed that a PIJ leader from Jenin who was being held by Israel had died in an Israeli hospital after he went on a hunger strike.

The PIJ leader Khader Adnan had gone on a hunger strike for 86 days before he died. Immediately following the announcement of his death, threats emanated from Gaza.

PIJ published a compilation photo on Facebook and Instagram showing missile batteries alongside masked terrorists. “You will burn in our hell,” it read in Arabic and Hebrew below the images, and soon after rockets and mortar shells began to rain down on southern Israel.

At least 11 people were injured in those rocket attacks, including three Chinese foreign workers, while many others once again suffered from shock.


Iron Dome

Israel’s media, meanwhile, reported that something big was about to happen after the government in Jerusalem announced a strong response would be forthcoming, and indeed for a short while, it seemed this could be true.

I personally observed six Israeli Air Force (IAF) Hercules cargo planes transferring Iron Dome missile defense batteries from the Golan Heights to the border area around Gaza.

It was reported that the IDF was deploying additional Iron Dome systems in both the northern part of Israel bordering Lebanon as well as the Gaza belt.

PIJ and Hamas fired a total of 104 rockets into southern Israel and Iron Dome shot down 24 of these projectiles, while 25 failed to reach their target.

The IAF responded with a total of 16 airstrikes against Hamas and PIJ targets in Gaza, destroying a part of the military infrastructure there.

According to Hamas, one civilian was killed and five other civilians were injured, while eyewitnesses reported the IAF planes were shot at with surface-to-air missiles, which was a relatively new development.


“Weak reaction”?

Shortly after midnight, it was announced that Egypt, along with Qatar and the United Nations, was making a frantic effort to negotiate a ceasefire, and by 4 AM the rocket fire was slowly halted.

Then came massive criticism of the Israeli government over its “weak response” with National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir challenging Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to fire him for refusing to take part in Knesset votes.

Without Otzma Yehudit, Ben Gvir’s far-right party that holds five seats in the Knesset, the government would fall.

See: Israelis Demand Harsh Response to Gaza Rocket Fire

However, there is more than meets the eye regarding Israel’s decision to agree to a quick ceasefire.

Before the IAF responded to the rocket fire, the opening of a second front in the border area with Lebanon was taken into account in Jerusalem. When that didn’t happen and PIJ and Hamas apparently deliberately limited themselves to firing short-range missiles, things changed.


Multi-front warfare and “Light Shield”

The Israeli army is preparing for the long-anticipated multi-front war with the Iranian Axis during which approximately 1,300 rockets per day are expected to be fired at Israel from three or even four fronts (Yemen).

Are the IAF and the IDF ready for such a war? That is very much the question, and it mainly concerns the amount of missile defense systems and ammunition that will be needed.

The Israeli army is impatiently waiting for the so-called “Laser Beam” or “Light Shield” air defense system to become operational.

See: “Wall of Lasers” Will Protect Israel From Future Threats

According to the latest information, the new system produced by Rafael will soon be introduced by the IDF and then it will take some time before the whole of Israel is covered by the Light Shield.

Light Shield works with laser beams of 100 kilowatts that can hit a target the size of a coin. The laser beams can also simultaneously shoot multiple targets (any air weapon) out of the air.

The use of Light Shield is also much cheaper than Iron Dome or other Israeli anti-missile systems with a single laser shot costing just over $3, while every Iron Dome interceptor costs about $50,000. The Light Shield can also be used against any flying object while the other systems, including David’s Sling and the Patriot, cannot.

The introduction of the laser system does not mean that Iron Dome can be scrapped because Light Shield does not work well in bad weather.


The larger picture

What was behind the limited response to the new provocations from Hamas and PIJ?

Netanyahu in particular has his eyes on the larger picture and apparently refuses to use the military for another confrontation with the terror groups in Gaza at this point in time.

Those who follow what is happening in the wider Middle East will understand this.

As we repeatedly reported earlier, the Israeli Air Force is very active in Syria against the Iranian Axis and has conducted hundreds of airstrikes over the years.

The night before the new confrontation with Hamas and PIJ began, the IAF again attacked the airport of the northern Syrian city of Aleppo (Chalab) and as usual, it was about preventing Iranian arms shipments to the Quds Force of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) and Hezbollah.

The airport was once again temporarily closed after Israeli missiles destroyed a part of the landing strip and killed four Syrian soldiers and three members of an unnamed Shiite militia.

The IDF strike in Aleppo came on the heels of another one the previous day when targets in the vicinity of the Syrian city of Homs were attacked.

In Iran itself, during the brief confrontation in Gaza, another mysterious explosion was reported at an IRGC base near the town of Damghan killing two IRGC members.

No more information was immediately available, but the Israeli foreign intelligence agency Mossad has almost always been behind such explosions in the past.

On Monday too, Syrian opposition media reported that armed fighters belonging to the Iranian-backed Iraqi Hashd al-Sha’abi umbrella organization of predominantly Shiite militias were mobilizing in eastern Syria near the border with Iraq.

The establishment of the now massive Iraqi forces was pushed for at the time by the liquidated commander of the Quds Force, Qassem Soleimani.

Netanyahu has hinted repeatedly lately that more is happening than meets the eye in the confrontation with Iran and its allies.

The Israeli PM said on Sunday that Israel is operating every day and everywhere to contain the threat from Iran.

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At the time of writing this analysis, things were quiet again in the border area with Gaza.

Israelis living there took to the streets on Wednesday night to protest the military’s “weak response” and the anger in southern Israel is understandable after many again spent the night in bomb shelters.

However, it has become clear from the above that the situation in the Middle East and Israel’s position in it is much more complicated than the conflict with Hamas and PIJ in Gaza alone.


Diplomatic offensives

One can also see from what is happening on the political front that something is brewing regarding Iran’s aggression toward Israel.

As we reported earlier, Iran’s Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian was in Lebanon last week and toured the border with Israel, threatening that the “Zionists ” would only understand force and would soon be further “isolated” and then “destroyed.”

Ibrahim Raisi, the President of Iran, was in Syria on Wednesday for talks with Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad, marking the first visit by an Iranian president to Syria  in 13 years.

Israel, in turn, is engaged in a diplomatic offensive against Iran in Europe and is building a new alliance against the Islamic Republic.

Foreign Minister Eli Cohen spoke with EU High Commissioner for Foreign Affairs Josep Borrell on Tuesday about the Iranian issue, and he did the same with the Spanish government last week.

The Israeli minister is actively building a new diplomatic and military front against Iran and recently also traveled to Azerbaijan and Turkmenistan, two neighboring countries of Iran.


Situation in Iran

In Iran itself, the regime of Ayatollah Ali Khamenei seems to be sinking further and further into a self-created quagmire.

Protests against Khamenei’s government continue, and the leader of the Islamic revolution was recently forced to interrupt a speech after being booed by angry protesters.

This was the first time that Khamenei experienced the anger of the Iranian people himself.

Living conditions in Iran are now so bad that people are no longer able to buy basic necessities, while rent prices have further increased to such an extent that the population is forced to hold two jobs.

Even philanthropists who used to help the poor by paying their bills in grocery shops have been forced to stop doing so, according to Iranian opposition sources.

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