Truce in Gaza

Relentless bombing of Gaza by Israel has wrought havoc. According to Palestinian health officials more than several thousand civilians have been killed due to indiscriminate Israeli bombing and many of them are women and children.

Truce in Gaza

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Relentless bombing of Gaza by Israel has wrought havoc. According to Palestinian health officials more than several thousand civilians have been killed due to indiscriminate Israeli bombing and many of them are women and children. Hospitals are also being bombed on the ground that the Hamas terrorists have taken shelter and set up their underground operation centres there.

As a result, the patients, including those critically injured, are going without treatment. The Director General of WHO has described the situation as “dire and perilous” and said that because of shortage of fuel, very soön the humanitarian operations will come to a grinding halt. The most difficult phase of Israeli operations against the Hamas has now commenced. The Israeli Army has encircled Gaza city and divided the enclave into two parts. Finishing off the Hamas will be a bloody and tough job. Hamas has built up 300 miles of tunnels, where it stores its military possessions and these tunnels cannot be destroyed by aerial bombardment. Like the Vietcong guerrillas of Vietnam in the 1960s, Hamas has built a wide network of tunnels that are fully self-contained.

The Israeli army will be very hesitant to send its soldiers inside the tunnels because of fear of heavy casualties and will keep their operations over ground, as much as possible. Night vision devices and communication tools which rely on satellites will not work underground. The Israeli army will try to destroy the tunnels by bulldozing their entries or exits or filling them with sea water. But the possibility of hostages being kept in tunnels will slow down the Israeli response. There are intelligence reports that hostages are actually being kept in tunnels. There will be street to street fighting.


Hamas has almost 40,000 tough street fighters, who will resort to ambushes and hitand-run tactics. Hamas says that claims made by the Israeli Defence Force (IDF) are illusionary and already several hundred Israeli soldiers and officers have been killed in ambushes. According to the Wall Street Journal, the arsenal of Hamas has improved over the years and includes drones, rockets, grenades and Iranian made surfaceto-air missiles. According to a Hamas spokesman, the group has already set up factories producing these arms. There is a difference of opinion among experts if IDF is capable of destroying the military capabilities of Hamas. Some feel that IDF can do so.

But there is now growing international pressure on Israel to halt its military operations in Gaza and desist from collective punishment of the civilians there. The civil society across the world has staged protests against Israel. Many Jews in America have also joined the peace campaigns. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has already acted on his statement that Israel is open to “tactical little pauses” in Gaza fighting to facilitate the entry of humanitarian aid or allow the exit of hostages held by Hamas. But there will be no general ceasefire. Netanyahu is facing strong domestic criticism for failure to get the hostages released.

Thus, the two main goals of Israel ~ to completely neutralise Hamas militarily and ideologically and get the hostages released early ~ are colliding with each other. Israel may be constrained to cut a deal with the Hamas for release of the hostages. It is also very unlikely that harsh collective punishment of the Palestinians will decimate the Hamas leadership. Some of its leaders have already taken shelter in Oman and some others have escaped to Iran or Lebanon. Iran and the pro-Iranian militant group Hezbollah in Lebanon support Hamas. Hamas has already announced that some of the hostages have been killed due to Israeli bombing.

Netanyahu was for some time working under the expectation that Israel could normalise its ties with the Arab world without addressing the Palestinian question, which he believed could be wished away. Now, the Palestinian question has again come to the forefront and can no longer be ignored. Saudi Arabia, which was on the verge of normalising relations with Israel, will demand more concessions for the Palestinians before moving forward lest it incurs the ire of its population and the wider Arab world. Netanyahu has said that Israel will remain in charge of the security of Gaza for an indefinite period.

Neither Washington nor Israel is yet very clear about Gaza’s future. The US Secretary of State, Antony Blinken said to CBS Television that Hamas has to be dismantled but Israel cannot reoccupy Gaza and put the clock back. But without a ready replacement of Hamas, Israel will have little choice but to assume direct control over Gaza. This step, however, will exacerbate Palestinian militancy, deepen the divisions within Israeli society and tie up its military-economic resources in open-ended counter insurgency campaigns.

The United Nations Security Council has passed a resolution calling for urgent and expanded humanitarian pauses and unconditional release of the hostages. The USA did not block the resolution, but Israel criticised it for being “disconnected from reality”. President Joe Biden has said that the end point of the Israel Hamas conflict will be a Palestinian state that is real, and exists alongside Israel.

There are Israeli leaders who support the view that Palestinian authorities who cooperate with Israel in the administration of the Israeli-occupied West Bank should take charge of Gaza. There is however, the danger that if the Palestinian Authority returns on the back of an Israeli invasion, it will be viewed by the Palestinians as the enemy. Now a ceasefire in the war between Israel and Hamas brokered by Qatar is on.

Hostages have been released by Hamas, and Israel in turn has freed Palestinian prisoners. With the truce deal come increased shipments of fuel and aid supplies to Gaza. Netanyahu says that he will continue vigorously with the war once the ceasefire comes to an end. Abu Ubalda, spokesperson of the Hamas armed wing, has also called it a temporary truce. It is hoped that international pressure will prevail and the truce will not be a short lived one.

(The writer is fellow Institute of social science former director general of human right commission and former director of national Police Academy)