Israel's collective punishment fuels Hamas resilience

(Photos: Twitter/X)
GAZA – Since Oct. 7, the Israeli Occupational Forces (IOF) have been advancing into southern Gaza territories, lacking a clear and precise objective as they continue to conduct collective punishment against Palestinians, reported Al-Ghad.اضافة اعلان

Despite Israeli claims that they only intend to target Hamas, the failure to distinguish between Hamas and civilians raises legitimate questions about the government's true intentions and raises fundamental ethical issues.

The aggression, now reaching 78 days, demonstrates that Israel is incapable of destroying Hamas. In fact, the resistance movement may be stronger now than before.

Signs of Israel’s strategic failure have already begun to emerge. The collective punishment of civilians has not convinced the people of Gaza to withdraw their support for Hamas. On the contrary, it has heightened feelings of resentment and anger among Palestinians.

Israel is not the first country to make the mistake of relying excessive airstrikes as other countries have historically bombed their enemies to break morale and push populations to rebel against their governments. However, history shows that broad-scale bombing of civilian areas rarely achieves this objective.

This strategy reached its peak in World War II, conducting the indiscriminate bombing of cities such as Hamburg, with 40,000 casualties, Darmstadt, with 12,000 casualties, and Dresden, with 25,000 casualties.

Additionally, Israel continuously aims attacks on hospitals, schools and refugee camps, claiming they are Hamas base camps. This is reminiscent of the British Royal Air Force’s airstrike that was meant for Gestapo headquarters in Copenhagen, resulting in the deaths of dozens of school children.

In Germany, the bombing campaign by the Allies in 1942 caused significant harm to civilians, destroying urban areas one after another. The total number of German cities and towns destroyed reached 58 by the end of the war. However, it did not weaken the morale of civilians or lead to a revolt against Adolf Hitler, contrary to the Allies' expectations. Instead, this campaign encouraged Germans to fight tenaciously out of fear.

Similarly, the Nazis' attempt to use the same approach failed as well. German air raids on British cities between 1940 and 1941 resulted in the deaths of over 40,000 people. Instead of crushing morale, these bombings spurred the British and their American and Soviet allies to coordinate extensive efforts, ultimately leading to a counterattack.

The war in Ukraine is the latest example of this. For almost two years, Russia sought to subdue Ukraine by launching wave after wave of destructive airstrikes on cities across the country, resulting in the deaths of over 10,000 civilians, the destruction of over 1.5 million homes and the displacement of around eight million Ukrainians. While Russia aims to break Ukraine, collective punishment of civilians has convinced Ukrainians to resist Russia more resolutely than ever.

Similarly, the exact course of events is occurring in Gaza today. Despite nearly two months of intensive military operations, Israel has achieved measly progress.

Israeli airstrikes and ground operations have reportedly killed up to 5,000 out of an estimated total of 30,000 Hamas fighters, according to the IOF. Even worse, they admit that the number of civilians killed is twice the number of Hamas casualties.

In fact, research shows that collective punishment on civilians breeds future resistance fighters. A research paper written by Lebanese anthropology professor, Ghassan Hage, shows that the primary demographic of suicide bombers and resistance fighters are orphaned men. These fighters are also usually born into refugee camps within Palestine.

“Palestinians consider as one of the main factors behind the rise of suicide bombings: colonial humiliation,” says Hage “the experience of having another nation enter your territory at will, arrest your leaders, and talk about them as if they were disposable entities is clearly and significantly humiliating. It is also experienced at a personal level: being shouted at, abused, searched, stopped, ordered around, checked, asked to wait, ‘allowed to pass,’ and so forth.”

In other words, there is no doubt that Israel is creating resistance in numbers, exceeding those it kills. The death of civilians pushes family and friends to join the resistence.

Moreover, although the military infrastructure of Hamas is modest, it has not been tangibly dismantled yet.

The IOF conducted operations on Al-Shifa Hospital, claiming that is was a Hamas operations base. Seizing several Hamas tunnels and destroying them, as shown in videos released by the occupation. However, these entrances can be repaired in the same way they were initially constructed.

Moreover, it seems that Hamas fighters had left the tunnels before the IOF entered them, presumably surviving the attack all in all.

Furthermore, Hamas has an advantage over the occupation as its fighters can cease operations, blend into civilian populations and survive to fight again in better conditions.

On a broader scale, the IOF has not succeeded in weakening Hamas's control. Israel has singlehandedly released only one Israeli prisoners out of 240. The rest were released under Hamas’ terms.

Additionally, Hamas has proven to the occupation that they maintain control over northern Gaza, despite what they might think.

Earlier, Al-Ghad reported on Hamas’ humiliation of the IOF through their release of hostages in north of the strip, as opposed to the south. The IOF has previously boasted about their complete siege of northern Gaza, claiming Hamas no longer exists there. However, during the November ceasefire and prisoner exchange, Hamas asserted their unfaltering presence in the north by surprising the occupation with their prisoners.

This indicates that the movement still has the ability to manage and control Gaza.

Also, despite the energy and internet cut-off throughout Gaza, Hamas continues to produce videos showing the atrocities committed by the IOF against civilians, as well as the battles between Hamas fighters and the Israeli forces.

Simultaneously, Hamas updates 620,000 subscribers on their widely circulated channel on the Telegram messaging app. Hamas published nearly 200 videos and announcements per week between Oct. 11 and Nov. 22 through that channel

Moreover, in a poll conducted by the Arab World Center for Research and Development (AWRAD) in Gaza and the West Bank, 76 percent of those surveyed expressed a positive view of Hamas.

Results from the poll also imply that 500,000 Palestinian men aged 18 to 34 are willing to join Hamas or other Palestinian groups fighting for their homeland and resisting the occupation, supporting Hage’s research.

This is exacerbated as almost every year since the early 1980s, the number of Israeli settlers in Palestinian territories has continuously increased. The growth of settlements means the loss of land for Palestinians and increased anxieties of Israel seizing more land.

The growth of the Israeli population in Palestinian territories plays a crucial role in inflaming the resistance. Thus, the Hamas movement emerged in 1987. after the Israeli population had significantly infiltrated Palestinian land and displaced hundreds of thousands of Palestinians.

Therefore, according to numerous analysts and war scholars, the only way to defeat Hamas is through a political division between them and the Palestinian people. As well as declare that it has decided to immediately halt the construction and expansion of Jewish settlements in the West Bank as an initial guarantee of its commitment to the two-state solution.

Additionally, a sustainable long-term plan would be for the White House to facilitate an open discussion on Israel's conduct in Gaza. This discussion can pave the way for the study of alternative strategies.

A serious Israeli commitment to a new future can change the framework of Israeli-Palestinian dynamics, and provide Palestinians with a real alternative to Hamas. In return, Israelis will gain more security. Finally, both parties will follow the path leading to potential harmony.

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