IDF Operations Against Palestinian Terrorists Continue in Israel
Israel and the Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) negotiated a ceasefire that stopped hostilities in Gaza, late Sunday night, with the help of Egyptian authorities.
So far, the ceasefire has held in Gaza, after 66 hours of battles, that occurred from Friday afternoon, August 5, 2022, until Sunday evening, August 7, 2022. The IDF wiped out the senior tier of the PIJ commanders in Gaza, but Israel is now continuing operations in the West Bank (Judea and Samaria). As of this writing, IDF military operations are taking place in Nablus, where terrorists are being killed, including one who has been referred to as Ibrahim Nabulsi, “the Lion of Nablus.”
Meanwhile, Major Gen. (res.) Tamir Hayman, Managing Director of the INSS, and former head of the Israel Intelligence Directorate, recently gave his assessment to reporters on a zoom call hosted by Media Central. He talked about the success of the Israeli Gaza military operation, called, Breaking Dawn.
“The bottom line of my summary assessment of Operation Breaking Dawn was that it was a huge tactical success, but no real change or transformation on a strategic level confronting the Palestinian territory as a whole, and Gaza as a particular problem.”
Hayman explained how the IDF battled the PIJ, one of the weakest terrorist groups that surround Israel. Yet, it’s the second largest organization in Gaza. He said the operational capabilities of the PIJ are dramatically below the capabilities of Hamas, and that there is no comparison with Hezbollah or Iran, either.
Hamas remains deterred in reigniting any kind of violence against Israel. What helps is that Israel is allowing money from Qatar to reenter Gaza, to improve the lives of its citizens. However, while the influx of money maintains the economic situation for Gazans, it also supports Hamas infrastructure, which encourages its capabilities, strategies, and sovereignty inside Gaza.
The Israeli government now allows nearly 15,000 Gazans to enter Israel for work. They are receiving an income considered much higher than others living in Gaza. Hayman says that those 15,000 workers make up about ¼ million people that were once poor, but now are part of the building sectors in the economy. The income per family of these workers is six times more than it was previously.
In the meantime, the PIJ is not receiving the fruits of the strategy of economic building; only Hamas is. That causes frustration. Hayman admits how hard it is for Israel to deal with the PIJ.
“They are the most awful group. They tried to dictate the security situation in Israel. So, as always, they asked for more and more things in order to retreat and go back to quiet.” Hayman stated that the PIJ was demanding that the IDF stop all activities, for example in Jenin, and release a popular terrorist from there that was captured.
The PIJ was also planning to launch a mortar attack on vehicles on roads leading to Israel’s southern communities. That was when Israel moved in to launch a pre-emptive strike. “It was a very successful and tactical intelligence activity. The commander of the northern section of the PIJ was killed in a safe house in the middle of Gaza,” Hayman said.
After a few hours of shock, the PIJ began launching rockets from Gaza into Israel. Later on, in the IDF military operation, another tactical achievement was the striking of Gaza’s southern sector and Israel’s killing of another PIJ senior commander, which was even more important than the commander from the north.
Hayman said that during the rocket launchings from Gaza into Israel, the two main leaders of the PIJ were stationed in Iran. Both were decision-makers in the PIJ. “The fact that they were in Iran was some sign of a connection, but there wasn’t any actual direct command from Iran to launch an attack.” Hayman adds that Iran was supporting the rocket attacks; they were pleased with the situation; and later were involved in the ceasefire — but that was it.
Hayman shared the dramatic differences between the strategic thinking in the PIJ, and the strategic thinking in Iran. “The first one doesn’t exist. There is no strategic thinking in the PIJ. They are a bunch of very violent, very aggressive, non-educated (people), with very little military experience.”
It’s not like the Iranians, Hayman added. “They are very clever; they are well-educated; and their strategic thinking is something you should admire.” He also talked about Iran’s negotiating capabilities. “It’s far better than any actor I know.”
During Israel’s military operation, the IDF was able to assess that the defense capabilities of the PIJ did not match the defense capabilities of Israel. The Iron Dome anti-missile defense system was able to intercept a record, 96%, of all missiles entering populated areas in Israel.
The PIJ launched nearly 1,000 rockets from Gaza towards Israel. Hayman estimates that 300 missiles from the PIJ landed back inside Gaza, leading to many casualties among civilians. He was able to watch some of those misfired rockets on video.
“I saw two videos of projectiles launched and then re-entering Gaza: striking in very heavy populated areas of Gaza and creating damages. We had proof in that aspect. Another few hundred were in the sea, or exploded in air, and the rest were intercepted.”
The fact that Hamas didn’t join the conflict was very important. It showed the IDF how much Hamas was deterred from reigniting violence against Israel. Hayman explained that Hamas stood aside and watched the PIJ resistance that was active against Israel, which was a very hard decision for Hamas. It weakened its position inside Gaza and all of the Palestinian system, in Hayman’s opinion. Now, Hamas will have to re-establish its authority, and control the PIJ in the next round of violence, in order to get over its embarrassment, according to Hayman.
Going back to talk about the strategic level, he described, “This was a very narrow operation, with limited targets. This will not change the situation in Gaza. This will not relieve the problems of the Palestinian system, as a whole. This was a tactical operation against the threat. We eliminated the anti-tank threat. I think we achieved the mission of separating our operational activities in Judea and Samaria from the situation in Gaza. The PIJ wanted to create a link, a connection, that if we strike in Judea and Samaria, they will strike from Gaza. I think the operation showed, or demonstrated, that this is unacceptable.”
As Hayman predicted, Israel is continuing to work against terrorist cells in the West Bank, without the PIJ dictating what can or can’t be done. He also believes that the overall deterrence level might be better now in regard to the PIJ in Gaza.
“We initiated the activities, and we struck a very tactical success, proving very accurate intelligence, and very accurate activities of the Israeli air force.”
Meanwhile, Israel faces other challenges. Hayman gave his assessment on the problems of the Palestinian Authority (PA), including the lack of strategy and vision towards a solution to the current conflict with Israel.
He also spoke to the difficult political times Israel continues to deal with – a re-election process every few years, which creates a problem in creating overall vision and strategy. Meanwhile, Hayman does not think that the recent Gaza military operation had anything to do with the political strategies of the current interim government.
“As it happens, most circles of violence in Gaza are during an election period. But, I was personally involved in three rounds during election campaigns, and I can say there is no political aspect on launching military activities.” Hayman adds that this has to do with the power and status of the military establishment. Its recommendations are crucial. “They are responsible, and every political leader in Israel knows that. It is very delicate and very professional in dealing with life threatening matters.”
Looking forward, Hayman shared his strategic assessment about Israel’s northern border. He explained that Sheikh Nasrallah, Hezbollah’s leader, gave a briefing and addressed Israel’s strike on Gaza. Nasrallah thought Israel was sending him a signal to deter him from giving an order to Hezbollah to strike the Karish gas rig in Israel’s economic waters near Lebanon.
“This is the friction; this is the tension that is still ahead of us. The date set by Hezbollah is the beginning of September,” Hayman stated. “Though we did not threaten him specifically, he understood it as a threat.”
During the next few days, it should be clear as to whether the current ceasefire in Gaza between the PIJ and Israel will hold. Hayman thinks there might be false notions or misunderstandings that could disrupt the current cessation of violence. Something could reignite the tensions, like Israel’s continued refusal to release the popular commander of the West Bank who was captured by the IDF before the conflict began in Gaza. Or, Israel’s continued killing of known and active terrorists in Nablus and other Palestinian strongholds. Only time will tell whether life will return to the status quo in Gaza and the West Bank in the weeks to come.