Ebrahim Moosa – Analysis | 23 July 2014/25 Ramadan 1435

Any time Uncle Sam, with all his machinery for warfare, is held to a draw by some rice eaters, he’s lost the battle. He had to sign a truce. America’s not supposed to sign a truce. She’s supposed to be bad. But she’s not bad any more. She’s bad as long as she can use her hydrogen bomb, but she can’t use hers for fear Russia might use hers. Russia can’t use hers, for fear that Sam might use his. So, both of them are weapon-less. They can’t use the weapon because each’s weapon nullifies the other’s. So the only place where action can take place is on the ground. And the white man can’t win another war fighting on the ground. Those days are over. The black man knows it, the brown man knows it, the red man knows it, and the yellow man knows it. So they engage him in guerrilla warfare. That’s not his style. You’ve got to have heart to be a guerrilla warrior, and he hasn’t got any heart.

Spoken in 1964, at a time of unprecedented losses for the American invading army in Vietnam, these sentiments of the fearless African-American freedom fighter Malik al Shabazz(Malcolm X), may just as well have been spoken today regarding Gaza, Afghanistan or other guerrilla conflict raging across the world.

Honing in on the besieged Palestinian enclave of Gaza and the conflict raging there presently, the overwhelmingly superior armed forces of Israel were initially quite smug about their military prowess exhibited quite dramatically in Gaza and above Israel.

Earning it the key bragging rights was the Iron Dome missile defense system, designed and developed by the Zionist State and funded by the United States to the tune of hundreds of millions of dollars. The system identifies and destroys Palestinian resistance projectiles before they land in Israeli territory and is considered one of the most effective anti-missile systems in the world.

According to the IDF, hundreds of Palestinian resistance rockets were intercepted in the first week of the conflict alone and the missile defence system had an overall success rate of 86%. The Israeli press reported earlier in the operation that the Iron Dome batteries were achieving a higher interception rate than they did during the Operation ‘Pillar of Defence’ in November 2012, which the IDF said was 84%, although higher figures had often been reported.

The interceptions obviously did not shield Israeli citizens from the terror and fear induced by concurrent code red sirens and frenzied sprints to bomb shelters. Nonetheless, the miniscule Israeli casualty toll at that stage still afforded the military establishment sufficient grounds for claiming it was “making progress” and “protecting Israeli citizens”.

On Thursday July 17 however, that honeymoon drew to a rude end.

“The prime minister and defence minister have instructed the IDF to begin a ground operation tonight in order to hit the terror tunnels from Gaza into Israel,” a statement from the Israeli military echelons read.

The operation, it outlined, would include “infantry, armoured corps, engineer corps, artillery and intelligence combined with aerial and naval support.”

Such an exhibition of military might would naturally seek to evoke awe in the hearts of those on its receiving end.

Not so in Gaza.

Israel “will pay dearly” for the assault. “Hamas is ready for a confrontation,” spokesperson Fawzi Barhoum said as news of the intended invasion broke.

Clearly emboldened by previous encounters with Israel and an appraisal of its own military tactics, the Palestinian resistance seemed ready for any eventuality in a conflict which itself did not seek.

And its bravado soon proved to be well founded.

Hours into the operation, Nahal Brigade soldier Eitan Barak, 20, became the first IDF soldier to be fall in combat.

Then, over the weekend, the military toll spiked considerably when thirteen Golani Brigade soldiers were killed in Gaza in barely 24 hours.

Seven soldiers from the 13th battalion of the Golani Brigade were killed  Sunday in Gaza City when an anti-tank missile hit the armored personnel carrier (APC) they were in. Others were killed setting up positions inside houses they had taken over, according to Israeli sources.

It was the IDF’s highest one-day death toll since the 2006 Second Lebanon War against Hizbullah.

Eyewitnesses also said that Israeli forces had been forced to retreat from Beit Lahiya, early on in the operation, and had hardly dared to venture significantly into Gazan territory.

As if these reports were not grim enough for the military strategists, the resistance then dropped a bombshell.

Izzedeen Al Qassam Brigades, the military wing of Hamas, revealed that it managed to capture the Israeli soldier ‘Shaul Aaron’ in combat and brazenly announced his military number to the world, eliminating any doubts of his abduction.

“Psychologically, Hamas has already given the Palestinian people a victory,” Samer Saioudi, a lawyer in Gaza City, said. “People are celebrating because for over a week it was been nothing but misery in Gaza. They now feel like their side has accomplished something, and maybe this will make the war end.”

The resistance, which has engaged the Israeli military in fierce fighting across the Gaza  since the ground invasion began, has also been quite forthcoming with multimedia ‘evidence’ of its military exploits against the invading army.

They have released numerous videos and images which purport to show captured Israeli weapons, direct hits on military vehicles and the aftermath of guerilla operations.

As per its latest communique, the resistance claims to have eliminated 52 Israeli soldiers since the inception of the invasion, including senior officers.

The Brigades add that its members were also able to destroy 36 military vehicles, target places 35 places where Israeli Forces had been barricaded in and snipe 11 soldiers.

Significantly, unlike Israel, the overwhelming majority of casualties inflicted by the resistance have been incurred on Israeli uniformed personnel.

“I’ve been to Shujaiyeh before, but I’ve never seen it – or Hamas – like this before,” an Israeli officer and veteran of Gaza operations told Haaretz. “Their equipment and tactics are just like Hezbollah. Missile traps and IEDs everywhere – and they stay and fight instead of melting away like in the past.”

Added another IDF officer: “It’s not a disaster, we can still handle them and we’ve killed many more of their fighters than they have ours but they are certainly one level above what I would have expected. You can see they have learned both from Hezbollah and from watching us.”

Whether it admits it or not, after almost a week on the ground, it is the resistance and not Israel that is dictating the terms of this conflict.

Israel continues its indiscriminate raids from the sky and Palestinian civilian life and infrastructure continue to bleed painfully. But militarily, the Zionist entities gains are negligible.

The shift to ground warfare pushes aside the huge advantage Israel had thanks to the Iron Dome system,” wrote Nahum Barnea on Ynet. “Antitank weapons, explosive devices, booby-trapped buildings – all the weapon systems Hamas has specialized in are now being used against IDF soldiers.”

Offering a reality check to Israelis, Barnea exposes the Israeli Achilles Heel: Having no endgame. “The forces which entered the Strip are mainly busy unearthing the tunnels leading to kibbutzim in the Gaza vicinity,” he writes. “This activity is highly important and life-saving. But within two or three days, the number of uncovered tunnels will drop and the forces will be stuck in one place.”

“The cabinet will face a cruel dilemma: Should the forces move forward, deep into Gaza, and risk losing many soldiers and a mass killing of Palestinian civilians, or pull out while being fired on and give Hamas the victory? “

With economic losses from the war exacting a heavy toll on the Israeli economy, Israel angered by flight bans to its airports, and its diplomats scurrying behind the scenes for a potential ceasefire broker, the latter seems a very real possibility.

Notes Barnea, “the Israeli government has many strategic commentators, but it has no exit strategy. The issue has been raised in the endless cabinet discussion but has yet to reach maturation and a direction has yet to be set. As I already said, Israel is not leading this affair, Hamas is.”

And from its vantage point, Hamas this time appears in no mood to settle for anything less than restoration of a host of common dignities for the Palestinians of Gaza and the West Bank.