By Dr. Sami A Al-Arian
History will remember October 7, 2023, as a watershed moment in the Palestinian struggle for justice, independence, self-determination and liberation.
Ever since the 1993 Oslo accords, successive Israeli governments have attempted to bypass the core issues standing in the way of an independent Palestinian state.
At the same time, Israeli leaders have consolidated the Zionist project by establishing a system of military controls in the occupied territories, and imposing a complete siege over Gaza, denying Palestinians basic political and human rights.
The Israeli tactics included the establishment of Jewish-only colonies/settlements, use of hundreds of military checkpoints, the separation wall around majority of the Palestinian communities, and the continuous Judaization of Jerusalem and denial of religious rights to Muslims and Christians, as well as the use of assassinations and detentions as a tool to silence Palestinians who dare to challenge the illegal occupation.
Ever since the new far-right Israeli government led by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his openly fascist partners came to power last year, attacks on Palestinians have escalated.
For example in 2023 — before the recent round of hostilities broke out — over 250 Palestinians in the West Bank were killed including more than 40 children. In addition, the daily incursions into Al-Aqsa mosque compound by armed soldiers and settler-colonists have become routine and defiant as Israelis try to undermine its status as a sacred Muslim sanctuary and lay claim to it as a Jewish holy site.
As the prospect of a political settlement over Palestine has diminished in the past two decades, the current Israeli government is trying to predetermine the end of the conflict by forcing new facts on the ground.
By constructing more settlements, confiscating Palestinian lands, and turning the Palestinian Authority into a tool to protect the occupation forces and settlers, and weakening the resistance, not only have the living conditions of Palestinians gravely deteriorated across the West Bank, but the likelihood of any future Palestinian self-determination or freedom has become a distant dream.
The resistance movement led by Hamas and the Islamic Jihad, in Gaza, had warned Israel against going down that path especially with regards to perilous developments that transpired in Jerusalem in the past few weeks.
Against this backdrop and after many warnings throughout the year, the Al-Qassam Brigades, the military wing of Hamas, initiated the "Operation Al-Aqsa Flood".
The unprecedented attack against many targets inside Israel included military bases, border settlements and towns, as well as strategic targets including its main international airport and coordinated cyber-attacks.
The main objectives of this operation, which were a direct response to the Israeli provocations taking place over many months, are manifold. They include:
(a) Putting a stop to the incursions and desecration of the Al-Aqsa mosque and the Noble Sanctuary;
(b) ending the storming of West Bank camps and towns such as Jenin, Nablus, Tulkarm, Huwara, and Al-Khalil, where hundreds of Palestinians have been assassinated and kidnapped;
(c) apprehend as many Israeli prisoners of war in order to force a prisoners’ exchange after Israel has rejected all attempts to free any of the 5,500 Palestinians languishing in jails under harsh and inhumane conditions;
(d) Lifting the crippling siege and blockade on Gaza that has been suffocating over two million people for the last 16 years; and perhaps the most important objective,
(e) to demonstrate to the whole world the determination and resolve of the Palestinian struggle toward freedom, independence and liberation despite all attempts to suppress it.
The daring and surprising attack by Hamas and other resistance movements in the past few days has shaken the Israeli state to the core. Not since the establishment of the state in 1948 has Israel been challenged at such a scale.
The Israeli military and security establishment was shocked to see a few hundred determined and well-trained men achieve so much in so little time, greatly shaking their self-confidence and false pride, as well as shattering their deterrence posture against the resistance groups.
The Israeli intelligence and military failure was so sweeping that many experts consider it one of the most serious breakdowns in military conflicts, even more severe than the 1973 military and intelligence failure against Egypt and Syria. While in that conflict Israel was facing two major Arab armies with hundreds of thousands of soldiers, this conflict included only a few hundred men.
Meanwhile, Western countries led by the United States declared their full support for the Israeli government and exposed their double standards when it comes to Palestine and the Palestinian struggle.
US president Joe Biden and the rest of his administration engaged in a full-fledged disinformation campaign by embracing the Israeli deceptive narrative, while fully ignoring the context of the conflict in order to boost the sagging confidence of the Israelis.
The US administration promised to support the genocidal policies of the Israeli government by giving billions of dollars in military aid and providing new weapons in an attempt to seek retribution and subdue the Palestinian resistance.
An important objective of this extraordinary support by the US and its allies is to negate the success of the resistance model that humiliated their main ally in the region.
Building on the 2020 Abraham Accords, the United States has been trying for months to broker a normalisation deal between the Israeli state and Saudi Arabia that would completely ignore the Palestinian question.
This deal is now in jeopardy as the utter destruction unleashed currently in Gaza is so devastating that it would be very difficult to conclude a normalisation deal with Israel before the 2024 US elections.
Meanwhile, the Israeli government is threatening to obliterate and disarm the resistance movements and free dozens of Israeli captives by force, or even reoccupy Gaza and dislodge Hamas as its rulers. It has also called for the mobilisation of almost 360,000 reservists. But such a move is replete with dangers by not only losing thousands of soldiers in hazardous terrain, but also the possibility of a widening war that might involve Hezbollah in Lebanon or even Iran and other regional forces in Yemen and Iraq.
According to American officials, that is the main reason why the US has sent its aircraft carriers, naval warships, and other military assets to the region. US officials have also warned any regional actors not to come to the aid of the Palestinians in order to give Israel a free hand to carry out its vicious plans.
While Israel and its western allies are trying to eliminate the Palestinian resistance and erase their remarkable accomplishments in resisting their occupiers, regional actors such as Türkiye, Iran, Qatar and Egypt are trying to ameliorate the situation before it gets completely out of hand.
But regardless, one thing is clear, the Palestinian resistance under incredible odds has much to be proud of. Living in an open-air prison and modern-day concentration camp, Palestinians in Gaza were able to carry out the most daring prison break in history, breaking their chains, humiliating their jailers, and showing the entire world that the Palestinian quest for freedom cannot be destroyed and the flame of liberation will not be extinguished.
The author, Dr Sami A. Al-Arian is Director of the Center for Islam and Global Affairs (CIGA) at Istanbul Zaim University.
Disclaimer: The viewpoints expressed by the author do not necessarily reflect the opinions, viewpoints and editorial policies of TRT Afrika.