the LORD hardened Pharaoh's heart, so that he would not let the children of Israel go out of his land.—Exodus 10:11On July 21, 2014, the Battle of Shuja'iyya ended with
an incredible result. Hamas confronted an Israeli
force many times larger and separated as equal.
Soldiers lacking basic equipment equaled one of the
best equipped armies in the world. Hamas has
successfully inverted the Zionist ethos.
"How do you know," was the core of a dry email that I received after publishing Shalit, the Movie. In the article, I had reviewed a movie made by Hamas about the captive Israeli soldier after his release.
Shalit had been captured in a sad comedy of errors. He committed almost every possible mistake and broke all IDF orders for such a case. In the movie "Losing Shalit," actor Mahmoud Karira plays Shalit.
He looks wrong. The beret was put on his head like an inverted cooking pot; the color and the patch were wrong. He closes the shirt all the way up. The IDF patch on the shirt is missing. Shalit was a tank corps soldier, but he wears a paratrooper beret.
Karira portrayed what in IDF slang is known as a "Helmut,"+ a sloppy soldier. The Palestinians were joking at that.
"How do you know that they are joking at the IDF," the anonymous reader had asked.
"They have seen IDF soldiers their entire life, they know how a proper soldier looks. The actor is making all possible errors as Shalit did during his capture. A 'cook-style beret' is the archetypal dressing error. It is a parody."
I do not know if I convinced him, but on July 20 the IDF released data about the Hamas soldiers that have entered Israel through a tunnel and had been killed in an airstrike. They were dressed as proper IDF soldiers, down to the smallest details, including the rubber bands used for folding inwards the lower end of the trousers.
Palestinians know the IDF well, as it was demonstrated in the battle that may be announcing a turning point in what the IDF already calls campaign, Operation Strong Cliff* just got upgraded.
Battle of Shuja'iyya
There is neither single nor easy way of transliterating Arabic and Hebrew names into the Roman alphabet. Shuja'iyya is the best known transliteration of what could be more phonetically rendered as Shjaya.
Meaning the Neighborhood of the Brave in Gaza City, it is named after the brave who fell in a battle against the Crusaders in 1239.
Located on the eastern side of Gaza atop a low hill, the neighborhood was the first built outside the Old City.
In recent days, the IDF scattered above it airborne leaflets, instructing the denizens to evacuate it ahead of a ground attack.
It was not part of a conquest of Gaza campaign, but of the limited action against the tunnels that had enabled economic activity in Gaza under the Israeli siege of recent years.
Yesterday, the Battle of Shuja'iyya started. One of its first wounded was IDF Colonel Rasan Alian, commander of the infantry Golani Brigade (Wounded Druze Colonel Runs to Gaza). This was the force sent to the neighborhood.
It was to confront a regional battalion of Hamas which belongs to the inner circle of the forming army. Like Hezbollah in Lebanon, Hamas arranges its forces in arches whenever possible. The hilly shape of Shuja'iyya provided an optimal ground for that.
This is a well equipped battalion armed with anti-tank weapons, thus Hamas decided to confront the approaching force, in contrast to its behavior during Cast Lead in 2009, when it avoided direct encounters with the IDF.
Golani is a full brigade, composed of three infantry battalions and additional special units. The IDF doctrine claims that every unit must be capable of confronting a force three times larger. This time, the ratio was inverted. The Golani Brigade confronted a meek battalion armed with outdated Soviet RPG's.
Incredibly, Hamas held its ground.
The day afterwards, the forces separated with no ground gains being achieved by any side.
Palestinians reported seventy deaths, about half of them were soldiers, and the others were civilians killed in bestial bombings of hospitals, schools and mosques. Golani lost thirteen soldiers, three of them officers. 7 Died in a single event, when an RPG hit an American M113 vehicle, used as a troops' carrier by Golani.
Designed by the Americans for Vietnam, the M113 is the most popular Armored Troops Carrier in use by the IDF. After yesterday it was decided not to use it anymore in Gaza.
Shocked, Hebrew media has defined the event as a "battle of Lebanese proportions," making reference to the bitter battles that the IDF fought against Hezbollah in recent years.
Not for the first time in this operation, Hamas is reaping unexpected gains (Gaza Hits the Curse of Givat Amal).
In the Battle of Shuja'iyya, Hamas confronted an Israeli force many times larger and separated as equal. Soldiers lacking basic equipment equaled one of the best equipped armies in the world. Hamas has successfully inverted the Zionist ethos.
Moreover, the IDF bombed hospitals, schools and mosques creating horror images of civilian casualties that will flood international media in the months to come. Hamas won also the media front.
Brave New World
In the first articles* dedicated to this operation, I commented on a few rockets fired at Israel from the Sinai and Lebanon. They were messages of support more than military events. They caused no damages.
Today, at 12:30 Jerusalem Time, Hezbollah reported a meeting between its leaders and related parties. Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah offered support to Hamas.
Yesterday, while speaking with Hebrew Media, IDF Chief of Staff Gantz referred to the operation as a "campaign" upgrading it to one step below "war."
This is not a megalomaniac attempt to increase his own role in a future book about the IDF. If Hezbollah decides to help Hamas actively, that will mean a war. The Lebanese militia is several times stronger than in 2006, when it successfully held its ground against a full column of the IDF while inflicting heavy damage to Israel.
This morning, PM Netanyahu said that the operation will be enlarged, apparently meaning that the IDF will attempt a complete conquest of Gaza. This had been announced before the operation unofficially, mainly by Minister of Foreign Affairs Lieberman.
A few weeks ago I dedicated several articles to the situation in Iraq ("One War with Pickles and ISIL, please"). We can see there the collapse of the Sykes-Picot Agreement$ which shaped the political borders of the Middle East in the last century.
Also Israel is a Sykes-Picot artifact. Contrary to Iraq, it never had agreed borders. Now this is about to change, and Hamas has proven to be a serious contender, matching an IDF brigade with a regional battalion.
Oblivious to historical ironies, the Zionist dream has become an impersonator of the British Mandate in 1947, hoping for an international miracle saving it from collapse, another empire succumbing to a simple true: People are free.