GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip — With the cease-fire between Hamas and Israel holding amid international efforts and Egyptian brokerage, many Palestinians took to the streets to celebrate the resistance's victory against Israel, but now they are wondering what Hamas actually gained.
Israel's airstrikes on the Gaza Strip started May 10 in response to Hamas and the Palestinian Islamic Jihad firing hundreds of rockets toward Israel in the wake of the Israeli police raiding Al-Aqsa Mosque and working to displace the Palestinian residents of Jerusalem's Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood.
The escalation killed 248 Palestinians, including 66 children, 39 women and 17 elderly people. The bombing destroyed 2,075 housing units and damaged another 15,000.
Eleven days after the military confrontation, nothing seems to have changed in Jerusalem.
On the morning of May 23, Israeli settler groups resumed their raids into Al-Aqsa Mosque's courtyards, 20 days after they were closed due to the tensions in the Palestinian territories.
Israeli security forces raided Al-Aqsa Mosque and arrested six worshipers there during the dawn prayers on May 23. Later on some 253 settlers stormed the mosque again, backed up by Israeli solders.
Shortly after the cease-fire was announced, the Israeli authorities in the Arab cities of Israel began a massive campaign of arrests targeting Arab demonstrators who supported the Gaza Strip and Jerusalem. They arrested more than 1,550 people, while 150 face charges of “assaulting police officers, throwing stones and starting fires,” according to Israeli police.
The Palestinian Ministry of Foreign Affairs said in a May 23 statement that the ongoing Al-Aqsa incursions show “disregard for the efforts deployed to stabilize calm.”
In a May 23 statement, the Palestinian presidency warned of the dangers of a return to escalation and tension through settler incursions into Al-Aqsa Mosque, the ongoing siege of the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood and the policy of arrests against Palestinians.
Talal Okal, a political analyst for the Ramallah-based newspaper Al-Ayyam, told Al-Monitor, “This military confrontation is the first in the history of confrontations between Gaza and Israel not to relate to Gaza itself, but … Jerusalem.”
Okal added that Hamas seems to have changed focus beyond the Gaza border. Chief among them is thwarting Israel’s efforts to isolate the Palestinian geographical areas from each other, he explained.
He pointed out that this confrontation brought the Palestinian issue, especially that of Jerusalem, back to the forefront of global attention after it had languished amid the other wars and conflicts that plague the Arab region and the world’s preoccupation with other issues such as the pandemic.
Despite no change in noticeable change in the situation on the ground following the conflict, Wadih Abu Nassar, director of the International Center for Consultations in Haifa, claimed that Hamas made “gains in the realm of deterrence” with this conflict.
He explained that during this confrontation, Hamas launched the fiercest and most extensive missile strikes targeting the depths of Israel since its establishment in 1948 and forced two-thirds of the Israeli population to take shelter.
Abu Nassar pointed out that Hamas unveiled the failure of the Israeli intelligence apparatus, which has spent years trying to locate the rocket launching sites in Gaza, as the rocket launches continued up to the last moment of the fighting.
Ahmed Rafiq Awad, a media and political science professor at Al-Quds University in Abu Dis, told Al-Monitor that although Hamas failed to bring about any change in Jerusalem, it has achieved great popularity among the Palestinians.
He said, “Hamas has garnered overwhelming support from Palestinians from the entire political spectrum.”
Awad indicated that the Palestinian street appeared angry at the policies of President Mahmoud Abbas, who lacked any useful means to confront the Israeli escalation in Jerusalem and postponed the general Palestinian elections, citing Israel’s refusal to allow voting in the city of Jerusalem.
Awad predicted that Abbas would not set a new date for the elections even if Israel agrees to hold them in Jerusalem for fear that Hamas would win.
Despite the end of the military confrontation between Hamas and Israel, the residents of the Gaza Strip, which has been under siege for 15 years, are still grappling with bad humanitarian and economic conditions amid a fragile cease-fire that stands little chance of survival if any more rockets are launched from Gaza or Israel commits further violations against the Palestinians.