Israel’s military began targeting Palestinian Islamic Jihad positions in the Gaza Strip on Friday, in what the Israel Defense Forces said were “preemptive” airstrikes.
In the course of the three-day military action, dubbed Operation Breaking Dawn, 46 Gazan Palestinians were killed, including 16 children, and over 311 were wounded, according to the Palestinian Health Ministry. Armed factions within Gaza stated that the death count included 12 members of the Islamic Jihad group. Israeli officials estimated 47 Palestinians were killed, including 14 by Islamic Jihad rockets that were misfired and landed in Gazan territory.
With reports of the international community split over the justification of the military operation and fears that the violence would escalate to the devastating impact of May 2021’s 11-day Israel-Gaza conflict, a cease-fire was reached with the help of the Egyptian government.
Prime Minister Yair Lapid said on Monday that the operation was finished after Israel had “achieved its goals” with Operation Breaking Dawn.
However, a day after the cease-fire went into effect, people in Jerusalem were divided about whether the operation was necessary, if any major goals were achieved, and if it would help bring long-lasting peace.
In Jerusalem’s famous Mahane Yehuda market, Reut, a children’s art therapist, said that she felt the intervention was necessary. “I think that if we don’t react with power, we seem like a weak country and that’s not good for us, so we need to act back,” she said.
Reut, 36, is worried about the future of the conflict and its effect on her young child. “I think it will never stop because it’s a religious thing. We gave them land and from there they fire missiles at us. It will not stop. It’s a religious war,” she said.
However, Tomer, 28, a bartender in the market, said that he is more concerned about the long-term impact of the operation. “I wouldn’t say it was successful because it’s just going to happen again next summer. I think real deals need to be made. Not by eliminating specific things, but by starting to think of the bigger picture for 20 to 30 years from now,” he said.
Outside of HaMiffal, an art and culture center, artist Karine Katz, 32, sat smoking and wondering if anything was gained from this round of hostilities. “Honestly, I think no one gained anything from it,” she said.
Asked whether the military operation was successful in eliminating the threat from Islamic Jihad, Karine speculated: “I’m guessing without any intel that about four or five people are jumping up to take that particular individual’s place, even the rockets will be replaced … so, it’s not like there is no supply. It will take a while but that’s what is going to be expected.”
Karine is concerned further about longer-term Israeli policy toward the Gaza Strip.
“I think Gaza at the moment is practically under siege. I think the humanitarian conditions are horrible and they don’t have any hope for a future … Israel has control over their infrastructure, their borders, even with environmental issues. If that’s not going to change then organizations like the Islamic Jihad are just going to get stronger,” she said.
Karine believes that it is time for a long-term solution to be created. “I don’t like it one bit. Children have been killed, women have been killed. Not to mention I think it’s about 20 years that the Israeli cities, kibbutzes, and every other settlement in the south have been under fire.”
On Jerusalem’s eastern side, Al-Quds University students Sarah and Dina, both 21, claim they are troubled by the Israeli operation and the impact it would have on future relations.
“It concerns me greatly. I think it will get worse if it continues to happen. It just feels like non-stop war, with non-stop violence,” Sarah said.
Dina added: “I feel like neither side has really achieved anything. From the Israelis, there has just been more violence. I think the Palestinians have a right to be mad if there’s a lot of violence and they feel it’s not being justified.”
Sitting on the grass beside Damascus Gate, 21-year-old Islam Abutair agreed. “They responded so strong and it’s not good for anyone. … I think all they have gained is violence,” she said. She adds that the future of the conflict remains unclear “for both Palestinians and Israelis, and it’s just not fair to anyone here.”
A Palestinian shop owner on Salah ad-Din Street, who asked to remain anonymous, holds the view that the only thing gained from the three-day conflict is violence, adding: “I hate wars, I only believe in peace. … What I care about are human beings. I see that human beings were killed, including children, and it’s painful for me. Even if it was on the Israeli side – children and adults killed, it would be painful too. It is not about which side, I just want peace.”
The fragile truce has lasted so far, with Israel reopening border crossings with Gaza on Monday.
IDF Chief of Staff Maj. Gen. Aviv Kochavi said in a statement that the purpose of the operation was “to inflict serious damage on the Islamic Jihad organization,” and that this “was the result of the operation,” including the death of two senior commanders and the destruction of rocket production and storage facilities. A spokesman for Islamic Jihad in Gaza said that the group may have suffered losses, but they were ultimately successful in imposing pressure on Israel.
However, for the approximately 2.3 million civilians living in Gaza, the cost of the operation on their lives and livelihoods was extremely high.
The story was written by Isla-Rose Deans and reprinted with permission from The Media Line.