‘Harshest Day’ – How Palestinian Resistance Thwarted Israel’s ‘Third Phase’ of War before It Started

Israeli army spokesperson Daniel Hagari. (Photo: via Al-Jazeera Arabic)

By Palestine Chronicle Editors

For an army to progress from one stage of the war to the other, it has to first complete the military tasks of earlier stages. But did Israel achieve any of its war goals in order for it to move forward to yet another phase of fighting?

The third phase is upon us, Israeli officials have communicated time and again, in reference to what they described as the next stage of the genocidal Israeli war on Gaza.

References to the third phase were often made by anonymous Israeli and even American sources, and cited widely by mainstream American media. 

And despite his reluctance, and insistence that the war on Gaza shall continue unabated, right-wing Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu eventually joined the chorus. 

Netanyahu did not say it outright, but his military spokesman, Daniel Hagari, communicated the message, on Monday, that “The war shifted a stage. But the transition will be with no ceremony”. 

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What is the third phase?

Based on Israeli official and semi-official statements, the third phase is a stage in the ongoing war on Gaza that would see a large reduction in military operations deep inside the Gaza Strip. 

Alternatively, the Israeli army will focus on so-called ‘surgical operations’, selective military raids that would target Hamas’ strongholds, for example in areas like Deir Al-Balah, in central Gaza, and Khan Yunis, in the south. 

The Americans have a slightly different interpretation for this third phase, as they would also like to see Palestinians who have been displaced from their homes in northern Gaza, go back. In fact, it was the Americans who repeated the phrase ‘surgical operations’, which is now being adopted by the Israelis. 

But is the ‘third phase’ another word for defeat?

To speak of a third phase, it implies that the first and second phases were a success: the first being the dismantling of the Resistance in northern Gaza and the second being the military advancements and the destruction of Hamas’ capabilities in the center and the south. 

Though the Israelis insist that these objectives have been wholly or partly achieved, evidence on the ground suggests otherwise. 

For example, on Monday, the same day that Hagari explained to reporters the nature and meaning of the ‘third phase’, both Al-Qassam Brigades and Al-Quds Brigades seemed to thwart any possibility for the success of the new stage of fighting. 

Al-Qassam killed, per the admission of the Israeli army, nine officers and wounded many others, while simultaneously firing rockets towards Tel Aviv from southern Gaza. This was described by Israeli Channel 12 as the ‘harshest day’ for the Israeli military in Gaza since the beginning of the war. 

Here goes the second phase. 

Al-Quds Brigades fired rockets at the Gaza envelope region, Sderot in particular, this time from northern Gaza, which should have been pacified within the supposed first phase.

It is obvious that Israel has failed to achieve any of its repeatedly declared objectives: destroying Hamas, dismantling the Resistance, reoccupying or taking charge of Gaza, and all the rest. 

To speak of a third phase, where none of the above objectives have been achieved, is indeed a sign of outright Israeli failure to defeat Palestinians. 

What’s next?

The ‘third phase’ could be an Israeli attempt at slowly ending the war without an official declaration that the war is over.

From Netanyahu’s point of view, this is all you could do to maintain the element of urgency in Israeli society, which would allow him to prolong his stay at the helm of Israeli politics. 

But the Palestinian Resistance has proved that the decision to continue with or to end the war is not entirely in Netanyahu’s hands. 

If Israel continues to fight at the same capacity in Gaza, it will surely endure a harsh fate, like that experienced by thousands of soldiers since October 7. 

If it retreats to so-called buffer zones, it will simply play in the hands of the Palestinian Resistance, who excels in what Palstianians call fidahi fighting techniques, in other words, guerilla fighting. 

If Israel retreats altogether back to the Gaza Envelope, it can either do this based on a truce agreement, which would allow it to retrieve its military captives; or without an agreement. 

In both cases, Netanyahu’s days in power are numbered. 

(The Palestine Chronicle)

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