Israeli Raids Continue Outside the Temple Walls: Revelation 11

Israeli forces killed at least 171 Palestinians in the occupied West Bank and east Jerusalem in 2022 [File: Mussa Qawasma/Reuters]

As Israeli raids continue, what comes next for the West Bank?

Analysts say the Palestinian West Bank is approaching a crossroads in the struggle against the occupation.

By Zena Al Tahhan

Published On 10 Jan 202310 Jan 2023

Ramallah, occupied West Bank – Instability hangs low over life for Palestinians in the Israeli-occupied West Bank.

There is an expectation that the situation on the ground is going to implode at some point in the near future.

When and how that will unfold – or what the trigger will be – cannot be predicted, but several developments on the ground over the past year indicate that the occupied West Bank is approaching a serious shift in the currently unsustainable political and security status quo.

“A Palestinian confrontation and a renewal of the struggle with the [Israeli] occupation is inevitable,” Belal Shobaki, head of the political science department at Hebron University, told Al Jazeera. “I believe that the scenario of matters exploding in 2023 is possible.”

“In the estimations of the Israeli military and security apparatus, the West Bank is bound to eventually mobilise. Israel is trying to postpone this scenario for as long as possible by employing a strategy of containment and absorption,” he continued.

For now, he said: “Israel is not allowing complete calm, and it is not allowing matters to explode.”

For close to a year, the occupied West Bank has witnessed an increase in violence by the Israeli military, with at least 170 Palestinians, including 30 children, killed during near-daily raids in 2022 – the highest death toll in 16 years according to the United Nations. Attacks committed against Palestinians by Jewish settlers in the occupied West Bank have also sharply increased.

The deaths have continued into 2023, with four Palestinians, including three children, killed in the first five days during Israeli raids.

While many of those killed over the past year were civilians, the Israeli army raids and killings are being conducted under the banner of crushing Palestinian armed resistance in the northern occupied West Bank.

A new, far-right Israeli government sworn in last month has taken punitive measures against the Palestinian Authority (PA), and includes controversial figures in key positions of control over Palestinians, further raising the prospect of an explosion on the ground.

A new military operation?

Since September 2021, a number of relatively small, cross-factional Palestinian armed groups have been formed, mainly in the cities of Jenin and Nablus. The groups are limited in terms of their capabilities and are focused on defending the areas they operate in during Israeli military raids, and also carry out shootings at Israeli military checkpoints.

Separately in 2022, attacks committed by Palestinians in Israel and the occupied West Bank killed 29 people, according to the Israeli foreign ministry.

The prospect of Israel launching a full-scale invasion of Palestinian cities, as it did in 2002, or a new Palestinian Intifada (uprising) has repeatedly been put forward by observers over the past year.

However, Abdeljawad Hamayel, an academic at Birzeit University, said he believes it is unlikely that Israel will invade with full force unless there is a change in the nature of the attacks carried out by Palestinian groups.

“[Israel’s] strategy now is a mix of negotiation and assassination. The armed groups themselves are not carrying out attacks deep in Israel. If there are attacks in the coastal area for example – then they might start considering this again as then they will have enough political will to take these groups out,” Hamayel told Al Jazeera.

“The [armed] groups have created zones of relative freedom, but they are not isolated from Israeli power. Israel enters, arrests, carries out assassinations and special operations in these areas with relative immunity for its soldiers,” he continued.

“Yes, they are facing firepower and they can’t arrest people as easily as before, but these zones are penetrable to the Israeli army so they don’t feel they need to do a full-scale invasion.”

For Shobaki, the absence of real coordination between the armed groups, and the violence still being largely restricted to the occupied West Bank, means that Israel is content with its current strategy.

“The majority of the points of confrontation have been in the Palestinian arena – inside the villages and cities, refugee camps, on checkpoints. All of this is happening in a way that is not affecting daily life for the settlers, and that is not as costly for the Israeli occupation as it is for the lives of Palestinians,” he explained.

Gaza and the Palestinian Authority

It is not just Israel seeking to stop any significant upheaval in the occupied West Bank.

The Palestinian Authority (PA), controlled by the Fatah party, also has a role to play, and one that separates it from other Palestinian groups.

“If we look at the reality of the occupied West Bank, we have a group of parties that are looking to change the reality even if it means an explosion in the West Bank,” said Shobaki. “They are Hamas, the Islamic Jihad, and the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP).”

While many members of the newly-formed armed groups are affiliated with Fatah, they represent a form of opposition to the PA leadership, which cooperates with the Israeli army in security coordination to thwart attacks and publicly condemns armed attacks.

“We may see that pockets of the Fatah movement may defect and become part of the armed struggle against the Israeli occupation, [allowing space for] Hamas, Islamic Jihad and the PFLP to work in,” said Shobaki.

Instead, several of the new armed groups are affiliated with the armed wing of the Gaza-based Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) – the al-Quds Brigades.

Israel targeted the PIJ in August in a three-day bombardment of the besieged Gaza Strip, killing at least 49 Palestinians, the majority of them civilians, including 17 children.

But the short-lived nature of that conflict, and the absence of any real follow-up, have led observers to believe that another Israeli war in Gaza is unlikely in the coming period.

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