Israel should not be marking its territory in Gaza. First, the IDF released images of the Israeli flag planted along the beach in Gaza. Then they conquered the Hamas parliament building, and released a photo of soldiers waving the Israeli flag there. Then Bibi Netanyahu made a trip to visit troops in Gaza, demonstrating that it is firmly within Israeli control.
This is a mistake.
How can Israel claim that it is not trying to recapture Gaza and displace the Palestinians there when these images suggest otherwise? Every time Israel releases an image of the Israeli flag in Gaza, it undermines the position that Israel’s military campaign is righteous and not just a land grab.
There are other ways to flaunt military might and demoralize the enemy.
Gaza is not the only front in this war. While Israel clearly has the military advantage, it is arguably losing the war of public opinion. And the two fronts impact each other.
What happens on the battlefield influences public opinion, and public opinion affects what happens on the battlefield. Hamas’ strategy of maximizing harm to its civilian population is effective because public pressure for a ceasefire grows with every civilian casualty.
Israel cannot afford to provide propaganda for its adversaries. These images of the IDF planting flags in Gaza are a gift to the Hamas apologists in the media and on college campuses.
Qatari state-owned Arabic-language news network Al Jazeera was very quick to post the images, because the pictures support the narrative that Israel is using the October 7 massacre as an excuse to annex Gaza. Hamas is extremely adept at manipulating world opinion — because much of the world seems inclined to believe that Israel is evil and Hamas is a legitimate resistance movement.
Israel does not need to assist them further.
It doesn’t help that Netanyahu said he plans to “retain security control of Gaza indefinitely.” That statement is as reckless as it is tone deaf, even if he has since walked it back a little.
Netanyahu’s support for the expansion of settlements in the West Bank has undermined Israel’s standing in the world. At the very moment when the IDF instructed Gazans to evacuate the north, Netanyahu was telling the world that Israel intends to occupy Gaza indefinitely.
You can’t blame Gazans for fearing that by complying with orders to evacuate, they are forfeiting their homes. For Netanyahu to be so cavalier about occupation shows a complete disregard for how his comments will be interpreted by anyone who is not a member of his right-wing coalition.
While Israel must demilitarize Gaza and defang Hamas, it cannot and should not occupy Gaza indefinitely. Doing so would cost untold IDF casualties and put peace even farther out of reach.
So what should Israel do once the threat that Hamas poses has been neutralized? An international peacekeeping force should relieve the IDF in Gaza, and allay concerns over annexation. Such a force would not provide a target for terrorists, and it would lower the tension in the region. Turning down the temperature will be necessary in the months that follow, in order to create the conditions in which a long-term solution can be negotiated.
At the moment, the military campaign in Gaza has been paused. While calls to extend the ceasefire grow, the idea that it will become permanent is a fantasy. Eventually, Hamas will run out of hostages to trade for time, or Israel will refuse to release more prisoners, or the truce will founder for some other reason.
Despite pressure from the international community, this respite will end and the fighting will resume. When it does, Israel should resist the temptation to plant its flags all over Gaza.
Iran Unveils New Air Defense Weaponry
i24 News – Iran demonstrated new weaponry on Saturday, including what it said was the locally made Arman anti-ballistic missile system and the Azarakhsh low-altitude air defense system, said the official IRNA news agency. Saturday’s unveiling ceremony of the two vehicle-mounted systems was held in the presence of Iranian Defense Minister Brigadier General Mohammad Reza Ashtiani.
“With the entry of new systems into the country’s defense network, the air defense capability of the Islamic Republic of Iran will increase significantly,” said IRNA.
Video of the new Azarakhsh SHORAD engaging a target drone
— Iran Defense|نیروهای مسلح جمهوری اسلامی ایران (@IranDefense) February 17, 2024
The Arman missile system is said to be able to “simultaneously confront six targets at a distance of 120 to 180 km,” while the Azarakhsh missile system “can identify and destroy targets up to a range of 50 km with four ready-to-fire missiles.”
The announcement comes amid tensions across the Middle East, with Yemen’s Iran-backed Houthis attacking vessels linked to the United States, UK and Israel in the Red Sea in a show of solidarity with the Gaza Strip.
— Press TV (@PressTV) February 17, 2024
The U.S. and its allies in the Middle East are concerned with Iran’s growing role at the international global arms market, The Wall Street Journal said on Friday. The transformation of the industry, boosted by Russia’s “purchase of thousands of drones that altered the battlefield in Ukraine, has helped Tehran scale up its support of militia allies in Middle East conflicts,” read the report.
‘Exceptional Opportunity’: Blinken Says ‘Virtually Every Arab Country’ Wants to Normalize Ties with Israel
i24 News – U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said at the Munich Security Conference on Saturday that the present moment represented an “exceptional opportunity” for Israel to normalize ties with Arab states.
“Virtually every Arab country now wants to integrate Israel into the region to normalize relations,” the official told the conference, according to Reuters.
Blinken also spoke of an “urgent” imperative to “proceed with a Palestinian state that would also ensure the security of Israel.” He said there was a regional effort underway to revive the Palestinian Authority, and turn it into a viable institution.
Hamas Suspends Hostage Deal Talks and Demands Aid, Arab Media Reports
i24 News – In a recent statement published on Telegram, Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh pointed fingers at Israel for the lack of advancement in reaching a ceasefire agreement in Gaza, the terrorist group disclosed on Saturday.
Yet, Arab media later reported that Hamas suspended all negotiation and ceasefire talks due to a demand for aid.
Haniyeh emphasized Hamas’s consistent efforts to engage positively with mediators to halt aggression against the Palestinian people, end the unjust siege, and facilitate aid delivery, shelter, and reconstruction efforts.
Despite Hamas’s purported flexibility in negotiations, Haniyeh lamented Israel’s perceived maneuvers and delays, which, he claimed, exacerbate the plight of the Palestinian population.
Notably, one of the sticking points in the negotiations revolves around the release of prisoners held by Hamas, with the organization highlighting its previous concession of releasing hostages in exchange for security prisoners held in Israel for terrorism offenses.
However, Haniyeh asserted that Hamas remains steadfast in its demands for a comprehensive ceasefire, including the cessation of aggression, withdrawal of Israeli forces from Gaza, lifting of the siege, provision of safe shelter for displaced individuals, particularly in the northern Gaza Strip, and commitment to reconstruction efforts.
The Hamas leader emphasized the importance of addressing the humanitarian crisis in Gaza and ensuring the release of older prisoners and those serving long sentences as part of any potential prisoner exchange agreement.
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