Similar to a boxing match, the first round of the “March of Return” saga between Israel and Hamas was devoted to testing the limits of the competitors, each side examining its opponent’s strengths and weaknesses.
The two sides emerged satisfied from the first two days: The IDF effectively prevented the breaching of the fence and the laying of explosive charges, and Hamas proved its strength by bringing tens of thousands of people to an event it organized. Compared to the ineptness of Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, Hamas has once again become the organization leading the Palestinian resistance.
For the Israeli communities that surround the Gaza Strip, Passover Seders were celebrated quietly and without disturbance, certainly a commendable achievement. There was fear of rocket fire, a concern that will continue to accompany these communities for the next six weeks. However there was only one attempt at mortar fire and it was thwarted.
The many soldiers who spent the Seder evening on the ramparts opposite Gaza proved they were well prepared, successfully preventing the breaching of the fence. In one incident, they also foiled an attempt by an armed squad to lay charges on the fence. It appears that Hamas was unable to exploit the events to place additional IEDs on the border.
The numbers – 15 killed, 700 injured by gunfire and 30,000 participants – also serve both sides. The IDF offered proof that it met the task of defending the fence while exerting a reasonable price from the other side; for Hamas, it was the first opportunity in years to bring the Palestinian story back to the consciousness of the Arab world.
In Israel, some on the Left, who still call themselves “Zionist,” have called for an investigation into the high number of deaths, as if the dead were innocent civilians who were shot while shopping for the holiday and not people who were pushed to the border by Hamas in order to be killed in the service of the Palestinian narrative.
But remember that this is only the beginning. Israel still has six more Fridays to pass over, during which Independence Day, the day of the American Embassy opening in Jerusalem and Nakba Day will occur.
Hamas wants to place Gaza on the international agenda and is ready to sacrifice many of its subjects in this effort. So far it seems to be doing well. Meanwhile, Abbas, who abused Gaza with Israel’s inexplicable support, has become irrelevant.
Both sides will learn lessons from the end of the first week. Hamas’s lesson, it can be estimated, will be to continue to push the issue. The biggest test for Israel is still ahead.The author is Channel 10’s military analyst.
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