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Will Israel's Gaza attack spark a third Palestinian Intifada?

As Israel continues pounding Gaza, a land invasion appearing imminent, Palestinians are returning to direct resistance. But will there be a general popular uprising?

Alia Soliman , Saturday 12 Jul 2014
Relatives of Mohammed Sweilem mourn during his funeral at Jabalya refugee camp in the northern Gaza Strip 12 July , 2014. (Photo:Reuters)

Palestinians living in Gaza have for long been forced to live in fear. However, Israel’s bombardment of the coastal strip this past week has been the most aggressive since 2012. The death toll has reached 121, with more than 900 injured.

Israel's deadliest air strikes began Tuesday, killing around 24 people in the first hours. The death toll has been mounting as Israel dramatically escalates its assault on Gaza.

Israel launched its operation ostensibly in retaliation for the abduction and murder of the three Jewish teen settlers in the occupied West Bank. This was followed by the abduction and murder, by burning alive, of a Palestinian teenager in Jerusalem.

The situation is escalating rapidly, with many believing Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas does not have enough leverage to stop the assaults on Gaza. Since the attack began, the international community has been pursuing diplomatic means to end the bloodshed in Gaza. However, the Israeli government lead by Binyamin Netanyhu said Saturday it would not let-up in its aerial bombardment of Gaza.

Palestinians continuously resist Israel's occupation, but will Israel's current assault spark a third Intifada, or sustained and general uprising?

Ahram Online spoke to Mohammed Nabhan, a Palestinian doctor currently in Nusayrat refugee camp in Gaza, who says what's happening in the West Bank are pre-Intifada clashes. “This time, I think the Intifada will start from Arabs of 1948, but it still needs a little more time,” Nabhan says.

Nabhan also described the situation in Nusayrat camp, as lots of homes were targeted during the past few days. “They fire a small rocket at first as an alarming signal for people to empty the house, and minutes later they launch a full airstrike and demolish it,” Nabhan explains.

“This only happens when they don't have their main target inside the house. If they have their target, they demolish the house with him and his whole family inside,” Nabhan adds. “Gaza is ghost town after 10pm. No one leaves the house, and most of us hear the bombs even if we are far from the attack,” Nabhan adds.

Children as young as two years old have lost their lives during the past few days, Nabhan says. Meanwhile, in Nusayrat medical cupplies are running short.  “Actually, we have a shortage in everything” the Palestinian doctor says.

Nabhan reported that Israel targeted civilians Thursday in Khan Younis while they were watching the World Cup in a cafe.

“I don’t know how will this war end; I think it will progress to be something like the war of 2008-09, or even more. God willing it won’t, but the resistance will continue fighting Israel from Gaza and they will continue to fire their rockets,” Nabhan concludes.

The 2008-09 Gaza war was a three-week armed conflict in the Gaza Strip between Palestinian resisitance and Israeli occupation forces that began on 27 December 2008 and ended 18 January 2009 with a unilateral ceasefire.

Tarek Hamoud, Palestinian activist and writer, told Ahram Online that the third Intifada has all the factors to trigger it ready, but there are certain conditions — such as security coordination between the Palestinian Authority and Israel, as well as economic conditions in the West Bank — hindering its eruption.

Hamas has condemned Abbas for his support of security coordination with Israel.

For his part, Abbas demanded Israel immediately halt its latest offensive against Gaza. Despite international concerns, truce efforts have been unsuccessful. Many doubt whether Abbas has a strong grip on the situation at the moment, and others believe Fatah-Hamas relations are not close, despite recent reconciliation, and never will be.

Speaking at a press conference Friday in Tel Aviv, Netanyahu said he would not end the military campaign until he achieved his goal of stopping Hamas rocket fire. "No international pressure will prevent us from striking, with all force, against the terrorist organisation that calls for our destruction," he said.

US President Barack Obama has offered to mediate between Israel and Palestinian armed groups. But there haven't been any specifics on what that might involve.

Hamoud told Ahram Online that Abbas is an indispensable part of the current Palestinian saga — an element that contributed to the incitement against Gaza after the repudiation of reconciliation between Hamas and Fatah.

Alaa El-Mahrkawy, a human rights activist focusing on the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, believes that Israel has never taken Abbas seriously.

"Fatah has never interfered when Gaza was being bombed. It didn't interfere during Operation Pillars of Cloud, it didn't interfere in Operation Cast Lead, and so I don't see it interfering now,” El-Mahrkawy adds.

El-Mahrkawy mentions that this doesn't mean that there will be no response from ordinary Palestinians living in the West Bank, as people in Ramallah protest every Friday against Israel's colonial practices.

On the other hand, the Qassam Brigades — Hamas's armed wing — have proudly admitted to launching many rockets in retaliation for the Israeli onslaught. But the ability of the Gazan armed resistance to do significant damage to Israel is limited.

The Israeli military said Monday more than 40 rockets had been fired at Israel. Israel's air raids started shortly afterwards.

"Israel has an iron dome in place that prevents most rockets from reaching the major cities. Also, those rockets that do reach the cities have a very small impact. By contrast, Israeli rockets are notoriously heavy and burrow deep into the ground before they explode, so they cause a lot of damage," El-Mahrakawy concludes.

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