By Nour Abu Aisha
GAZA CITY, Palestine (AA) – Gaza-based political experts say Israel’s brazen incursion into Gaza on Sunday was meant to "disrupt and confuse" Palestinian resistance groups, especially Hamas, which has governed the strip since 2007.
According to Gaza’s Health Ministry, at least seven Palestinians, including a Hamas military commander, were martyred late Sunday — and seven others injured — in an Israeli raid carried out in the southern Gaza Strip.
One Israeli officer was killed and another slightly injured, meanwhile, in an exchange of fire that accompanied the operation, the Israeli army said in a statement.
Notably, the operation was carried out amid ongoing Egypt-led efforts to hammer out a truce between Israel and Gaza-based resistance groups, including Hamas.
Hamza Abu Shanab, a Palestinian writer and political analyst, says the Israeli force that executed the operation may have been trying to kidnap a leader of the Ezzedine al-Qassam Brigades, Hamas’s armed wing.
"Information released by the Israeli media appears to suggest that the operation was to a large extent military and not intelligence-related," Abu Shanab told Anadolu Agency.
A second possible explanation, according to Abu Shanab, is that the incursion was an intelligence-gathering operation “aimed at collecting information on resistance groups by planting spying devices inside Gaza”.
In this scenario, Abu Shanab believes that the firefight that erupted between the Israeli force and Hamas fighters “had not been anticipated by the Israelis”.
With regard to a possible third explanation, Abu Shanab said Sunday’s incursion may have been an assassination bid targeting a Qassam Brigades leader, although he described this scenario as “unlikely”.
Political analyst Husam al-Dajani, for his part, agreed with Abu Shanab on this point, describing the assassination scenario as “improbable”.
"Perhaps the Israeli force entered Gaza to test the readiness of resistance factions," he said.
"The lack of information makes it difficult to determine Israel’s objective," he added. “But they certainly didn’t anticipate such fierce resistance.”
On Monday, Israeli daily Yedioth Ahronoth quoted an army official who described the operation as "very complex”.
In any event, al-Dajani said, Israel had hoped to carry out a stealth operation with a view to “disrupting and confusing” resistance fighters and Gaza’s civilian population.
"If it had succeeded, the operation would have led to mutual recriminations between resistance factions and the people as to who was responsible,” he said.
Israel, al-Dajani added, also wanted to demoralize Palestinians who have been taking part in mass anti-occupation rallies along the Gaza-Israel buffer zone since March.
The analyst went on to assert that conflicting information from the Israeli side appeared to suggest a “rift” between the Israeli military and intelligence establishments.
The fact that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu cut short a planned visit to Paris in the wake of the incursion, al-Dajani noted, strongly suggested that the operation had failed.
Both analysts believe the operation will have negative repercussions inside Israel due to its apparent failure to achieve its objectives and in light of the fact that it coincided with ongoing efforts by Egypt, Qatar and the UN to hammer out a Hamas-Israel truce.
"The operation’s apparent failure will not end the prospects for a truce,” al-Dajani said. “Rather, it will serve to bolster Hamas’s position."
In recent weeks, Egyptian officials have engaged in a flurry of shuttle diplomacy between Gaza, the West Bank and Israel, during which they have held numerous meetings with Hamas, Fatah and Israeli officials.
The talks are aimed at hammering out a truce between Israel and Hamas and achieving a degree of reconciliation between Hamas and Fatah following years of acrimony.