Analysis / End of the Rainbow

Posted in Israel / Palestine | 20-May-04 | Author: Ze'ev Schiff| Source: Ha'aretz

It doesn't matter who pulled the trigger and hit dozens of innocent Palestinian civilian demonstrators. It doesn't matter what were the circumstances of the mishap that led to the killing and wounding of so many. The blame will fall on Israel, its government and the Israel Defense Forces.

It won't make any difference if the explosion was a shell fired from the barrel of a tank, a missile fired from a helicopter, or even from a Palestinian bomb that suddenly exploded amid the demonstrators. The accusing finger will be pointed at Israel.

In any case, Israel with this one action has lost international understanding and the pressure to withdraw from the Gaza Strip will increase. "Operation Rainbow" in Rafah is being carried out differently than was planned by both the Israelis and the Palestinians. What happened yesterday was not planned but was certainly well expected.

When the Palestinians saw Israel was massing large forces on the edge of Rafah, they were convinced the IDF was going to penetrate all the city's neighborhoods. For this they planned. The Palestinians expected battles would be fought house to house and that the fighting would cause heavy Israeli losses. They would have secured a psychological achievement. To their great surprise, the IDF took over just one neighborhood, Tel Sultan.

A demonstration inside Rafah involving hundreds of people, including armed militants, was apparently meant to draw the IDF deep into the city, into an urban battlefield replete with an abundance of explosive devices.

The IDF has, in the past, run into difficult mishaps with Arab civilians stuck on the battlefield and the teeming Gaza Strip is more vulnerable to such situations than any other location. In this incident, it is believed Palestinian civilian casualties were caused by four tank shells that passed through the walls of an abandoned structure hitting those on the other side.

Even before the Rafah rally, there was argument within the IDF as to when the operation was to end. Grapes of Wrath was halted by an order from then prime minister Shimon Peres. And that is what will also happen with Operation Rainbow in Rafah.