On Tuesday night there was a dramatic media event. People all across Palestine, and Arabs all over the world, watched transfixed.
Al-Aqsa TV, a channel affiliated to Hamas, released an audio statement by the enigmatic leader of the Islamic resistance movement’s armed wing, the Qassam Brigades. It was aired on Al Jazeera at the same time.
Muhammad Deif said there would be no ceasefire which did no end the siege of Gaza. He also said the Israeli enemy had been “defeated” on the ground in direct fire-fights with Palestinian resistance fighters in Gaza.
Qassam Brigades statements are usually delivered by a masked spokesperson known by the nom de guerre Abu Obeydah, disguised in his distinctive red keffiyeh with a Hamas headband. As’ad Abukhalil, an Arab-American academic who writes the popular “Angry Arab” blog recently said that Abu Obeydah is “probably the most popular Arab these days” due to a surge in support for Hamas as the leader of the armed resistance to the current Israeli onslaught against Gaza.
It is rare for the Hamas military leader himself to deliver such a statement. But the most sensational part of this media event was the raw and authentic video footage aired immediately after.
This remarkable video, uploaded to YouTube soon after, of was of an audacious Qassam raid on an Israeli military base that took place Monday. It had Palestinians raving on social media Tuesday. The YouTube clip above has so far received about 1.2 million views.
The video was shot on a GoPro (or similar) camera – head mounted or otherwise attached to the body of one of the fighters. Indeed, you can see the fighter holding and reloading his rifle in front of him. Due this method of filming, the footage is quite reminiscent of those first-person shooter games that are popular with older children and young adults the world over, such as the Call of Duty series.
The video opens with Hamas fighters emerging from a tunnel, in a scene reminiscent of the network of tunnels that the Vietnamese national liberation forces used to defeat the American occupation of their country.
The seven fighters then assault a small army base at Nahal Oz, inside Israel. The attack took place on Monday and was reported at the time. Strikingly, the base in the video is incompetently guarded, and the Israeli soldiers appear caught completely off-guard. Although the video is not gruesome or bloody, it does appear to show Israelis soldiers being shot dead in combat with the Qassam fighters.
Qassam said its fighters killed ten in the attack, although the Israeli count (typically) downplays this to five.
The video then shows the Qassam fighters retreating, climbing back into the tunnel and returning safely to base. They also apparently confiscated an Israeli weapon during the assault, as the video concludes with a masked fighter showing off a distinctive X95 rifle, which is clearly marked “Israel Weapons Industries”. The rifle very much matches up withphotos on the website of IWI and of recent photos of armed Israeli occupation forces in the West Bank.
The video then, bares all the hallmarks of authenticity.
And it is significant in another way. Time and again in this current war of resistance against the Israeli aggressor, Qassam has released information about its operations which were then denied or downplayed by Israel for its own military, propaganda and morale reasons.
Qassam’s account is then the one borne out by the facts. This has been the consistent pattern – as in the case of the soldier who Hamas captured (although it is unclear whether or not he survived his wounds). Israel at first denied he was captured and then two days later classified him as “missing,” later getting a state rabbi to pronounce him officially dead.
The simple fact is that, in the Gaza ground war, the Palestinian resistance forces are beating the Israeli arm, who then retreat into their APCs so that their forces than bomb the whole area from afar. They are putting up stiff resistance, one that the Israelis did not expect. They are well-trained, professional and are acting in an ethical way.
All of Hamas’s political and military leaders in recent statements and speeches (including in Deif’s audio statement Tuesday) have emphasized the moral difference between the two sides: while Israel deliberately targets Palestinian civilians sheltering from the bombing in UN schools (a war crime, and a form of collective punishment intended to put pressure on the resistance), Hamas has been targeting only soldiers. As I detailed in my column last weekthe numbers bear this out, with 59 Israelis being killed so far, almost all of them soldiers.