As we pointed out yesterday, the Israeli Defence Force was concentrating tanks and troops on the border with Gaza. In the middle of the night Israeli tanks entered the Gaza Strip backed up by gunships and artillery.

Israeli warplanes have bombed three bridges on key roads in the Gaza Strip. This has been reported as an attempt to stop the captured Israeli soldier from being moved around. This is a ridiculous statement. One man can easily be moved around without being spotted. It is merely an excuse to sow terror among the Palestinian population.

The bombings are the Israeli government’s response to Sunday’s attack on the part of Palestinian commandos and the capture of an Israeli soldier who is still being held. The Palestinians are demanding the release of women and children being held in Israeli prisons. But the Israeli authorities have remained adamant that they will not budge on this question.

The Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert had already issued belligerent statements prior to the incursion, now he has added that military operations in Gaza will continue “over the coming days” and that Israel “would not hesitate to take extreme steps” to free the young Israeli soldier.

These moves by the Israeli military rather than facilitating the release of the Israeli soldier are creating an extremely tense situation on the ground. After the Israeli planes had struck, armed Palestinian militants took up positions in Gaza City and other parts of the Gaza Strip preparing to meet any Israeli military vehicles that might cross the border and told the local population to leave the area.

The incursion on the part of the Israeli military is presented as being a move against “terrorists”, so why did helicopter gunships open fire on Gaza’s main power plant? The power plant was seriously affected with flames shooting up into the air. Much of the coastal areas of Gaza were affected as power supplies were cut off, affecting 1.4 million Palestinians.

This act alone is a clear indication that the purpose of the military operations is to terrorise the Palestinian people living in Gaza. If they were seriously concerned about the life of the young kidnapped Israeli soldier they would at least be going through the motions of negotiating. Instead they leave him to his fate and bomb the Palestinian people.

In the article we published yesterday Yossi Schwartz in Israel showed that the Israeli military had received prior information that some attack was going to take place. They did nothing to stop it. The reason for this we have already explained. They needed an excuse to go in. The callousness of the Israeli authorities has no limits. They are prepared to risk the lives of their own soldiers to achieve their wider political objectives. Then they shed crocodile tears over the loss of the soldiers.

The reason why they are terrorising the local population is because the Palestinians voted in Hamas. The plan of the Israeli government had been to establish some kind of puppet regime in the Palestinian Territories that would police the Palestinian people for them. But the Palestinian people put a stop to that by voting in the Hamas government. Having failed to establish a puppet regime, the Israeli authorities, backed by US imperialism, then tried the tactic of provoking a civil war among the Palestinians, the classical tactic of “divide and rule”.

No one should be fooled about what the real intentions of the Israeli ruling class are. They have no intention of granting the Palestinian genuine self-rule. At most they can grant them the position of being a client state, led by politicians under the firm control of Israel. This is unacceptable to the Palestinian people. They want genuine self-rule. They have burning problems to resolve, such as the mass poverty and unemployment. But on the basis of capitalism, the Palestinians cannot hope for much better than what they already have. That is why they cannot renounce their struggle.

The irony of the situation is that Olmert, the Prime Minister of Israel, was elected back in March because he promised to carry out a withdrawal from parts of the West Bank, similar to last year’s “withdrawal” from Gaza. This indicated that in Israel the majority of the people want peace and an end to the constant conflict. But so long as the Palestinians are forced to live in what amounts to one gigantic open prison, there will never be peace.
So long as Israel is governed by the present ruling class there can be no prospect of genuine peace. The ruling class of Israel is a capitalist class with imperialist aspirations. It is the duty of the Israeli working class to struggle against its own ruling class. The first demand of the international labour movement, and of the Israeli working class, must be for the immediate withdrawal of troops from Gaza. Stop this present incursion now! And from there begin the struggle to transform society and put an end to the class and national divisions which are at the heart of the present conflict.