Palestinian Factions Launch Military Maneuvers in Gaza

For a second year in a row the Joint Operations Room (JOR) of the Palestinian factions held military maneuvers dubbed ‘al-Rakan al-Shadid 2.’

‘With God’s help and success, the Joint Room of the Palestinian Resistance factions announces the launch of joint training activities for the resistance factions, al-Rakan a-Shadid 2, which will continue for several days in training sites and fields with participation of all Palestinian Resistance factions,’ a statement published on Saturday said.

During the joint exercises, militants practiced raiding Israeli positions and capturing IDF soldiers in front of Palestinian media covering the activities.

The JOR was formed by Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) in 2006 as a method to coordinate attacks against Israel. It wasn’t until 2018 that approximately twelve other Palestinian groups announced their membership in the alliance.

Since the 2018 expansion, the JOR has participated in several short-lived conflicts against Israel including the most recent battle in May.

Although JOR activity has been heavily promoted by militant groups in the Gaza Strip, there isn’t sufficient evidence showing the alliance of Palestinian factions have been effective at launching attacks and countering the Israel Defense Forces.

Using the May conflict as an example, it was Hamas that led the battle with rocket attacks and continuous publications by its spokesperson, Abu Obeida, warning Israel about upcoming attacks. JOR publications about its activity was sporadic which was unusual for the most significant conflict with Israel since 2014.

It is also noteworthy to mention that a breakout of conflict with Israel doesn’t necessarily mean the JOR is active – at least in any substantial way. In Feb. 2020, PIJ retaliated against Israel for dragging a militant’s body in front of cameras after he was killed attempting to plant an IED at the security fence. The retaliation sparked a two-day conflict between the two actors without the apparent involvement of the JOR.

The joint training does serve a military purpose. Although, the mass coverage by Palestinian media during the last day of the exercises hints that at least in part, the military maneuvers were a public performance to show off the capabilities of the Palestinian factions. And from what was published, there weren’t any noteworthy military hardware on display compared to last year’s exercises.

Nonetheless, the goal of the joint military exercises is to send a message of deterrence to Israel by projecting unity and military strength among the factions in Gaza. Although, it’s unlikely Israel will be swayed by the display of a Palestinian military alliance since it was only a few months after the first military maneuvers in Dec. 2020, that Israel launched Operation Guardian of the Walls.

Joe Truzman is an editor and senior research analyst at FDD's Long War Journal focused primarily on Palestinian armed groups and non-state actors in the Middle East.

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