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Israel’s New Military Chief Eyes War As Hamas Prisoner Video Overshadows His Swearing In

Israel has replaced its former chief of the military, Aviv Kochavi, with an unusual swearing in ceremony for the incoming Herzi Halevi, setting the stage for a wider conflict with Iran, Hezbollah and the Palestinian people. As this ceremony took place, Hamas released a shocking video of a prisoner of war that embarrassed the new Israeli government.

The new extremist administration of Benjamin Netanyahu has been off to a dangerous start in office, killing around one Palestinian per day and paving the way to further conflict, in addition to controversial judicial reforms. Part of the strategy by the Netanyahu government was to turn this Monday’s swearing in of the new Israeli military chief, into a large event whereby political statements could be issued against Israel’s enemies. Herzi Halevi was sworn in as the military chief in a type of ceremony that has never before occurred, as the inauguration process is normally a quiet one and doesn’t receive a huge amount of attention.

Along with being welcomed to office by the Israeli public and leadership, Herzi Halevi received his first major challenge. While the ceremony was taking place, the Palestinian political party which governs the Gaza Strip, Hamas, decided to strategically release a controversial video. The armed wing of the Hamas movement, the al-Qassam brigades, published a seemingly new video of one of the four Israeli soldiers that were captured by the resistance movement. The undated video shows the captured Israeli soldier, Avera Mengistu, alive and well, asking:

“How long will I and my comrades remain here in captivity after these long years of suffering and pain?…Where is the state and people of Israel from our destiny?”.

Around three years ago an audio recording was released through an al-Jazeera Arabic documentary that served as the first potential proof that Mengistu was alive in Gaza, under the captivity of Hamas. At the time the Israeli military attempted to sow doubts about the authenticity of the recording, as the popularly spread belief was that he had been killed.

This video is still allegedly being analyzed by the Israeli military, however, it does seem to the naked eye to be genuine and is the first video of the missing soldier in 8 years. Mengistu’s mother has claimed it is indeed her son. This is very damning for the Israeli political and military establishment due to the framing of the potential prisoner exchange agreement that it has been attempting to negotiate for years — that being for the dead bodies of its soldiers and nothing else. The newly released clip shows the soldier looking healthy and well, a damning propaganda blow for the new Israeli regime that had tried to seize Monday’s ceremony as a triumphant day to platform the war policies of the administration.

Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu was served his first political defeat in his current office, at the hands of Hamas, one that may urge the Israeli regime to more quickly take harsh action against the Gaza Strip. The new military chief, Herzi Halevi, was the former head of Israeli military intelligence and led the Israeli army’s Southern Command, helping to engineer two recent massacres that were inflicted upon Gaza. The posturing of the swearing-in ceremony was one that can be interpreted as preparing the Israeli public for war, with Netanyahu explicitly mentioning the need to accept sacrifice from the Israeli public. The usual propaganda of the Israeli regime does not take the same tone as was the case this Monday, making it clear that the agenda ahead is one designed to tackle challenges head on, both in the occupied territories and beyond. Much posturing against the Islamic Republic of Iran was witnessed, however, there was equally as much attention focused on other forces such as the Palestinian and Lebanese resistance groups.

Talking to the Israeli public, Netanyahu mentioned at the swearing in ceremony that the war against Gaza back in May of 2021 was the “hardest blow” to Hamas yet and was the reason behind the period of “relative calm”. The reality, however, was that the ‘Operation Guardian of the Walls’ represented a resounding failure for Netanyahu and the Israeli military, failing to assassinate any key leader in any armed faction, in addition to being outwitted at every turn of the 11-day conflict. Even the Israeli public, according to polls taken at the time by Hebrew media, were in the majority in believing that their military did not win the battle.

Aside from the propaganda win from Hamas this Monday, what should be taken from the introduction of Israel’s new military chief is that war is on the horizon and that although there is an escalating conflict in the West Bank, this will not be the only battleground.

Robert Inlakesh
Robert Inlakesh is a documentary filmmaker, journalist, writer, Middle-East analyst & news correspondent for The Last American Vagabond.

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