The recent Hamas attack on Israel marks a significant failure in Israeli and U.S. intelligence and military efforts and a dramatic triumph for Iran’s broader resistance network spanning from Yemen to Gaza. This meticulously orchestrated, multifaceted operation, extending throughout the day and even penetrating Israeli territory, involved the deployment of motorized paragliders and drones and the taking of hostages.
Such a complex endeavor necessitated months of meticulous planning and rigorous training, resources that only Iran and Hezbollah could have furnished. In a recent statement to the BBC, a Hamas spokesperson expressed pride in the substantial backing received from Iran.
How Did Hamas Attack Israel?
Shocked Israelis awoke on the final day of the Jewish high holidays to the haunting wail of sirens. This started a relentless assault, with Hamas and Islamic Jihad launching thousands of rockets from Gaza. Simultaneously, armed militants breached the advanced hi-tech barriers along the border, infiltrating Israel, where they engaged in shootings and hostage-taking.
In a coordinated effort, militants attempted to access Israel via the sea using boats.
This offensive by Hamas and Islamic Jihad was staggering and unprecedented, marking a catastrophic intelligence failure on the part of Israel. The consequences of these events will undoubtedly be long-lasting and far-reaching. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu promptly declared that Israel was in a state of war and warned of a heavy price that Palestinians would pay.
Militants managed to infiltrate Jewish communities near the Gaza border, resulting in casualties and the abduction of civilians and soldiers. Unverified videos circulated, depicting terrified Israelis drenched in blood with their hands bound behind their backs, taken captive by Palestinian gunmen.
Many individuals sought refuge in safe rooms within their homes as the tragic events unfolded around them. During an all-night dance festival in southern Israel, hundreds of young people were thrust into a harrowing situation as they came under fire.
A survivor described the terrifying scene, recounting that the attackers seemed to be systematically targeting the crowd, shooting from multiple directions. Tragically, authorities later confirmed the recovery of 260 bodies.
As night fell on Saturday, the Israel Defence Forces (IDF) estimated that many Palestinian militants, ranging from 200 to 300, remained inside Israel. The situation was tense, with eight distinct “points of engagement” where the IDF was actively working to regain control from the militants.
Around 6:30 am (03:30 GMT), a significant escalation occurred as Hamas unleashed a massive barrage of rockets into southern Israel. The impact was so substantial that sirens were triggered as far away as Tel Aviv and Beersheba.
According to Hamas, they launched an initial wave of 5,000 rockets, while Israel’s military reported that approximately 2,500 rockets were fired during this intense exchange of fire.
“We declare the commencement of Operation Al-Aqsa Flood, and we announce that the initial strike, targeting enemy positions, airports, and military fortifications, consisted of an overwhelming barrage of over 5,000 missiles and shells,” proclaimed Mohammed Deif, the leader of the al-Qassam Brigades, the military branch of Hamas.
The rocket attack served as a smokescreen for fighters’ unprecedented and coordinated infiltration. At 7:40 am (04:40 GMT), the Israeli military reported that Palestinian gunmen had successfully crossed into Israel.
Most of these fighters entered through breaches in the security barriers that separated Gaza and Israel. However, at least one member of Hamas was captured on film flying over in a powered parachute.
A motorboat carrying fighters was also observed heading towards Zikim, an Israeli coastal town with a military base.
One video footage depicted a group of at least six motorcycles carrying fighters crossing through a breach in a metal barrier. A photograph released by Hamas displayed a bulldozer tearing down a section of the fence, highlighting the audacity and intricacy of this multi-pronged infiltration operation.
Saleh al-Arouri, the deputy chief of Hamas in the occupied West Bank, issued a call to arms, emphasizing the need for all to participate in this battle, particularly the resistance fighters in the West Bank, as he stated in a released statement.
Captured Israeli military vehicles were subsequently pictured being driven into Gaza and displayed as a symbol of their military gains.
Fighters from Hamas raided multiple Israeli locations, including the town of Sderot, another community called Be’eri, and the town of Ofakim, located approximately 30 kilometers (20 miles) east of Gaza, according to reports from Israeli media.
Residents in southern Israel fortified their homes to serve as improvised bomb shelters, using them as panic rooms for safety. Israel’s military issued orders through radio broadcasts, urging residents to seek shelter indoors with the assurance that they would reach and protect them.
As night fell, Israeli troops continued their efforts to clear communities that Hamas fighters had overrun. Israel’s foreign ministry accused Hamas fighters of conducting house-to-house searches and harming civilians in the process, further escalating the gravity of the situation.
Why Did Hamas Attack Israel?
The reasons behind the recent attack are not entirely clear. Still, the conflict has been building for months in the West Bank, marked by increasing violence between Israeli soldiers and settlers on one side and Palestinians on the other.
This period has witnessed armed settlers launching attacks on Palestinian villages, militants in the West Bank targeting soldiers and settlers, and repeated Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) raids in Palestinian cities.
Over the past week, there have been instances of Jewish individuals praying within the compound of the al-Aqsa mosque in Jerusalem’s Old City. This area is referred to as Haram al-Sharif by Muslims and is the third holiest site in Islam, following Mecca and Medina in Saudi Arabia.
To Jews, it is known as Temple Mount and holds significance as the site of the biblical Jewish temple. However, it’s crucial to note that Jews are not permitted to pray inside the al-Aqsa compound, which is considered highly provocative. Hamas has dubbed its current offensive “Operation al-Aqsa Deluge” in response to these tensions.
The broader context includes a 16-year blockade of Gaza imposed by Israel and Egypt, which has devastated the strip’s internal economy and caused immense hardship for its residents. This backdrop of long-standing grievances and tensions has contributed to the escalation of the conflict.
The situation has indeed been complicated by the presence of extreme religious nationalists within Israel’s right-wing coalition government, who have repeatedly advocated for the annexation of Palestinian territory. There has been speculation that the recent offensive might have been motivated, in part, by a desire to disrupt Saudi Arabia’s efforts to normalize relations with Israel.
The timing and scale of Hamas’s offensive suggest meticulous planning over an extended period. It is perplexing that Israeli intelligence appears to have had no prior knowledge of this impending action.
Israel maintains an extensive surveillance infrastructure in Gaza, closely monitoring activities, communications, and daily life using advanced surveillance technology, including drones that operate over the strip. Human intelligence networks are also utilized, often involving informants who may be coerced or pressured into cooperating with Israeli authorities.
Given these extensive intelligence capabilities, the lack of forewarning regarding the offensive raises questions about intelligence sharing and communication breakdown.
What Is Hamas Trying to Do?
The recent events have showcased Hamas as a formidable force, but it’s challenging to envision a positive outcome for either Hamas or Gaza emerging from this weekend’s events.
Israel is likely to employ its full military strength to suppress militant activity in Gaza, the West Bank, and East Jerusalem. Unfortunately, this could result in many Palestinian civilian casualties and extensive damage to homes and infrastructure.
The hostage-taking further complicates the situation, providing Hamas with a significant bargaining chip. Past exchanges, such as the release of Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit in 2011 in exchange for over 1,000 Palestinian prisoners, demonstrate the potential for such negotiations.
If Iran is involved, it may hope that the violence will disrupt any potential deal between Israel and Saudi Arabia, further complicating the regional dynamics. The overall outlook remains deeply troubling, with the potential for more violence and suffering on both sides.
What Does Iran have to do with the Palestine-Israel Conflict?
In Tehran, members of Parliament resoundingly chanted “Death to Israel,” underscoring the depth of sentiment within Iran. Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh also delivered a televised address, cautioning Arab nations that Israel could not guarantee their security.
This seemed to serve as a veiled warning to countries like the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia, both of which had considered normalizing relations with Israel, as seen in the Abraham Accords. Meanwhile, Mohammed Deif, the commander of Hamas’s armed wing, boldly asserted that their actions would finally end Israeli air raids targeting Iranian and Hezbollah assets in Syria.
Hamas and Iran will forever showcase the events of yesterday’s violence as symbols of newfound strength: the sight of Israeli commanders being forcefully removed from their barracks, disarrayed in their boxer shorts; the bulldozer dismantling the Erez crossing; and Hamas militants parading captured Israeli tanks.
For Palestinian civilians enduring the harsh realities of Gaza’s siege or the oppression of the West Bank’s occupation, witnessing the apparent triumph over the formidable Israeli military may offer some satisfaction. They will recall how Palestinians, including young boys, have been forcibly removed from their homes by Israeli soldiers in the dead of night.
However, they also bear witness to the tragic footage of Israeli civilians gunned down at bus stops and desperate mothers pleading for their children’s lives.
Hamas may perceive this as revenge, but their victory will come at a steep and fleeting cost. Sustaining what they initiated today will be a formidable challenge for the group in the long run.
The sheer scale and persistence of this onslaught indicate that Hamas has substantially enhanced its capabilities and reshaped the dynamics of this conflict. Israel is undoubtedly poised to respond with significant force, yet the presence of Israeli hostages within Gaza adds a complex dimension to any retaliation.
Repeating past regional conflicts is unlikely to appease the Israeli government or its citizens. The process of negotiating the release of the Israeli prisoners promises to be intricate and prolonged. Israel will probably resort to a ground incursion into Gaza as a decisive measure.
Additionally, it’s not inconceivable that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu may contemplate a limited strike or sabotage operation targeting Iran.
Does the Ongoing Conflict Have Anything to Do with the Middle East?
In Lebanon, Hezbollah, the Shia political and militant organization in Lebanon, Syria, Iraq, and Yemen, has issued a statement expressing its support for Hamas. They claimed to be in direct communication with the leadership of the Palestinian resistance. They characterized the attack as both a response to the ongoing Israeli occupation and a message directed at those pursuing normalization with Israel.
Since the spring, leaders from Hezbollah and Hamas have publicly discussed the concept of “unifying fronts,” whereby Iranian-backed groups in Gaza, southern Lebanon, and the Golan Heights would collectively pose a threat to Israel from multiple directions.
Hamas leaders have held several meetings with Hezbollah’s secretary general, Hassan Nasrallah, in Beirut this year. However, it’s important to note that while there is talk of unification of fronts, it may not necessarily translate into a coordinated multi-front assault.
In what appears to be a mostly symbolic gesture this morning, Hezbollah launched a few rockets at the Israeli-occupied Shebaa Farms, a disputed area on the border of Israel, Lebanon, and Syria, as a show of solidarity with the Palestinians. Israel responded with limited artillery fire.
However, Hezbollah seems inclined to avoid further involvement at this time, likely due to the potential consequences. The group is acutely aware that any Israeli retaliation against Lebanon could be even more devastating than the conflict of 2006.
Lebanon has been grappling with a crippling economic and political crisis since 2019, and Hezbollah’s support base cannot endure further hardship.
Suppose Hezbollah needs to explain its restrained stance in not providing more direct assistance to Hamas. In that case, it can point to the remarkable events that unfolded yesterday as evidence that Hamas doesn’t require direct intervention at least for the moment.
Meanwhile, discussions regarding normalization between Israel and Saudi Arabia will likely be put on hold. The Saudi government issued a standard statement urging restraint while underscoring its prior warnings about the perilous situation resulting from the ongoing occupation.
In a subsequent conversation with U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken, Saudi Foreign Minister Faisal bin Farhan emphasized the kingdom’s rejection of targeting civilians.
It remains to be seen whether Saudi Arabia will leverage this crisis to underscore the importance of Israeli concessions to the Palestinians as a prerequisite for normalization. Or, conversely, whether Iran and Hamas have succeeded in stalling this dialogue altogether.
Two years ago, during the last outbreak of conflict between Israel and Hamas, Iran’s then-foreign minister, Javad Zarif, offered a modest show of support for the Palestinians via a tweet. The Saudis issued a statement urging restraint from all parties involved.
The overarching dynamic remained clear: While Tehran provided weapons and financial support to Hamas, and the Saudis pursued various peace initiatives, the Palestinians were, for the most part, left to navigate their challenges independently.
This situation persists today, as Iran continues to employ the Palestinian cause to further its regional interests, despite 40 years of rhetoric and material support for militant groups yielding little tangible improvement in the lives of Palestinians living under occupation.
Hamas finds itself in a different position now, with Iran likely playing a role in launching the surprise attack against Israel. However, it’s important to recognize that Palestinian civilians will still bear the brunt of Israeli retaliation, paying the price while Iran, Hamas, and Hezbollah engage in regional maneuvers.
How Is Israel Responding?
In response to the escalating conflict, Israel initiated the call-up of army reservists. It carried out a series of airstrikes in the densely populated Gaza Strip, home to approximately 2.3 million people. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu issued a stark warning to Palestinians in Gaza, urging them to evacuate the area while declaring Israel’s intention to reduce Hamas hideouts to rubble.
However, given the blockaded nature of the territory, there are limited options for those in Gaza to find safety or escape.
Israeli warplanes targeted several buildings in the heart of Gaza City during the airstrikes, including the Palestine Tower, an 11-story building that houses Hamas radio stations. These actions intensified the already dire situation on the ground.
The toll from the ongoing conflict is deeply distressing. According to reports on Sunday, at least 700 Israelis have lost their lives, with approximately 2,000 individuals receiving treatment in hospitals. Of those, 19 are in critical condition.
The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) spokesperson, Daniel Hagari, disclosed that more than 400 Palestinian militants had been killed in the regions of southern Israel and the Gaza Strip, and dozens more had been taken into custody.
On the Palestinian side, the health ministry reported that at least 400 Palestinians have lost their lives, including 20 children, and nearly 2,000 have been wounded due to Israeli airstrikes in Gaza since the conflict escalated on Saturday. These numbers illustrate this conflict’s profound human toll on both sides.
International Response in Regard to the Attack on Israel
The recent developments have prompted a significant wave of international condemnation of Hamas and widespread support for Israel’s right to defend itself. President Joe Biden expressed firm solidarity with Israel, emphasizing that the United States stands with the Israeli people in the face of terrorist assaults and reiterating the unwavering commitment to Israel’s security.
The United Nations Security Council has called for an emergency meeting to address the escalating crisis. Additionally, UN peacekeeping forces have been deployed along the Lebanon-Israel border to help maintain stability and prevent further escalation.
Egypt has taken steps to engage in diplomatic efforts to defuse the crisis. The Egyptian government has been in talks with Saudi Arabia and Jordan, and Egypt has played a crucial role in brokering ceasefires in the region in the past.
These diplomatic efforts hold the potential for de-escalation and a path toward a peaceful resolution to the ongoing conflict.
On a closing note, I hope there will be a meaningful resolution to this conflict soon. People, civilians, most of all, deserve better.
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