The unprecedented multi-pronged attack by Hamas in the wee hours of the morning of October 7 through land, sea and air has left Israel jarred. The surprise, backed by massive fire of some 5000 rockets, was total. Joined by some other groups to take hostages back to Palestine, Hamas breached the security barriers by cutting wires breaching walls and barriers with bulldozers. They used motorcycles, vehicles, motorized paragliders and motorboats to infiltrate into 22 locations as deep as 24 km inside Israeli territory. These included three military installations; the Beit Hanoun border crossing, the Zikim base, and the Gaza division headquarters at Reim.
According to Israeli media, on October 7 some 250 people were killed and 1,500 wounded in the attack, making it the deadliest in Israel in decades. At least 232 people in the Gaza Strip were killed and 1,700 wounded in Israeli strikes. Video clips of brutaliy by Hamas gunmen killing civilians and Israeli soldiers, displaying nude bodies of killed female Israeli soldiers and taking hostages is on social media. Hamas gunmen took an unknown number of hostages, including Israeli commanders, soldiers and civilians, Americans, Germans and of some other nationalities into Gaza in captured Israeli vehicles.
The attack on the 50th anniversary of the 1973 Yom Kippur War on the Jewish holiday of ‘Simchat Torah’helped Hamas achieve complete surprise. Saleh al-Arouri, deputy chief of Hamas in the occupied West Bank had given a call to arms saying, “We must all fight this battle, especially the resistance fighters in the West Bank.” Muhammad Al-Deif, Hamas military commander claimed that Hamas “targeted the enemy positions, airports and military positions with 5,000 rockets” in response to attacks on women, desecration of the al-Aqsa mosque in Jerusalem and the ongoing siege of Gaza. Al-Deif also called for Palestinians in the West Bank to fight the Israelis and attack the Israeli settlements on Palestinian land
Where did Hamas get the 5,000 rockets and armament? Abu Obaidah, spokesperson of Hamas Izzuddin Al-Qassam Brigades has said, “We thank the Islamic Republic of Iran who provided us with weapons, money and other equipment! He gave us missiles to destroy Zionist fortresses, and helped us with standard anti-tank missiles.” At the same time, an Israel Defense Forces (IDF) commander has said that weapons left in Afghanistan by America’s Biden Administration were found in the hands of Palestinian groups active in the Gaza Strip (aamajnews24.com/taliban-702/). What an irony that the US indirectly contributed to the Hamas attack on Israel – a US ally.
After the initial setback, Israel began launching retaliatory airstrikes, with Prime Minister Netanyahu saying the country is now at war. Israel has evacuated 24 border towns for counter-terrorist operations by the IDF. How did Israel, known globally for its surveillance and intelligence, get surprised in this fashion when incidents of violence have been periodic including in the Gaza settlement and over the al Aqsa Mosque while preparations for the elaborate attack must have been going on for months? Even a cyber attack does not explain such complacency at the border.Were the intelligence agencies busy putting down anti-government protests within Israel?
One view is that Mossad knew about it but let the attack happen. However, this is unlikely knowing how high Israel values the lives of its citizens, unless the scale of attack and the number of casualties were not appreciated. The Hamas must have watched with interest the prolonged nationwide protests against the Netanyahu government for curtailing powers of the judiciary and reservists voicing they will no longer answer calls to arms. But no reservist has refused the call up now; even former Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennet has reported for reserve duty and joined Israeli soldiers on the frontlines to defend Israel.
There is speculation that recent geopolitical developments had something to do with the Hamas attack, which may not be wrong. These include: the Arab world rallying together, especially the return of Syria into the Arab fold; resumption of Saudi Arabia-Iran diplomatic relations under a deal brokered by China; the thaw in US-Saudi Arabia relations; American efforts to improve Israel-Saudi Arabia relations with US Secretary of State Antony Blinken declaring it a “national security interest”.
Above geopolitical changes are certainly not to the liking of some global powers. For example, given the scale of the ongoing violence between Israel and Hamas, with Hezbollah having joined the war and putting all combat units in Syria and Lebanon on alert, there is every possibility of the violence spreading to other regions of the world. One view is that the US certainly wants war in Syria to erupt afresh and open another front against Russia; as such, The CIA may have known of the Hamas attack plan but chose to stay quiet.
The US has had no compunctions in sacrificing Europe’s economic interests because of its war with Russia using Ukraine as the proxy. It is being said that the US, led by neo-cons and globalists, certainly don’t care about Palestinians but are not too close to Israel’s nationalists either.Moreover, certain amount of acrimony was visible between Biden and Netanyahu in the recent past – when Biden ‘first’ invited Netanyahu to the White House, latter sent the Israeli President.
Netanyahu said at the recent United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) meet that a diplomatic deal with Saudi Arabia is in the offing. But now both Iran and Saudi Arabia have sided with Hamas with Saudi Arabia’s foreign ministry issuing a statement saying that the Kingdom had been warning of an “explosive situation as a result of the continued occupation and deprivation of the Palestinian people’s legitimate rights.” This indicates that Western hegemony in the collective non-West is weakening rapidly.
Donald Trump has said, “Unfortunately, American taxpayer dollars helped finance these attacks. We made the Abraham Accords, which brought so much peace to the Middle East, only to see Biden wash them away at a rate unimaginable.” The Abraham Accords in 2020 normalized Israel’s relations with several Arab states like the UAE, Bahrain, Sudan, and Morocco. Saudi Arabia did not join these Accords but permitted Israeli flights to use its airspace.
Recent news reports state that the figure of killed in the Israel-Palestine war has crossed 1100 already. This is likely to go up further with escalation on the cards with continuing Israeli airstrikes against Hamas-Hezbollah and Netanyahu’s vow that Hamas “will pay an unprecedented price.” But the following outcomes are unpredictable:
- Israeli airstrikes will have to keep in mind locations of the hostages taken by Hamas – which are unknown, even as Hamas is sure to kill the Israeli captive soldiers ‘eventually’ if not done already.
- In counter-terrorist operations, Hamas would use hostages as shields.
- Ground assault in Gaza can lead to high casualty rate, as experienced in the past.
- Similarly, mechanized assault against Hezbollah may lead to high casualties, given the extensive tunnel network developed by Hezbollah.
- Despite the call for ‘Unity Government’, Israel could have internal problems with Palestinians residing in Israel.
- The Taliban has said that if the Muslim countries neighboring Israel give us passage, we will conquer Jerusalem (https://twitter.com/clashreport/status/1710665527679447532). This needs to be viewed with US arms abandoned in Afghanistan in the hands of Hamas and Iran-Saudi Arabia putting their weight behind Hamas.
Technically, the area occupied by Palestine is Israeli territory but Israel has constraints of ground assaults and airstrikes-loitering munitions cannot ‘eliminate’ Hamas-Hezbollah. Conversely, Hamas-Hezbollah cannot defeat militarily and technically superior Israel. However, asymmetric war by the latter will likely continue, with little hope of peace talks. An escalation in Israel could trigger a chain reaction, especially if Israel’s neighbours permit use of their territory to Hamas-Hezbollah with changing dynamics in the Middle East ushered in by the US-led Western hegemony.
Finally, with reference to the brutalized Israeli female soldiers by Hamas displaying their nude bodies on social media, a post on X cautions the price every nation will pay that actively promotes females in combat roles; not only what Hamas has done but the numbing videos of severe brutality on Armenian female soldiers by the Azerbaijan Army (https://twitter.com/pahadanldki_SK/status/1710599050695954778?s=20). The question is whether the vote hungry Indian politicians and the judiciary pay heed at all?