The Hamas attack on Israel exactly a month back has created an initial disbelief for the depth of preparation and the scale of operation. It did lead to anticipated global condemnation and Israel’s counter offensive against Hamas primarily focused upon Gaza. The unfolding of these events struck a chord with India for its striking similarity with 26/11 Mumbai attacks. The carnage followed multiple resemblances with 2008 attack by Pakistan based LeT, only varying in scale this time.
In case of 2008 Mumbai attacks deliberate efforts were made to target places having sizable foreign nationals and same happened during Re’im music festival.
There were well trained terrorists high on contrabands, who invaded a sovereign nation, fully backed by regional power by means of logistics and intelligence for the operation, targets were clearly innocent civilians rejoicing during their national festive seasons and aim was forcing a stable nation to war. Another resemblance was the surprise element, the modus of infiltration, which was highly sophisticated in both cases. Failure of intelligence was touted as the biggest let down during both the incidents. In both cases the attack was audacious with no effort to cover up the origin, it reflected an unabashed aggression and an element of some invisible safety net for bailing them out.
Similarities apart the intent of sponsors of the carnage was gravely sinister. It was a brutal, spine-chilling bloodbath with indiscriminate killings of commoners by the terrorists. Operations appeared very well coordinated and were planned to finally culminate with taking large number of hostages as insurance for bargaining for ‘peace’ later. The planning involved quickly stepping in of foreign governments to tie down the hands of security forces. In case of 2008 Mumbai attacks deliberate efforts were made to target places having sizable foreign nationals and same happened during Re’im music festival. The plans would have clicked in 2008 but for strong reaction of Indian security agencies which quickly swooped into action and various circumstances which prevented an outright war between neighbours.
The unprecedented Hamas attack on 7thOctober 2023 was not at all a random one. It would have taken time in detailed planning, identification of vulnerable targets, carrying out close reconnaissance, working through Israeli intelligence and also getting prepared for their counter offensive. It would have also not been possible for an organisation such as Hamas to stitch together the entire plan with its limited capacity. For sure, it would have the involvement of intelligence agencies of countries being sympathetic towards Hamas. That was necessary to ensure effective counter intelligence measures were put in place at each level to bluff the Israeli eyes and ears. The operational innovativeness works best when it factors adversaries known capabilities and Hamas could achieve this by finding means to overwhelm Israel’s famed Iron Dome defense system.
Israel has chosen to fight Hamas Guerrillas with a non-conventional Guerrilla tactics of its own, a first by a regular army trained for conventional wars.
These were the specific factors that convinced Israel about the involvement of multiple players beyond Hamas in execution of this shocking attack. Israel’s decision to deal with the situation with complete seriousness and launch a strong counter offensive was keeping in mind the ascetic message it needs to convey beyond Gaza. Israeli counter offensive also generated much debate as it took some time to manifest. The strong response was anticipated, what was not is how it will manifest. Israel activated its sources inside Gaza immediately as the attack was still unfolding. It waited to tighten the blockade while encircling Gaza. It used the time to gain specific intelligence and undertake diplomatic outreach to convey precise damages and look for support for its intent. Israel weighted in the pitfalls of a full-blown ground offensive as compared to probing and piercing raids and it opted for the later. Israel has chosen to fight Hamas Guerrillas with a non-conventional Guerrilla tactics of its own, a first by a regular army trained for conventional wars.
The attack was mostly condemned and there were many silent spectators again from the Arab world and the ultra-liberals from the Western world. The surprising response was from China which mentioned ‘two state solution’, a euphemism to extend support to Palestinian cause while remaining muted about the Hamas attack. Iran extending compliments to Hamas and Russian foreign office commenting upon the attack as being ‘failure of US Middle East policy’ only further complicated the matters.
The situation was read mostly as a threat to Israel and its supporters to remain cautious about disproportionate military response, as it may draw down other countries into the conflict. Sudden arrival of US President to Israel was not just for extending condolence but also to convey US support to impending Israeli response. It was under these complex backdrops that Israeli offensive has manifested. Israel is constantly being reminded about humanitarian catastrophe, civilian casualties, ‘inhuman’ blockades, opening of second front by Hezbollah and worst-case scenario of neighbours getting militarily involved.
It would be optimistic to hope that India may not have to face the situation like this but even better would be to see India remains well prepared to face it.
What Israel is dealing today is also a reflection of threats that Indian security establishments should also be probably worried about. A major terrorist attack with ownership of non-state actors, hostage situation, few global condemnation even fewer sympathisers, international response entirely based upon respective national preferences, hordes of cries for humanitarian catastrophe and impending counter response spiraling to conventional war with nuclear hangover and not to be missed is the opening of ‘second front’. These distressing scenarios are not imagination but extremely realistic and much of it already being witnessed by the world today.
It would be optimistic to hope that India may not have to face the situation like this but even better would be to see India remains well prepared to face it. The time is now for India to seek clarity from champions of human rights organisations; that what about human dignity and human rights of innocent civilians and uniformed personnel being purposefully targeted by the terrorists. Response needs to be sought from the global community to fix liability over countries hosting these non-state actors: that must automatically be cut off from the international systems with deepest possible sanctions. Diplomatic answers also required from certain countries of the Arab World about their stand on terrorism; that why they should speak only as per religious convenience while forgetting on the larger merit of humanitarian catastrophe.
India would also need to strongly adhere to its stated policy of no negotiations with the terrorists as also no talks with governments that sponsor, harbour and support terrorists/separatists and terrorist organisations. It would also probably be necessary to factor the ‘Two Front Threats’ in all counter responses. It’s a new normal for India and must be accepted as bitter reality. India must be drawing lessons from Israel’s response against Hamas and Hezbollah in two fronts simultaneously. It’s also right time for India to have its checklist completed as what it considers essential and preferable before executing military response during any such eventuality.
The threat when it unfolds will be fast paced and may not afford India the luxury of getting best scenario in its favour. Delay in execution of military response has its serious pitfalls of escalating human cost. India should be well aware of essential checkboxes to be ticked and must be prepared to leave rest of the thing for getting sorted subsequently. A smart plan would essentially require equally intelligent execution. Being two steps ahead from threat would be what is expected now. Best lessons that all conflicts and wars have left is they have removed all ambiguity of external support from the calculation. Fact is a country needs to address its conflict through its own capacity, external support from friends are desirable but not essential!