Israel and Hamas at War: What You Need to Know
Table of Contents
- What triggered the conflict?
- How did Hamas attack Israel?
- How did Israel respond?
- What are the casualties and humanitarian impacts?
- What are the political implications?
- What is the international reaction?
On October 7, 2023, the world witnessed one of the most violent and unexpected attacks in the history of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The Islamist group Hamas, which controls the Gaza Strip, launched a massive and coordinated assault on Israel, firing thousands of rockets and infiltrating its territory by air, land and sea. The attack caught Israel off-guard on a major Jewish holiday, Yom Kippur, and triggered a state of war between the two sides. Hundreds of people have been killed and thousands wounded in the ensuing clashes, which have also caused widespread damage and disruption to both sides. This article will provide an overview of the main aspects of this ongoing war, based on the information available from various sources.
What triggered the conflict?
The exact motives and objectives of Hamas for launching such a large-scale attack are not clear, but some possible factors include:
Frustration with the status quo:
Hamas has been under a blockade imposed by Israel and Egypt since 2007, which has severely restricted its movement, trade and access to basic services. The group has also faced internal challenges from rival factions and popular discontent over its governance and human rights record. Hamas may have seen the attack as a way to break the siege, assert its dominance and legitimacy, and rally support from its base and allies.
Provocation by Israel:
Hamas may have also been provoked by recent Israeli actions and policies that it perceived as hostile or oppressive. These include the expansion of settlements and evictions of Palestinians in East Jerusalem, the crackdown on protests and arrests of activists in the West Bank, the killing of several Hamas members in Gaza by Israeli airstrikes, and the denial of permits for Muslim worshippers to enter the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound during Ramadan.
Opportunism and timing:
Hamas may have also exploited an opportunity to strike Israel when it was vulnerable and distracted. Israel was celebrating Yom Kippur, the holiest day in Judaism, when most Israelis refrain from work, travel and communication. Israel was also in a political deadlock, with no clear winner in the recent elections and no stable government formed. Moreover, Israel was facing regional and international isolation, as several Arab countries had normalized relations with it in exchange for concessions on Iran and other issues.
How did Hamas attack Israel?
Hamas carried out an unprecedented, multi-front attack on Israel at daybreak on October 7, using various methods and weapons. These include:
Rockets:Hamas fired thousands of rockets towards Israel from Gaza, targeting major cities such as Tel Aviv, Jerusalem, Haifa and Beersheba. Some rockets were intercepted by Israel’s Iron Dome system, but many others hit residential areas, causing casualties and damage. Hamas claimed to have fired 5,000 rockets¹, but an Israeli military spokesperson said 2,500 had been fired².
Infiltration : Hamas also sent dozens of fighters into Israeli territory through tunnels, gliders, drones and boats. They appeared to take control of several communities in southern Israel near the border with Gaza, where they clashed with Israeli forces and civilians. Some of them also kidnapped Israeli workers from farms and factories³.
Suicide bombings : Hamas also deployed suicide bombers in various locations inside Israel, targeting buses, markets, synagogues and other public places. Some of them wore explosive belts or vests, while others drove cars or motorcycles rigged with explosives⁴.
How did Israel respond?
Israel declared war on Gaza following the attack, launching retaliatory airstrikes and sending ground troops into the coastal enclave. Israel also mobilized its reserves and declared a state of emergency across the country. Its main actions include:
Airstrikes : Israel bombed hundreds of targets in Gaza, including Hamas military bases, weapons depots, tunnels, command centers and hideouts. It also targeted the homes of senior Hamas officials⁵, such as Yahya Sanwar, Nizar Awadallah, Fathi Hamad and Ismail Haniyeh⁶. Israel claimed to have killed hundreds of terrorists and destroyed most of Hamas’s rocket arsenal.
Ground invasion : Israel also sent tanks, artillery and infantry into Gaza, aiming to clear the area of Hamas fighters and free the hostages. The ground operation faced fierce resistance from Hamas, which used anti-tank missiles, snipers, mines and booby traps. The fighting was concentrated in the northern and eastern parts of Gaza, near the border with Israel.
Blockade :Israel also tightened its blockade on Gaza, cutting off its supply of electricity, fuel and goods. It also closed its crossings with Gaza and prevented any humanitarian aid or media access. Israel said the blockade was necessary to prevent Hamas from rearming and launching more attacks.
What are the casualties and humanitarian impacts?
The war has caused a high number of casualties and a severe humanitarian crisis on both sides. The latest figures are:
Israel : At least 250 Israelis have died in Hamas attacks, Israeli officials have said. More than 1,590 Israelis have been wounded, Israel’s health ministry said. Most of the victims were civilians, including children, elderly and foreign workers. Many others suffered from trauma, anxiety and stress. The attacks also damaged thousands of homes, businesses and infrastructure, and disrupted normal life across the country.
Gaza : At least 230 Palestinians have been killed and 1,610 wounded in Gaza by Israeli retaliation, according to the Gaza health ministry. Most of the victims were civilians, including women, children and medical staff. Many others were displaced or trapped under rubble. The airstrikes also destroyed or damaged thousands of buildings, including hospitals, schools, mosques and media offices. The blockade also worsened the already dire situation in Gaza, where people faced shortages of food, water, medicine and fuel.
What are the political implications?
The war has also had significant political implications for both sides, as well as for the wider region and the international community. Some of the main effects are:
– **Israel**: The war has put pressure on Israel’s political leadership, especially Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who is facing corruption charges and a possible ouster by his rivals. Netanyahu has offered a unity government to his main opponent, Yair Lapid, in order to deal with the national emergency. However, Lapid has rejected the offer, saying he will continue his efforts to form an alternative coalition without Netanyahu. The war has also exposed Israel’s security vulnerabilities and isolation in the region and the world.
Hamas : The war has boosted Hamas’s popularity and credibility among Palestinians and other supporters of its cause. Hamas has portrayed itself as the defender of Jerusalem and the resistance against Israel’s occupation and aggression. Hamas has also gained recognition and support from some regional and international actors, such as Iran, Turkey, Qatar and Malaysia. However, Hamas has also faced criticism and condemnation from others who accuse it of provoking Israel and endangering civilians.
Palestinian Authority : The war has sidelined and weakened the Palestinian Authority (PA), which is led by President Mahmoud Abbas and based in the West Bank. The PA has been unable to stop or influence the conflict, as it has no control over Gaza or relations with Hamas. The PA has also lost legitimacy and trust among Palestinians, who see it as ineffective and corrupt. The PA has called for an end to the violence and a resumption of peace talks with Israel, but its role and relevance have been diminished by the war.
Regional dynamics : The war has also affected the regional dynamics in the Middle East, where several countries have recently normalized relations with Israel under the US-brokered Abraham Accords. These countries include Bahrain, UAE, Sudan and Morocco. The war has put them in a difficult position, as they face pressure from their publics to condemn Israel’s actions and support the Palestinians. Some of them have expressed concern and called for de-escalation, while others have remained silent or ambiguous. The war has also highlighted the role of Iran as a key ally and sponsor of Hamas, as well as a potential threat to Israel’s security.
What is the international reaction?
The war has drawn widespread attention and reaction from the international community, which has been divided over its response. Some of the main reactions are:
US : The US president Joe Biden has expressed strong support for Israel’s right to defend itself against Hamas’s attacks. He has also condemned Hamas’s actions as “horrific” and “appalling”. However, he has also urged Israel to avoid civilian casualties and pursue a diplomatic solution. He has dispatched his secretary of state Antony Blinken to the region to mediate between the parties.
UN : The UN secretary-general Antonio Guterres has called for an immediate ceasefire and an end to the hostilities. He has also expressed deep concern over the humanitarian situation in Gaza and urged all parties to respect international law and human rights. He has convened an emergency
Source: Conversation with Bing, 10/8/2023
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