Israel’s response to the Hamas attack is expected to be decisive. Eradicating the Gaza-based terror group is also in the Palestinians’ interest.
Hamas, a Palestinian terrorist organization that controls the Gaza Strip and Palestinian territories in the West Bank, attacked Israel out of Gaza in a brutal and cruel fashion. Over a thousand civilians have been slaughtered, including the most vulnerable, children, infants and the elderly. More than a hundred have been kidnapped as hostages.
Gaza is a small stretch of land, some 360 square kilometers bordering the Mediterranean, where more than 2 million Palestinians are constrained. Officially, it is a part of the Palestinian autonomous territory though is not ruled by the Palestinian Authority in Ramallah. Hamas came to power in Gaza in 2007 after a violent conflict between Palestinian factions. Sparing no expense, the terror organization has built a vast network of tunnels under Gaza City and many other communities. The network consists of deep underground passages, bunkers, command centers and stockpiles of weapons, including rockets. This shrewd invention has allowed the Hamas militants to hide from surveillance and harass Israel with regular attacks. The strikes never abated but, in recent years, were of a limited scope.
Gaza’s inhabitants are confined in a tight space with restricted access to the outside world, under the constant threat of war. Hamas’s rule of terror has created a traumatized society. The very young population dwells in a toxic environment poisoned by Hamas-fomented hate.
What happens next?
The terrorist organization’s unprecedented, large-scale attack on Saturday, October 7, found Israel unprepared. The situation raises some critical questions for Israel and the international community.
Israel is challenged not only by terrorists but also by much larger regional powers. The Jewish homeland is tiny in population and geographical size. From its founding in 1948, it faced the hostility of Arab neighbors, who sought to eradicate the Jewish state and get rid of its people. After the Israelis bravely repelled regular Arab armies, they found themselves in the crosshairs of numerous terrorist groups. From its inception, this successful democracy has had to possess superior defense and intelligence and it uses them without hesitation – otherwise the Jewish state would have been destroyed.
Read more on the threats to Israel’s security
The predicament remains. So, the first question today is, why were the Israeli government and defense command taken by surprise? This debate has already begun, and Israeli authorities are being blamed for having sunken so fatally into internal power games and ideological quarrels that they lost sight of the primary threat. However, the crucial question for Israel today is, what happens next?
The bloody act of aggression calls for Israel’s response. Most likely, Hamas counts on provoking the Israelis to descend on Gaza with the full power of their army and air force, causing thousands of civilian casualties and massive destruction of the city. The militants themselves will be hiding in the tunnels, leaving Palestinian civilians behind.
War is a brutal endeavor
Such a stratagem has predictable consequences. Israel would be depicted as a brutal invader while hate, the foundation of the power of terrorist leaders, is amplified among the population. However, the Israelis are not inhumane; they have little choice. War, the unfortunate but inevitable consequence of terrorist attacks, is a brutal affair, especially in densely populated areas. Israel will no doubt carefully assess its options before launching its military response, but it cannot wait too long. A strong retaliation is imperative to prevent a repetition of Hamas aggression.
Any attempt to eliminate Hamas requires the Israeli army to enter Gaza, resulting in nightmarish combat. Typical urban warfare is already bloody, but when one side is hiding in tunnels and does not observe the civilized rules of war that bind the other side, the total casualty count among combatants and the civilian population can rise extraordinarily high.
Israel’s much-criticized demand that the northern part of Gaza be evacuated is justified. Removing civilians from the battle area would limit casualties from Israeli air and ground strikes. Unfortunately, the evacuation is proving difficult due to overcrowding in the south and Hamas sabotage.
There is a lot at stake here for the international community in general, and for Europe in particular. For a long time, politicians and media were pointing accusatory fingers at Israel. They spared it no lectures on humanitarianism, and much support was given over the decades to Palestine’s development. This was sensible to the extent that it developed the economy. Unfortunately, a significant chunk of the largesse was diverted to political and terrorist endeavors. Building widespread underground structures and stockpiling thousands of rockets is expensive.
At long last, Europeans need to realize that the worst enemy of the Palestinian people is Hamas.
It is easy to criticize the state of Israel while ignoring the existential threat it faces. Indeed, not all that Israel has done is laudable. But let us be realistic: perceived injustice in the past cannot be righted with new injustice and sadistic murders.
The horror of the October 7 attack has somewhat changed Europe’s perception of Israel. Even some in European leftist circles, usually first to chant anti-Israeli slogans, joined in sympathy. We ought to remember what started the conflict when images from Israel’s inevitable military response begin appearing in the media.
Tragically, retaliation is likely to be overwhelming. Even though the Israelis try to protect innocents in military operations, much harm and suffering will follow. According to a NATO study, Hamas habitually launches rockets, positions its military infrastructure and engages Israel’s army “from, or in proximity to, residential and commercial areas.” This cowardly tactic limits the militants’ losses while increasing the “collateral damage” among their compatriots.
The United Nations and other international organizations are now calling upon Israel to pull its punches and scrupulously respect the international rules of war. However, in fighting terrorists, who act inhumanly and do not obey any laws, such advice is often impossible to follow. As in the past, Israel will strive to oblige, but it will no longer allow terrorists in its immediate neighborhood.
Why Hamas ought to be eliminated
At long last, Europeans need to realize that the worst enemy of the Palestinian people is Hamas. The organization also has supporters and sympathizers in Europe, which may prove dangerous for their host countries as well. The not-infrequent marches glorifying the slaughter of Israeli citizens show how real this danger is. Banning such demonstrations will only camouflage the problem.
What Hamas wants is to continue spreading misery and hate. It blocks all emerging solutions for peace with Israel and a prosperous Palestine. The most likely trigger for the October 7 attack was the prospect of normalized relations between Israel and Saudi Arabia. Hamas cynically assumes that the Israeli retaliation and the Palestinian casualties will scuttle the diplomatic process between Israel and the critically important Sunni Muslim kingdom.
The international community would be wise to wake up to the complicated reality and abandon its Israel-bashing habit. Terrorism must be fought without mercy. Defeating Hamas would not only benefit the Israelis but also the people of Palestine.