Hamas brought Israel to its knees. A day later the extent of the disaster is revealed. Anger, pain, despair, fear and a collective trauma. What will happen next?
This is the worst bloodshed of Israelis in one day since the War of Independence in 1948. The country is in deep shock after the surprise attack by the Islamist Hamas, which rules the Gaza Strip. More than 600 people were killed when Palestinian militants entered Israeli towns during the Jewish holiday of Simchat Torah (Joy of the Torah), going from house to house looking for victims. More than 100 Israelis, including women, children and the elderly, were brutally kidnapped in the Gaza Strip. Many of the victims were young people participating in festivals in the Negev desert. The horror is indescribable and captured in several videos circulating on social media. Thousands of rockets have been fired at Israel since Saturday morning.
Trauma, historical humiliation
Many describe the trauma and state of paralysis following the carnage in the border region along the Gaza Strip as “Israel’s 9/11”. They draw comparisons with the terrorist attacks on the twin towers in New York on September 11, 2001. It is considered particularly symbolic that the large-scale attack by Hamas, which is listed as a terrorist organization by the EU, the US and Israel, coincided with the 50 years after the Yom Kippur War. And then, the intelligence service and the political leadership failed, because they were completely surprised by the attack of the Arab states led by Egypt and Syria. Hamas attacks and kidnappings of Israeli citizens have caused pain in hundreds of families.
A desperate mother whose child is missing shouted angrily at an Israeli lawmaker on Sunday: “Where is this country? When are you going to wake up?” Another woman, Adwa Adhar, sobbed as she recounted the abduction of her 85-year-old grandmother in the Gaza Strip. The elderly woman from a village on the outskirts of the Gaza Strip had said on the phone Saturday morning that she heard gunshots outside and loud voices in Arabic. Since then, communication has been interrupted. The house was later found burnt down. “Then on Facebook, we saw videos of Hamas taking her away,” says the young woman. “She’s 85 years old, she’s sick, she doesn’t have her medicine with her. I’m sure she’s suffering a lot.”
But how is it possible for all this to happen despite strict border controls? How was it possible for dozens of Hamas fighters to get through? How was it possible for them to enter Israel by land, sea and air and massacre hundreds of civilians for hours? Terrified residents of the border villages said they waited in vain for hours for help from the security forces. Even an Israeli tank had the Palestinian flag on it. One journalist spoke of the “greatest disgrace in the history of the Israeli army”. Twenty-six military personnel are also among the dead. Who will pay the price for this failure? “I’m sure there will be big discussions later,” Israeli military spokesman Richard Hecht said Sunday. “But now we’re focused on regaining control and saving lives. We’ll talk about that when we finish the war.”
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s security cabinet declared a state of war. This allows for “extensive military measures to be taken,” Netanyahu’s office said. Thousands of reservists have already been notified to report and the army has begun evacuations of Israeli border towns. Will there be a ground attack on Gaza? Any advance by the army into the heavily populated Gaza Strip poses new major risks. Attempts to rescue the Israeli hostages, who are probably hidden in underground tunnels, would be a dangerous undertaking with an uncertain outcome. Hamas apparently wants to try to free its own prisoners in Israeli prisons. There are many examples from the past. Netanyahu stated that the goal of Operation Iron Sword is to completely destroy the capabilities of Hamas and Islamic Jihad for many years.
Electricity lines to the Gaza Strip were also cut and exports of fuel and goods stopped. In retaliation for the deadly and humiliating large-scale attack, the Israeli air force bombed Hamas targets in Gaza in waves. Several hundred people died. Others found refuge in UN schools. There is concern that the conflict could take on even greater proportions by crossing into Lebanon in the north. The Lebanese Shiite group Hezbollah fired rockets at targets on the Israeli border. The Israeli army responded with artillery fire. Pro-Iranian Hezbollah’s expressions of solidarity with Hamas at least sound like they don’t rule out its involvement in the fighting.
“Our hearts, souls, missiles and weapons are with you,” senior Hezbollah official Hashem Safdin said in a Beirut suburb on Sunday. If Hezbollah actually risks a new war with Israel, the consequences would be dramatic. Available features. According to the latest estimates by the Israeli military, the pro-Iranian organization has an arsenal of over 100,000 rockets. Hezbollah is considered much more powerful than Hamas. Since the last war with Israel in 2006 it has massively expanded its operational capabilities. But such a war could also have fatal consequences for an already troubled Lebanon.
“Back to the Stone Age”
Just last August, during a visit to the northern border, Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Galan warned that a new war with the Hezbollah militia would send the hostile neighbor “back to the Stone Age.” Hamas spokesman Ghazi Hamad told the BBC that his group had received immediate support for a large-scale attack from Israel’s arch-enemy Iran, which pledged to “stand by Palestinian fighters until the liberation of Palestine and Jerusalem.” . Israel has also repeatedly accused Iran of doing everything it can to fuel the conflict with the Palestinians. Experts speculate that Tehran could also attempt to derail a looming US-brokered rapprochement between Israel and Saudi Arabia. But whether it would go so far as to risk a regional war is up for debate.
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