New Delhi: Israel was overwhelmed by the surprise rocket attack and a large-scale incursion by the Palestinian militant outfit Hamas from Gaza strip, on October 7. Heavily armed Hamas militants broke through the barbed-wire fence at multiple places along the border of Gaza strip to enter Israel unleashed wave upon wave of gunshot fire and took around 150 people hostage.
The land-sea-air attack by Hamas was unprecedented in scale and firepower as the Palestine terror group fired nearly 5,000 rockets towards Israel in a short span of about half an hour. As Israel responded with its air force striking at targets in Gaza strip, there are well-founded assumptions that Israel will launch a ground offensive into Gaza to free about 150 hostages, including women and children, from the captivity of Hamas which has threatened to execute them if Israel launches an unannounced strike.
Gaza is a slim strip of land about 40-kilometres-long and 10-kilometres-wide which is bordered by the Mediterranean Sea, Israel, and Egypt. The West Bank is another Palestine territory with Israeli territory abutting. The Palestine militant group has ruled the Gaza strip since 2007 and has vowed to destroy Israel. Since then, it has had several attacks into Israel since then.
The Hamas attack on Israel, deadliest since 1973, and Israel’s air strikes have left more than 3,000 people dead on both sides. On Tuesday, Israel claimed that it has recovered the bodies of around 1,500 Hamas fighters who had entered Israel and carried out the massacres of Israeli civilians and security personnel.
Now, the situation prompts two questions: Why Hamas chose to attack at this point of time? What were the famed Israeli intelligence agencies doing that they did not get a whiff of the militant attack that must have been in the planning over the past couple of years?
Analysts have termed the attack by the Hamas militant group as a colossal failure of the Israeli intelligence agencies and the right-wing Israeli prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, has stated that his country was “at war’’. Israel has mobilized reservists to the tune of 300,000, plus another 60,000 on Tuesday, giving rise to speculation that a ground offensive was on the cards into Gaza strip, the most densely populated area in the world where nearly 2.3 million people live.
The October 7 attack came at a time when tensions between Israel and Palestinians were simmering and the militant group also took so many hostages from Israel, possibly to force Tel Aviv into a bargain and get nearly 4,500 Palestinians released, who are lodged in several Israeli prisons. Another indication of the timing of the spectacular attack is the historic peace deal between Israel and Saudi Arabia, which could be endangered in the aftermath of the attack and the Israeli military retaliation.
Israel has called the Hamas attack as its 9/11 and vowed to undertake a massive and ruthless counteroffensive that will change the geopolitical scenario in the Middle East. Netanyahu has warned that Gaza will pay a price “it has never known’’ and its defence minister, Yoav Gallant, has pledged to “change the reality in Gaza’’.
On the global arena, Israel has found support from the US president, Joe Biden, the British prime minister, Rishi Sunak, as well as India’s Narendra Modi, who have all denounced the Hamas “terror” attack. Modi received a phone call from his Israeli counterpart on Tuesday and got an update on the ongoing situation. Modi has posted on X that India stands with Israel at this hour of the Jewish state’s emergency, and assailed the Hamas attack on civilians.
All indications till now point to the fact that Israel’s intelligence agencies, dubbed as among the best in the world, were clearly outfoxed by the Palestinian militant group and the Israeli counter-offensive will be a long-drawn military action.
The current Israel-Palestine crisis has not only dealt a blow to the peace accords but also raised questions on the crude supply and risks of rising inflation. The world is already beset with Russia-Ukraine conflict that has continued even after 18 months, there is now the old Middle East erupting into yet another crisis which would have wide ranging ramifications and impact on several other countries, including the Arab world.
Editor’s note: India Sentinels publishes, from time to time, world news and op-eds, depending upon their gravity and impact on global security and diplomacy.