That Israel was caught unawares is a glaring example of both strategic and tactical intelligence failures; and Iran pushed Hamas to sabotage potential progress in normalization of Saudi-Israel relations, said Ely Karmon from Israel.
Using the excuse provided by the entry of Jewish fringe elements into the Al Aqsa mosque, Hamas launched a carefully choreographed attack on Israel on 7 October. It will not be forgotten that on 6 October 1973, when Israelis were preparing for the solemnity of the Yom Kippur services, their intelligence agencies and government were inadequately prepared for an unexpected attack, led by Syria and Egypt. While the Israeli intelligence and military preparedness only advanced with time, on the 50th anniversary of the Yom Kippur War, there was another surprise attack on Saturday morning. As the sirens blared through the southern and central parts of Israel, a barrage of rockets echoed in the skies, along with several armed Hamas terrorists infiltrating the border town of Sderot and neighbouring communities, engaging in a fierce confrontation with Israel Defense Force (IDF) soldiers.
Hamas knows that there will be a massive retaliation by Israel, but has acted in the knowledge that it has covert backing from countries that seek to embroil the West in another war when NATO is using up its firepower in Ukraine. And that the entry of Jewish fringe elements into the Al Aqsa mosque could spark another “Arab Spring”, should Israel mount a disproportionate attack that results in a large number of Palestinian civilian casualties.
According to Magen David and the Israeli Health Ministry, a total of 1,100 injured individuals have been transported to hospitals for treatment during the terror attacks and they report a minimum of 200 casualties resulting from this unprecedented assault. Among the casualties, Orif Liebstein, head of the Sha’ar Hanegev Regional Council, was killed in an exchange of fire with the terrorists while defending his settlement during an attack. Another Israeli, a woman in her 60s, lost her life when a rocket struck her residence in the Gederot Regional Council. There are also reports of the Sderot fire commander and one firefighter killed in an exchange of fire with Hamas terrorists. The names and identities of the other victims have not been released.
Rockets were fired at Tel Aviv too.
Magen David says its medics are scanning the area following reports of rocket impacts in Rishon Lezion, Bat Yam and Tel Aviv. The Hamas barrage on central Israel wounded five civilians. In Rishon Lezion, two men aged 28 were seriously hurt. In Yavne, a 73-year-old woman was seriously hurt and a 77-year-old man was lightly hurt. In Bat Yam, a 24-year-old man was moderately hurt.
Muhammed Deif, the head of the military wing of Hamas declared that Hamas had launched a “great revolution” with Operation Tufan Al-Aqsa, and “over 5,000 rockets have been fired into Israel”. He urged the Israeli Arab citizens and those in the neighbouring states to join the attack. The Hamas terrorists tore down the sophisticated border fence and allowed the Gazans to cross into Israeli territory. The Hamas terrorists filmed the murders they committed and broadcast the footage live. The attack took Israelis by surprise, as chilling visuals unravelled, showing armed terrorists, seemingly organised in a convoy of seven to eight white pick-up trucks disembarking from their vehicles, sprinting along the sidewalks, moving door-to-door and firing at innocent Israeli citizens.
A resident of Kibbutz Sufa spoke to this reporter on the condition of anonymity, outlining the horrific incident of waking up to the sound of guns being fired and seeing “the terrorist going from house to house shooting. No one was there to protect us and I was alone with the children. They were dragging and killing our neighbours. I was just waiting for my turn.”
The Hamas terrorists entered Israel by land, some by air using hang-gliders, and, the others reportedly, by sea. The Israeli Navy was successful in eliminating dozens of terrorists who were trying to enter using rubber boats and other vessels.
Apart from the numerous casualties, several Israeli and foreign citizens and IDF soldiers have been abducted and taken to Gaza Strip.
Many Indians are stuck in Israeli towns and cities and are sending messages seeking help. This reporter got a message from an Indian lady in Herziliya near Tel Aviv saying there was a state of panic hearing sirens.
The spokesperson for the military wing of Hamas confirmed that Hamas was holding Israeli hostages and the “issue of prisoners is present in the current campaign.” The IDF Foreign Media Desk declined to provide any information regarding the alleged abduction or killing of soldiers by Hamas, however, IDF spokesperson Rear Adm. Daniel Hagari confirmed that Hamas has taken the hostages to the Gaza Strip. Some Arab media outlets claimed that 52 Israelis have been captured. In a video that emerged through Palestinian channels, Hamas terrorists publicly paraded the deceased body of a naked woman in the city. They were seen mistreating the woman’s remains, resorting to acts of abuse and shouting religious slogans.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, in a public statement mentioned that his country was “at war” and “the enemy will pay a price they have never known before.” The opposition parties backed the Prime Minister including the former Israeli Defence Minister, Benny Gantz, who mentioned, “I wish to strengthen all the security and emergency forces, the IDF and its commanders, and to say clearly that it will be heard and echoed from Gaza, through Beirut to Tehran—the entire nation of Israel is united… Now there is no coalition and opposition, only one punch hit the enemy with power.” Yair Lapid, the leader of the opposition in Israel has offered Prime Minister Netanyahu to form an emergency national unity government to ease the logistics of running the war.
OPERATION IRON SWORD
The IDF launched “Operation Iron Sword” in retaliation to the attack by Hamas. The defence forces started striking the Hamas targets in Gaza and there is a possibility of a ground attack as well. Dozens of fighter jets of the IDF targeted 17 military facilities and four operational headquarters of Hamas throughout the Gaza Strip, the IDF said in a statement. At least 232 people have been killed and 1,610 wounded in the Gaza Strip as reported by the Palestinian Health Ministry in Gaza. The IDF International Spokesperson’s office, in an interview with this reporter mentioned, “IDF is currently acting where there are terrorists and is attacking Hamas in Gaza when needed.” The IDF struck two high-rise towers in Gaza, and near the Erez crossing on the Gaza border that were used to house Hamas assets. The Energy Minister Yisrael Katz signed an order to halt the supply of electricity to the Gaza Strip.
Dr Ely Karmon, senior research scholar at the International Institute for Counter-Terrorism in Israel, in an interview with this reporter about the possible intelligence failure, mentioned “the current situation is a glaring example of both strategic and tactical intelligence failures. There were clear indicators that should have prompted an assessment of an impending event. For instance, the increased missile firings towards the sea, initially perceived as attempts to enhance precision or operational efficiency, were integral to their preparations for this assault. Likewise, exercises conducted by groups such as the Islamic Jihad along the border fence initially portrayed as routine drills, were tactical preparations. Unfortunately, our intelligence lacked access to vital strategic information and failed to conduct a thorough analysis of these precursor signs. The second major failure lies in their successful execution of tactics to infiltrate and occupy parts of our settlements, villages, and breach towns, using a modus operandi well known to our army. It’s concerning that they managed to breach some of our military posts in the frontline and neutralise defending soldiers.”
Dr Karmon further added that “the ongoing advanced negotiations for normalization with Saudi Arabia have been progressing. However, this development isn’t well-received by Hamas and its backers—Iran and Hezbollah—as they perceive it as a diminishing influence of the Iranian-Saudi deal under Chinese involvement. In response, Iran pushed Hamas to sabotage potential progress through this operation, aligning with their shared interests.”
THE PRISONER FACTOR
The rather complicating factor in the crisis is the captured prisoners who would be used by Hamas to release their members from Israeli prisons. Hamas Deputy Leader Saleh al-Arouri told Al-Jazeera in an interview, “Our prisoners will be released soon from Israeli prisons. We have a large number of Israeli prisoners, including senior officers, in our hands.”
Joseph Rozen, former director for APAC and Euro-Asia affairs at the Israeli National Security Council, in an interview with this reporter expressed that “Saleh al-Arouri’s proposal for a prisoner exchange is unfounded. The attacks by Hamas amount to clear war crimes against civilians. Consequently, Israel should refrain from engaging in negotiations with terrorists and respond firmly to Hamas. However, the response should be meticulously planned, considering the presence of Israeli prisoners of war in Gaza. Completely devastating Gaza is not a viable option presently. Nevertheless, the ultimate objective should be the complete dismantling of Hamas.”
Joseph added that “the IDF and the police must complete the clearance of all villages and towns in the southern regions. At the same time, the IAF should continue conducting bombing raids in Gaza. Echoing PM Netanyahu’s words, a sustained and robust campaign is necessary for Israel to secure victory. This operation will be lengthy, yet Israel is resolute and unified in its approach, even considering the possibility of a unity government.”
Israel finds itself at a critical juncture, grappling with a rapidly evolving and intricate crisis. The threat of Hezbollah from the northern borders and attacks from the West Bank further makes the situation tense. A decisive response is needed, and the nation is readying for a potential ground operation aimed at dismantling significant portions of Hamas’ infrastructure. However, the grim reality of captured prisoners will only add to the complexity of delicate negotiations needed for resolution and stability. The next few days will be important for determining the action plan and moulding the outcome of this situation.
- Ratnadeep Chakraborty is the co-founder of an independent media company that covers the spheres of strategic affairs called The Honest Critique. He is also the host of the podcast series, Line of Truth. Ratnadeep writes on issues related to the developments in Israel and South Asia, particularly on the Af-Pak region, and non-state militant actors.