Israel has officially entered a state of war on Sunday, as Hamas militants based in the Gaza Strip launched a sudden offensive against the state. What’s behind the latest escalation?
Hamas kicked off a surprise attack called Operation Al-Aqsa Flood at about 6:30 am (GMT+3) on October 7, infiltrating Israeli towns, targeting military outposts and firing a barrage of rockets in various parts of the country.
The unfolding havoc coincided with the 50th anniversary of the 1973 Yom Kippur War, also known as the Ramadan War, between the Israelis and a coalition of Arab states.
Last time, Hamas launched rocket attacks on Israeli settlements in May 2021 as Tel-Aviv commemorated its 73rd anniversary of independence.
On May 10, Hamas targeted areas near Jerusalem, Ashkelon and Tel Aviv. The major escalation was preceded by clashes between Israeli forces and Palestinian Arabs at Jerusalem’s Al-Aqsa mosque compound.
The assault by Hamas, a group designated as a terrorist entity by Israel, caught the Israeli military off guard and manifested the failure of the nation’s intelligence services to proactively thwart the massive and seemingly preplanned operation.
In response, Tel Aviv started Operation Swords of Iron. According to some estimates, the hostilities have already claimed the lives of 300 Israelis and 232 Palestinians.
The Israeli army attacked the headquarters of the National Islamic Bank in the Al-Rimal area of Gaza City. It is considered one of the main banks in the sector.
The Israel Defense Forces’ (IDF) airstrikes on the Gaza Strip have destroyed more than 550 Hamas facilities, IDF spokesman Avichay Adraee told Sputnik on Sunday, adding that these included homes, infrastructure and military positions.
Israel launched a series of dense and continuous strikes on the Gaza Strip, destroying more than 550 Hamas targets, including high-rise buildings, homes, infrastructure, positions, residential complexes and other facilities used by Hamas.
The IDF air force also carried out strikes against Hamas groups attempting to infiltrate Israeli territory, killing hundreds of fighters in the Gaza Strip and along the border.
Hostilities raged around the Gaza Strip as the Israel Defense Forces continued Operation Swords of Iron. A day earlier, the militant group Hamas fired more than 5,000 rockets at Israel, calling for a fight to liberate Palestinian lands.
The IDF was caught off guard as Palestinian fighters infiltrated Israel by land, sea, and even para-gliders.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu stressed that the nation is still at war and vowed harsh retaliation against Hamas. The IDF launched an offensive operation that included strikes in the Gaza Strip.
It appears that Lebanon and the militant organization Hezbollah are being pulled into the conflict, as Netanyahu declared the conclusion of the initial phase of the IDF military operation and the removal of the majority of Hamas forces from Israeli territory.
The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) are fully coordinating the actions with the United States Central Command (CENTCOM) and monitoring the situation in Israel’s north, IDF spokesman Daniel Hagari said on Sunday.
The origins of the confrontation between Hamas and Tel Aviv go deep in history. Hamas was founded in 1987.
Since then, the group regularly participated in clashes between various Palestinian organizations and the Israeli state as part of broader geopolitical disputes and rivalry between Israel and its Arab neighbors going back to 1948, when Israel was established.
By 2005, Israel dismantled Jewish settlements in the Gaza Strip and completely withdrew from the region, which came under the control of Hamas (that had turned into a political force by the time) in 2007, after the group ousted the Fatah Party (formerly the Palestinian National Liberation Movement) from Gaza.
Two years later, Israel imposed the blockade of Gaza. Per Tel Aviv, the 16-year-long blockade is aimed at halting the flow of arms into the region; for their part, Palestinians denounce the move as collective punishment which exacerbates the already dire situation.
In 2017, Hamas rebranded itself as an Islamic national liberation movement with the aim of liberating Palestine – the geographical area covering the State of Israel, the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.
Hamas does not recognize Israel and proclaims that resistance to “the occupation with all means and methods is a legitimate right guaranteed by divine laws and by international norms and laws.
Besides strife with Fatah, Hamas was repeatedly at odds with the Palestinian Authority (PA) leadership as the latter appeared not to support Hamas’ radical methods as well as the group’s unwillingness to recognize Israel’s right to exist.
This time, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas responded to Hamas’ operation by expressing his solidarity with Palestinians and blamed Israel for a stalled peace process.
Meanwhile, some have alleged that Hamas is apparently using Soviet-era “Igla” (“Needle”) as well as Western MANPADS, triggering concerns that these and other weapons actually originated in Ukraine’s infamous black market.
Previously, international non-profits warned about Ukraine’s long weapons-smuggling record. Saudi Arabia will watch and see and assess its steps toward normalization toward Israel.
So it’s a major setback for normalization efforts and for the US plans for the region. And that is. So instead, now, maybe Saudi Arabia will resort back to its rapprochement with Iran through China, and it really favors it, and it’s moving in that direction.
The Saudis will not deviate much from the Arab consensus. And basically, neither Saudi Arabia, nor Egypt, nor Jordan, nor the Gulf countries have much love for Hamas … And they would love to see Israel beat Hamas in a determined way.
Meanwhile, demonstrations in support of Gaza and Palestinian groups were held in several Muslim countries including Turkiye, Yemen, Kuwait, Iran, Bahrain, and others at the weekend.
Sputnik / ABC Flash Point News 2023.