Safety and Security in Gaza Periphery

Tensions Escalate from Hamas Attacks on Israel

On 7 October, Hamas launched a series of incursions into Israel. The incursions followed a series of sustained rocket attacks from within Gaza commencing about 06:30hrs (local). The rockets hit several cities, including Tel Aviv, Rehovot, Gedera, and Ashkelon. The rocket attacks were followed by what appears to be, a series of coordinated ground, sea and air attacks by an unverified number of militants who crossed the border into southern Israel and commenced attacking towns and settlements.

The escalation between Israel and Hamas, comes after months of violent clashes in Gaza and the West Bank, which has seen hundreds of Palestinian protesters injured. In a statement on 7 October, Hamas leader, Mohammed Deif stated “We have already warned the enemy before. The occupation committed hundreds of massacres against civilians. Hundreds of martyrs and wounded died this year due to the crimes of the occupation.”

In what would appear to be a rare, yet major intelligence failure, Israel appears to have been caught completely unaware of the attack. Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, addressed the Israeli people, stating, that the nation had been subjected to a “murderous attack” and that he had ordered the mobilisation of reserves. He went on to say “We are in a war and we will win it”.

In a further development, reports of Israeli positions coming under fire from Lebanon have resulted in retaliation from the IDF.

Coordinated Attacks by Hamas Militants

The initial Hamas attack saw an unprecedented use of coordinated forces utilising missile salvos, seaborne, light vessel insertion, motorcycle and vehicle insertion and airborne insertion by paragliders. Some 20 towns were targeted and it is reported that Hamas militants went door to door targeting Israeli families. More than 300 Israelis were killed and at least 1800 wounded with reports that as many as 200 civilians were also taken hostage, and moved into Gaza to be used as “human shields”. This is a strategic move to try and protect the Gaza Strip from wide spread and large scale Israeli air strikes.

As anticipated, the Israeli response has been swift and vigorous with Israeli Defence Force (IDF) fighter aircraft’s and helicopters undertaking numerous targeted bombing sorties. IDF spokespersons have warned residents in Gaza to seek shelter away from areas that are being targeted by IDF aircrafts. IDF ground forces appear to be mobilising and will, almost certainly, enter Gaza in the coming hours. News footage appears to show columns of Israeli heavy armour moving towards Gaza.

Furthermore, Hezbollah, based in Lebanon have seized the opportunity to launch an attack of their own. They have carried out a shooting at the border and have also claimed to have launched artillery and guided missiles at Israel following IDF air strikes in the Gaza Strip. Hezbollah have stated these were done as Hezbollah leadership congratulated Hamas on their successes on 7 October. The IDF responded by firing artillery fire at the Lebanese border and have announced that they will operate in all regions to defend the Israeli citizens.

Analysis of a worsening security situation between Israel-Gaza

Hamas’s attack was coordinated at a time when Israel is vulnerable. As well as Israeli forces being engaged in regular clashes with Palestinian militants across various parts of the West Bank, the attack also came at a time of unpopular political upheaval in Israel. There have been weekly anti-government demonstrations in Tel Aviv practically throughout the entirety of 2023 calling for the both Prime Minister Netanyahu’s resignation and a cancellation of the judicial reforms. This political volatility has led many IDF reservists, to refuse to undertake their military obligations.

Such a coordinated and well-planned attack will have taken Hamas months to prepare for, and it is a major intelligence failure, that Israel did not pick up on any signs that Hamas was preparing for something. The announcement from Hamas that Iran helped support them in this attack is not at all surprising. The timing of the attack is significant, not only has it occurred at around the 50th anniversary of the Yom Kippur War, in which Israel also suffered a surprise attack from Egypt and Syria, but it also comes at a profoundly delicate moment in regional politics. This is as, if comments are to be believed, the US backing Israeli and Saudia Arabia, are moving towards normalising ties. This attack and the likely Israeli response, however, will almost certainly further complicate this process, and it is likely the attack was designed to highlight that a normalisation of ties with Israel, without negotiation of a settlement for Palestinians, would not improve Israeli or regional security.

Israel’s failure to see this attack coming will likely prompt an aggressive response from them. Already air strikes in the Gaza Strip have killed at least 234 Palestinians. It is highly likely that the IDF will enter the Gaza Strip, as they seek to not only rescue Israeli citizens but retaliate against Hamas. The vows from the Israeli government to exact a “mighty vengeance” and to “turn them [Hamas] to rubble“ only further increases the likelihood of a full-scale ground invasion of Gaza

Meanwhile, the activity from Hezbollah indicates that the events of yesterday are realistically likely to see Lebanon brought into the conflict making it a broader, wider regional conflict. It is highly possible that Hamas-aligned groups in the West Bank become involved, which would effectively mean that Israel has to fight on a possible three fronts. Israel’s response will not only be shaped by the fact it is reacting to a major intelligence failure, but also by the fact that the current Israeli government is the most right-wing nationalist in its history. As such, there have already been calls to reoccupy and destroy the Gaza Strip. Ultimately, however, for many Israelis, the most damaging element of this attack is that it will have deflated the idea in their minds that due to the billions spent on border security, they were safe and secure.

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