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The Israel-Hamas War: Operation Iron Sword
“Success” For Hamas

(October 7- , 2023 - 2024)

Israel had thought its border fence combined with surveillance was sufficient to prevent any incursion; however, terrorists breached the fence in more than 20 areas, with video circulating showing a bulldozer being used to create a hole in the fence. Explosives were used in other areas. Fighters stormed into Israel on foot, on motorcycles, and on other vehicles. Paragliders also flew over the fence.

Most likely, Hamas hoped a small force would succeed in getting inside Israel to kill as many Israelis as possible and take some hostages to use as bargaining chips in exchange for jailed Palestinians, as occurred when Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu agreed in 2011 to free more than 1,000 prisoners for the release of one soldier, Gilad Shalit, who had been held for six years. At the time, critics feared the decision would encourage Hamas to take more hostages. Hamas has been holding the remains of Israeli soldiers Hadar Goldin and Oron Shaul since 2014, in addition to two men with serious mental health conditions – Avera Mengistu and Hisham al-Sayed – who wandered into the Gaza Strip in 2014 and 2015.

The Hamas plan succeeded beyond those expectations as 3,000 terrorists infiltrated and began the wanton slaughter of civilians. They came with handcuffs to secure hostages, grenades to blow up shelters, and gas canisters to smoke residents out of their homes.

Thousands of Israelis were at a music festival and celebrating Simchat Torah when terrorists arrived and began shooting. Concertgoers tried to flee, 260 were killed, and a number were captured and taken to Gaza as hostages—the dead and missing included visitors and citizens from several countries, including the United States.

Only a relatively small contingent of soldiers, police, and other first responders were in the area at the time of the attack. The IDF reported that 189 were killed.

The worst carnage was in several kibbutzim. Residents who had safe rooms hid in them, but terrorists went house to house, taking hostages and murdering men, women, and children. In echoes of the Holocaust, buildings were set on fire to burn residents or force them out of their hiding places, allowing them to be killed or taken hostage. Women were raped, people were decapitated, and one video showed a terrorist bludgeoning a man with an axe. Corpses were desecrated.

Former IDF intelligence officer Yossi Alpher said Hamas had at least four objectives in launching its attack:

  • Freeing Hamas terrorists who are incarcerated in Israeli prisons.
  • Disrupting negotiations for the normalization of Saudi-Israel relations.
  • Defending the al-Aqsa Mosque.
  • Laying the groundwork for the takeover of the West Bank.
  • Drag fellow Islamists – Hezbollah in Lebanon and Iranian proxies in Syria – into the fight.
  • Sow discord among the Israeli Jewish public.

Claiming victory, even as much of Gaza was being destroyed in the fighting and thousands of Palestinian civilians were dead, Hamas’s Khalil al-Hayya told the New York Times from the safety of  Qatar, “We succeeded in putting the Palestinian issue back on the table, and now no one in the region is experiencing calm.” A Hamas media adviser added, “I hope that the state of war with Israel will become permanent on all the borders and that the Arab world will stand with us.” 

Another Hamas leader, Mousa Abu Marzouk, exulted: “This is the first time that the Palestinians are crossing the borders and fighting in their historic land. Israel used to wage war against us outside its borders, to kill us and imprison us. Now, it’s the opposite. Now the future Israeli generations will know they can’t continue to occupy the Palestinians—they can’t continue their wars forever.” He added, “This is the biggest achievement.”

Over the months of the conflict, Hamas accomplished the goal of tormenting Israelis by refusing to release hostages and posting propaganda videos of some to further torture their families. The sexual abuse and physical and mental torture some captives endured will haunt the victims and their families for life. The sense of security all Israelis felt before October 7 was shattered.

In one important respect, Hamas failed, namely to provoke an uprising in the West Bank and beyond. Hamas called for protests and attacks, but Palestinians in the West Bank remained unmoved even as they told pollsters they supported what Hamas had done. Other Arab states, with the exception of Iranian proxies in Yemen, Syria, and Lebanon also failed to heed the call for violence. Neither the signatories to the Abraham Accords nor the other countries with peace treaties with Israel (Egypt and Jordan) severed relations and talks for normalization with Saudi Arabia continued.

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