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Report of Monday Morning Meeting on Hamas Terrorist Attacks on Israel

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  • October 16, 2023
    Monday Morning Meeting

    Dr. S. Samuel C. Rajiv, Associate Fellow, Manohar Parrikar Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses (MP-IDSA), delivered a presentation on “Hamas Terrorist Attacks on Israel” at the Monday Morning Meeting held on 16 October 2023. Dr. Prasanta Kumar Pradhan, Research Fellow and Coordinator of the West Asia Centre, MP-IDSA, moderated the session. Scholars of the Institute attended the meeting.

    Executive Summary

    Analysing the Hamas attacks on Israel on 7 October 2023 reveals a strategic complexity marked by unprecedented land, air, and sea infiltrations. The success of Hamas hinged on meticulous planning, exploiting misconceptions, and diverting attention from Gaza. Israel responded with Operation Swords of Iron, drawing regional and international reactions. India has shown strong support to Israel. Concerns about Hamas’s military headquarters and United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA)’s humanitarian issues loom large, while analysts caution against a ground invasion in Gaza.

    Detailed Report

    In his opening remarks, Dr. Pradhan provided a succinct overview of the current war between Israel and Hamas. Notably, Hamas initiated a deadly terrorist attack, resulting in the loss of 1400 Israeli lives. In response, Israel declared war, initiating Operation Swords of Iron, causing the death of around 2500 Palestinians. Dr. Pradhan highlighted intelligence and surveillance failures that caught the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) off guard. Acknowledging the gravity of the situation, the US Secretary of State, Antony J. Blinken visited Israel and neighbouring countries as part of regional diplomacy efforts to manage the crisis.

    Dr. Rajiv highlighted the unprecedented nature of the Hamas attacks on 7 October 2023, employing land, air, and sea infiltrations. He emphasised the use of drones, rockets, and paragliders to bomb Israeli observation towers and weapons systems. Rockets were fired at southern and central Israel, providing cover for terrorists on paragliders who flew over the border. Large explosive devices were used to breach the border fence, allowing hundreds of terrorists to infiltrate and attack Israeli Army posts and nearby communities.

    Reasons cited by Hamas for the attacks included ending perceived unaccountability, opposition to the Israeli occupation of the West Bank since 1967, protest against Israeli police raids on Al Aqsa Mosque, and objection to the detention of thousands of Palestinians. Dr. Rajiv highlighted that since its formation in 1987, Hamas rejected peace negotiations and adhered to an uncompromising stance outlined in its Charter, emphasising non-recognition of any part of Palestine under Zionist occupation.

    According to the Speaker, the success of Hamas on 7 October 2023 can be attributed to meticulous subterfuge, strategic planning, and effective execution. At the same time, a disproportionate focus on the West Bank and escalating violence between Israeli settlers and Palestinians diverted Israeli security forces’ attention from Gaza.

    Dr. Rajiv stated that Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu declared war, responding to what he termed a “murderous surprise attack” by Hamas. Operation Swords of Iron ensued, marked by a reestablishment of border control, massive airstrikes, and the mobilisation of 360,000 reservists, slightly less than the 1973 Yom Kippur War. The immediate war aim is to regain complete military control over Gaza, reminiscent of the pre-Oslo era. Israel’s historical precedence of ground invasions, such as Operation Cast Lead in 2008-2009 and Operation Protective Edge in 2014, involved substantial mobilisation of reservists, ground incursions, and casualties on both sides.

    Regarding the international response, Dr. Rajiv reported that a joint statement by the US, UK, France, Germany, and Italy unequivocally condemned Hamas for acts of terrorism and affirmed support for Israel’s defence efforts. Russia and China expressed deep concern over the conflict’s escalation. As for the regional response, Egypt urged maximum restraint, Saudi Arabia called for an immediate halt, the UAE sought a ceasefire, and Bahrain denounced civilian kidnappings. Turkiye’s Erdogan criticized the Gaza bombing, while Iran’s Khamenei spoke of eradicating the “usurper Zionist regime.” Qatar held Israel responsible, Kuwait blamed Israel, and Morocco condemned attacks on civilians.

    Dr. Rajiv explained Israel’s security response to the protracted conflict with Gaza. The IDF’s use of force till now was a strategy of attrition to debilitate enemy capabilities and occasional large-scale operations for temporary deterrence. With reference to domestic and regional implications, he highlighted the potential hardening of Israel’s political stance and uncertainties surrounding the two-state paradigm. He further stated that the increased force profile of the US and UK in the Eastern Mediterranean adds to the complexity of the regional strategic situation.

    Regarding India’s stance, Dr. Rajiv reported that India expressed solidarity with Israel, unequivocally condemning terrorism and emphasising adherence to international humanitarian law. He also highlighted India’s commitment to a sovereign Palestinian state.

    Comments and Questions

    Discussion in the Q&A session pertained to the role of media narrative and disinformation, Israel’s possible action against the Hamas leadership in Qatar, Iran and Turkiye, role of the UNRWA, China’s approach towards the conflict in light of its recent regional mediation efforts, role of Turkiye and Egypt, Iran’s role in enhancing the overall capability of Hamas, dent in the image of Israel’s invincible security, and the viability of the two-state solution.

    Report has been prepared by Mr. Abhishek Yadav, Research Analyst, West Asia Centre, MP-IDSA.