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Israel’s Right to Defend is Absolute

Hamas and Hezbollah have just escalated their threat level, nuisance value thereby altering the delicately balanced West Asia power equations

Rahul Pawa

As Saturday dawned bright and sunny on the important Jewish day of observance, Israel was jolted by unexpected assault from Palestinian terrorists linked to Hamas in Gaza.

With cold precision, Hamas backed by Hezbollah orchestrated a sweeping, multifaceted assault against Israel presenting one of the gravest challenges to the Jewish nation faced in half a century.

In this nefariously orchestrated operation, diverse array of tactics was employed by Hamas, the dreaded Sunni Islamist outfit. This included gliders and parachutes with weapons that took to skies, naval vessels for maritime intrusion and heavily-armed terrorists advancing on foot.

Hamas audacity became evident with launch of rockets in thousands, some daringly aimed at Jerusalem. The sheer scale of this aggression not only resonates with its immediate impact but raises significant concerns, setting off global alarm, attention and unease.

In a recorded message, Hamas terror commander Mohammed Deif referred to the assault as “Operation Al-Aqsa Storm.” He urged Palestinians in various regions to unite in the fight and emphasized on return to their revolution. He pointed to alleged Israeli hostilities and tensions surrounding Al-Aqsa Mosque in East Jerusalem as a catalyst.

This sentiment was echoed by Hamas political leader Ismail Haniyeh who rallied Muslims worldwide to defend Al-Aqsa and Islam’s sacred mission. The overarching message to Israelis was not just about Palestinian cause but conveyed deep religious conviction, viewing Israelis, predominantly Jews as betrayers of the ‘Islamic divine will’.

Fallout of this Hamas terror attack was catastrophic. About 22 Israeli towns and critical military installations were under siege with human toll painting an even grimmer picture. For Israelis, the ordeal was nightmarish, ceaseless, and unimaginable. As hours ticked by, families huddled in their homes, in hope of getting relief from encroaching Hamas terrorists infiltrating their communities.

At a music festival southern Israel, young attendees from around the world faced a tragic and ruthless fate. In a dark twist, Hamas brazenly broadcast their acts turning their reign of terror into a spectacle for the world. Israeli families including women and children bore the brunt of this mindless violence with numerous abductions and heart-wrenching scenes streamed live. The world witnessed trauma of a wounded young Israeli woman dragged into Gaza and an Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) soldier’s tragic fate displayed for all.

Shockingly, the reaction to this brazen act of terrorism in certain quarters was inconceivably jubilant. Pro-Hamas videos found enthusiastic distribution and received cheers from its supporters around the world, including far-left factions in the West and India. Celebrations erupted in Tehran and Ramallah with Iran’s own parliamentary body voicing chilling chants of “Death to Israel” inside its Parliament. The intent was clear: every harrowing moment inflicted on the Israelis was meant not just as an act of terror but also as a message, an open humiliation.

In response to multiple infiltrations and rocket launches from Gaza Strip, Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu declared that Israel was now in a state of war. He vowed retaliation against Hamas and underscored Israel’s unwavering right to self-defense.

By Saturday, prominent global leaders including Joe Biden, Narendra Modi and Rishi Sunak voiced their solidarity with Israel. Their condemnation of unprecedented aggression by Palestinian terror group, Hamas was resolute.

Moreover, the US, UK and several nations unequivocally affirmed Israel’s right to defend itself. Several hours later, Israel retaliated fiercely in Gaza resulting in significant casualties. The conflict’s ripple effects were felt as far as Lebanon with clashes between Israel and Hezbollah and in Alexandria, where two Israeli tourists were killed.

Israeli airstrikes targeted strategic points in Gaza including residences and Hamas officials’ homes leading to over 300 fatalities. With ongoing ground confrontations in southern Israel, the military was criticized for not thwarting the initial attack.

Israel has now deployed a substantial force around Gaza and plans to evacuate Israelis near the territory’s border. Hamas attacks which commenced in early hours of Saturday has to date tragically resulted in loss of over 800 lives and injuries to more than 2000 individuals.

Importantly, implications of the events in Israel stretch far beyond the immediate trauma and retaliatory defense response. Streaming pro-Hamas videos depicting grave violations against Israeli civilians and detained IDF personnel amount to crimes against humanity.

In a startling breach, Hamas terrorists from Gaza managed to infiltrate southern Israeli border in a very short span of time catching Israeli defense posts off guard. This raises eyebrows given the sophistication and depth of Israel’s intelligence and surveillance operations especially focused on monitoring Hamas. Several Western commentators point to serious intelligence lapse from within Israel and its global partners.

Inefficiency of Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) funded at a staggering $23.6 billion annually also posed serious questions. When Israeli citizens found themselves enmeshed in their darkest hour, the defense forces seemed conspicuously absent. Even hours into the crisis, rapid response from the military was lacking and the political leadership appeared equally paralyzed, failing to provide clarity or direction.

The nation, so often lauded for its security prowess seemed collectively stunned. With the state’s apparatus seemingly in a state of inertia, a haunting silence enveloped the nation’s psyche. The events challenge conventional beliefs about the robustness of Israel’s defense and political machinery.  

Hamas, with swift terror acts sought to humiliate Israel. By kidnapping children, desecrating the fallen and broadcasting their acts, they aimed to instill fear and expose perceived Israeli vulnerabilities. These actions by Hamas, once considered a mere regional irritant, have substantially shifted the strategic landscape.

Their provocations have transcended previous boundaries, deeply challenging Israel’s long-held defensive strategies.  These events have catalyzed unity among Israelis across political and social spectra. While internal differences persist, Hamas actions have crystalized the pressing need for a united front against the common enemy.

The images and narratives from recent events serve as painful reminders of perils of a divided stance.  In the face of this enhanced threat level, Israel’s stance is bound to evolve. The nation, historically resilient and strategic in its response might no longer have the luxury of a measured reaction.

From strategic standpoint of view, Hamas and Hezbollah once viewed as containable nuisances have significantly recalibrated their threat level. This escalation not only challenges Israel’s traditional deterrence posture but foreshadows an imminent transformation in Israel’s future dealings with them.

A united Israel, feeling cornered, might see no other recourse than to respond with unparalleled might. Hamas may soon come to terms with its misjudgment that’s gross. A fortified Israel could live with a defiant Hamas at its borders; a threatened one might not afford such patience. An assured Israel can weigh humanitarian considerations; an Israel under siege might prioritize survival above all.

(Author is Research Director at non-partisan New Delhi based think tank, Centre for Integrated and Holistic Studies)

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