The 2023 Hamas Attack on Israel: A New Chapter in the Bloody History of the Palestinian-Israeli Conflict

On October 6, 1973, the Egyptians crossed the Suez Canal and invaded Israel. At the same time, Syrian and Arab allies launched attacks on Israel from the Golan Heights. This caught the Israelis, who were immersed in the Jewish holiday of Yom Kippur, by surprise, and the Fourth Middle East War (also known as the Yom Kippur War) broke out.
On the 50th anniversary of the Yom Kippur War, a similar scene happened again. In the early morning of October 7, 2023, Israelis living on the border with the Gaza Strip were awakened by explosions and rockets were fired from different locations. The first round of attacks lasted about 45 minutes.
The Palestinian Islamic Resistance Movement (Hamas) announced a military operation against Israel codenamed “Aqsa Flood”. Hamas military commander Mohammed Dave claimed that they fired a total of 5,000 rockets from Gaza towards Israel, and the first round of strikes targeted “enemy positions, airports and military bases.”
Compared with previous Palestinian-Israeli conflicts, this attack also showed new characteristics: Hamas armed personnel entered Israel to cause damage and took some Israeli hostages back to Gaza. This is also the first time a Palestinian armed organization has attacked an Israeli town since the founding of the state of Israel in 1948.
Israel quickly launched a counterattack, launching Operation Iron Sword. Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu said that day, “Israel has entered a full state of war.” He also said in a video speech, “Israel will win, and our enemies will pay an unprecedented price.”
According to information released by the Israeli military and the Palestinian Ministry of Health on the 11th, this round of Palestinian-Israeli conflict has killed approximately 2,200 people on both sides and injured more than 8,000 people. On October 12, Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Wang Wenbin introduced at a regular press conference that it is understood that three Chinese citizens have been confirmed to have been unfortunately killed in the conflict, two have lost contact, and several others have been injured.
Mel Erlan, a senior researcher at the Institute for National Security Studies in Tel Aviv and former deputy director of the Israeli Military Intelligence Agency, admitted to reporter that this attack launched by Hamas on Israel is unprecedented. What can be seen is that, Israel was not prepared for this.

“Comprehensive attack by sea, land and air”
“The complexity of this attack is unlike anything in the previous decades.” Former Israel Defense Forces military intelligence officer Michael Milstein said that such a military attack has not occurred in Israel since 1948, and all Other wars were fought on distant front lines. Today, a large-scale military attack has entered Israel, and it is a “full-scale attack by sea, land and air.”
Hamas claimed that it had taken military action against Israel, code-named “Aqsa Flood”. Hamas military commander Mohammed Dave issued a statement saying the ongoing attack was in retaliation for Israel’s “desecration” of the Al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem.
Al-Aqsa Mosque is located in the Old City of Jerusalem, where Muslims call it the “Holy Haram” and Israel calls it the Temple Mount. This place is both a holy site for Islam and a holy site for Judaism, and has therefore long been the focus of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.
At the beginning of this year, Israel’s new Minister of National Security, Itama Ben-Gvir, was escorted by police into the Temple Mount in the Old City of Jerusalem. On October 2, during the traditional Jewish festival of Sukkot, hundreds of Israelis also visited the place. These assertions of sovereignty triggered strong protests from Hamas.
Dave added that Israel has maintained a 16-year blockade on Gaza, has attacked and killed hundreds of Palestinians this year, and has rejected proposals for a prisoner exchange agreement.
The Israeli military has been in constant conflict with Hamas since it took over the Gaza Strip in 2007. But over the past year and a half, conflict has surged in the West Bank, with an increase in Palestinian shootings targeting Israeli civilians and troops and an increase in retaliatory attacks against Palestinians by extremist Jewish settlers.
Winneslan, the United Nations Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process, pointed out in August that more than 200 Palestinians and nearly 30 Israelis have been killed in demonstrations, conflicts, military operations, attacks and other incidents this year, and the death toll has exceeded last year. For the entire year, it was the deadliest year since the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in 2005. “Almost every day, Palestinians and Israelis are killed and wounded in violence,” he said.
Hamas-linked activists also staged violent demonstrations on the Israeli border in September. The incident was settled through international mediation in late September.
But less than three weeks later, new attacks began. “Today, the people are making a revolution. Everyone who has a gun should take it out.” Dave called on Arabs and Palestinians in the West Bank, who account for 20% of the Israeli population, to take up arms and fight.
Saleh al-Arouri, deputy chairman of the Hamas political bureau, issued a similar statement while calling on Arab and Islamic countries to join the “Aqsa Flood” operation.
Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh followed the raid from his office in the Qatari capital Doha, where video captured him celebrating with other senior Hamas officials. He told the media that Hamas was on the verge of a “major victory.”
“At this historic moment, Palestinian fighters carried out heroic actions,” Haniyeh said.

“We are at war”
About five hours after Hamas launched an attack on Israel from land, sea and air, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu delivered a video speech to the people, “We are at war. The enemy will pay a price they have never seen before.”
At the same time, the Israel Defense Forces also announced that it was entering a “state of war” and officially launched a military operation called “Iron Sword” against Hamas. Later on the 7th, the Israel Defense Forces released a video of air strikes carried out by Hamas in the Gaza Strip over the past few hours. Aerial video showed missiles hitting the Gaza Strip, Israeli warplanes roaring over the area, black smoke rising from the ground and huge explosions. The streets of the Gaza Strip were nearly deserted as locals gathered in shops, bakeries and gas stations to buy supplies in preparation for the possible ongoing conflict.
The Israeli army also attacked more than 500 Hamas and Islamic Jihad camps in the Gaza Strip overnight, including seven Hamas command centers and one Islamic Jihad command center.
Netanyahu said in the early morning of the 8th, “We are engaged in a long and difficult war. This war is forced on us by Hamas’s brutal attacks.” He pointed out that the first phase of the counterattack has ended, The Israel Defense Forces destroyed “most enemy forces that entered our territory” and will use all its forces to destroy Hamas and avenge Israel’s “Black Day.” “Everywhere Hamas is deployed, hiding and operating, we will turn them into rubble.”
Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Galant also authorized the widespread call-up of reservists, instructing the Israeli army to “completely blockade” the Palestinian Gaza Strip and stop the supply of electricity, fuel, water and other supplies to the Gaza Strip. The IDF said that in just 48 hours, 300,000 reservists had been called up, an unprecedented mobilization in Israeli history.
What confuses the outside world is that the Palestinian-Israeli conflict has lasted for many years. The Israeli intelligence and secret service Mossad is known as one of the four major intelligence agencies in the world because of its precision and efficiency. Despite its intensive digital and satellite surveillance, as well as the use of facial recognition technology, Hamas caught Israeli security services off guard. Both the head of Israel’s Mossad and Prime Minister Netanyahu stated that there was no intelligence or preparation before this round of attacks.
Mel Erlan, a senior researcher at the National Security Institute in Tel Aviv, Israel, also said that Hamas had obviously planned this attack for a long time. It coincided with the 50th anniversary of the Yom Kippur War and bypassed Israel’s superb intelligence system.
According to Niu Xinchun, director of the Middle East Institute of the China Institute of Modern International, for Israel, this attack was a double strategic and intelligence mistake: Strategically, after the last round of large-scale conflicts in Gaza, Hamas let Israel has formed the illusion that after years of struggle, Hamas and the Israeli government have formed a tacit strategic understanding. Israel has relaxed its control over Gaza and delivered electricity, gasoline, etc. to Gaza. In exchange, Hamas has not had any influence on Israel in the past two years. carried out military attacks, and the Israeli government also relaxed its vigilance against Hamas; in terms of intelligence, Mossad has superb technical intelligence, but its weakness lies in human intelligence, and it failed to penetrate the top leadership of Hamas. In the past two years, Hamas has also completely abandoned electronic communication tools.
“From this perspective, they (Hamas) have been preparing for a long time and are playing a big game.” Niu Xinchun told reporter.

Hamas’s new strategy?
Since the 1960s, it has been the Palestine Liberation Organization (Fatah) that has led the Palestinian resistance movement in its struggle against Israel. Initially, Fatah called for an armed struggle to drive the Israelis out of Palestine. However, since the 1980s, Fatah’s policy has gradually changed and finally recognized Israel’s legal existence.
This also constitutes the fundamental difference between Fatah and Hamas. Sheikh Ahmed Yassin founded Hamas in 1987, and the following year, Hamas issued a charter calling for the “annihilation” of the state of Israel and the establishment of a new Islamic society. Until now, Hamas still does not recognize Israel as a state. They advocate the expulsion of all Jews from Palestine and the establishment of a Palestinian state based on Islamic fundamentalism that extends from the eastern Mediterranean to the Jordan River.
Although Hamas leaders have sometimes proposed a long-term truce with Israel in exchange for the establishment of a fully sovereign Palestinian state based on the 1967 borders (Gaza Strip, West Bank, East Jerusalem) with East Jerusalem as its capital . But this was criticized by Israel as a “trick” by Hamas.
Since its establishment, Hamas has been in constant conflict with Israel, and has repeatedly carried out suicide bombings targeting Israeli targets. As a result, Hamas has been designated a terrorist organization by Israel, the United States, and the European Union.
In 2004, Hamas founder Sheikh Ahmed Yassin and his successor Abdul Aziz al-Rantisi were assassinated by Israel. Israel’s military operations have dealt a major blow to Hamas’s leadership, but Hamas has not declined and has even gained more support from the Palestinian people at a time when the Palestinian Authority has been questioned about corruption and weakness.
Hamas has also gradually become involved in the Palestinian political process. In the January 2006 Palestinian parliamentary elections, Hamas won a majority of seats in the Palestinian Authority parliament, defeating Fatah. Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas described what happened as “a coup.”
In 2007, after many fierce battles with the Fatah movement, Hamas achieved control of the Gaza Strip. Israel and Egypt subsequently imposed a blockade on the Gaza Strip, which has now lasted 16 years. The blockade has restricted the movement of people and goods into the Gaza Strip, causing shortages of everything from food to medicine.
Since then, Palestine has been divided, with Hamas controlling the Gaza Strip and the Fatah-led Palestinian Authority controlling parts of the West Bank.
The Gaza Strip is located between Israel, Egypt and the Mediterranean Sea, covering an area of ​​approximately 365 square kilometers. There are approximately 2.3 million people living in the area, which is one of the most densely populated areas in the world. It also has one of the highest unemployment rates in the world, with nearly half of the population unemployed, which also provides ample recruitment targets for the Hamas army. .
Since the blockade, Hamas has frequently launched “self-defense operations” against Israel from the Gaza Strip, and has had four military conflicts with the Israeli army in 2008, 2012, 2014 and 2021.

Hamas has grown its military power over the years. It has built or acquired a vast arsenal of rockets with a range that covers almost all of Israel. It has also built tunnels to smuggle people into Israel. Ambush the Israeli army as they invade.
Azam Shaath, a political researcher in Gaza and a political science expert at Mohammed V University in Rabat, observed that in the two years after 2021, the relationship between Hamas and Israel seems to be taking a new turn. Hamas did not participate in the two confrontations between Israel and Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) in 2019 and 2022.
Azzam Shaath further explained that Hamas’s attitude towards Israel no longer seems to be aimed solely at the principle of military resistance, but rather to calculate costs and benefits. This has allowed Israel to enjoy greater calm around Gaza while ensuring that Hamas remains the sole authority in the Strip. The Israeli government has even relaxed some of its policies, issuing Israeli work permits to thousands of Gazan workers and businessmen.
But judging from the sudden escalation of the current war, this may not be Hamas’s new strategy. Niu Xinchun believes that Hamas has indeed made active preparations and made great determination in the past two years. It is obvious that it is ready to burn the boat.
Some media have speculated that it is very likely that these personnel with Israeli work permits completed large-scale exercise training in Israel, and the Israeli authorities only believed that they came to make money. In this regard, a former Israeli military officer admitted on the 8th that the commander of the “Aqsa Flood” operation had a certain degree of “strategic courage.”
The time when Hamas launched this round of attacks also has three special characteristics: from a historical perspective, it coincides with the anniversary of the Fourth Middle East War; from a domestic perspective in Israel, the Netanyahu government is facing At this difficult time, Netanyahu himself has faced fierce opposition and protests over judicial reforms; diplomatically, Israel and Saudi Arabia are engaged in negotiations to normalize relations.

Gaza will get bloodier
Just two weeks before the Hamas attack, Netanyahu told the United Nations General Assembly in New York that Israel was on the verge of a “major breakthrough” in reaching a historic peace deal with Saudi Arabia. Peace between Israel and Saudi Arabia will create a new Middle East.
“Such a peace would go a long way toward ending the Arab-Israeli conflict and would encourage other Arab countries to normalize relations with Israel.” Netanyahu said it would also enhance the prospects for peace with the Palestinians.
Since the normalization of relations between Egypt and Israel in 1979, six of the 22 Arab countries have successively normalized relations with Israel, including the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Sudan, Morocco, etc. Saudi Arabia is considered the “leader” in the Arab world. If Saudi Arabia normalizes relations with Israel, it will have a strong driving role in the Arab region.
Meir Erlan, who has been deeply involved in the process of normalizing relations between Israel and Egypt, told reporter that the normalization of relations between Israel and Arab countries is the last thing Hamas wants to see. But he believes that the normalization of relations between Israel and Arab countries is the future trend in the Middle East. Mel Erland is also worried about the current situation, “When initiating conflict becomes a strategic skill, the process will be difficult.”

On the 9th, the Israeli government ordered a comprehensive blockade of Gaza. Meanwhile, the Israel Defense Forces said in a brief statement that its helicopters were currently carrying out attacks in Lebanon. Lebanese Hezbollah said that many of its members were killed in the Israeli shelling of southern Lebanon that day. In response, Hezbollah used guided missiles and mortars to attack Israeli military camps near the Lebanese-Israeli border in northern Israel.
In an emergency phone call with US Secretary of State Blinken after the attack, Palestinian President Abbas pointed out that the escalation of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict was the result of the unfair actions of the Israeli army and settlers against the Palestinian people. At the beginning of this year, the Israeli government approved the “legalization” of nine “illegal” Jewish settlements in the West Bank, further encroaching on Palestinian land. In addition, since April this year, Israeli military police have frequently clashed with Palestinians in the Gaza Strip, the West Bank and Jerusalem, causing a large number of casualties.
U.S. President Joe Biden condemned the Hamas attack and said the United States stood with the Israeli people in facing this attack. “Israel has the right to defend itself and its people. Terrorist attacks are never justified. The U.S. government’s support for Israel’s security is strong and unswerving.” According to U.S. media reports, the U.S. is accelerating the provision of air defense systems and other weapons and ammunition to Israel.
Some U.S. officials have also publicly stated that Iran is the real culprit behind Hamas attacks. They believe that Iran has long been aiding Hamas economically and militarily. Iranian President Raisi responded, “Iran supports the legitimate defense of Palestine, and Israel and its supporters should be held responsible for endangering the security of regional countries.”
In the Middle East, several countries, including Turkey, Lebanon, Iraq and Iran, have publicly expressed support for Hamas, and people in some of these countries have taken to the streets and held up Hamas banners.
In response to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict situation, leaders of many countries in the region have conducted multiple emergency consultations. The Egyptian Presidential Palace issued a statement on the 8th saying that Egyptian President Sisi had a phone call with Jordanian King Abdullah II that day. Both parties called on the international community to work together to prevent the situation between Palestine and Israel from deteriorating further. The leaders of the two countries emphasized that the current top priority is to end the escalation of violence between Palestine and Israel and urged both parties to exercise self-restraint. King Abdullah II of the Royal Palace of Jordan also had a phone call with Iraqi Prime Minister Sudani on the same day, emphasizing the strengthening of coordination among Arab countries to prevent the deterioration of the situation in Gaza and surrounding areas, and reiterated support for the Palestinian people to realize their legitimate rights.
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Mao Ning pointed out after the Palestinian-Israeli conflict occurred that China is highly concerned about the recent escalation of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, is very saddened by the civilian casualties caused by the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, and opposes and condemns actions that harm civilians. China opposes actions that expand conflicts and undermine regional stability, and hopes to cease fire and end the war as soon as possible and restore peace. The international community should effectively play its role and jointly promote the cooling of the situation. Mao Ning also said that the way to resolve the recurring conflict between Palestine and Israel lies in resuming peace talks, implementing the “two-state solution”, and promoting the early and comprehensive and proper settlement of the Palestinian issue through political means so that the reasonable concerns of all parties can be safeguarded. China will continue to work with the international community to make unremitting efforts to this end.
Regarding the spillover effects of this round of conflict, Mohanad Haq Ali, a researcher at the Carnegie Middle East Center in Beirut, pointed out that with several key members of Hamas’s leadership recently traveling to Beirut, it will be difficult for Hezbollah in Lebanon to quickly withdraw from the conflict. evacuate. The prospect of the conflict being “contained within Gaza” seemed unlikely, he said.
Niu Xinchun also believes that with the addition of Hezbollah in Lebanon, the situation will become more complicated. There is also the risk of the conflict spilling over into Gaza, and the hope of a peaceful solution to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict is becoming increasingly slim. Hostage negotiations are not easy. During his previous term in 2011, Netanyahu used 1,027 Palestinian prisoners (including 280 life-sentence prisoners) in exchange for an Israeli prisoner of war from Hamas in Gaza. . Now, a senior Hamas leader claims that in an unprecedented attack on Israel, Hamas has captured enough Israeli hostages to demand the release of all Palestinian prisoners in Israel’s jails.
Meir Erlan pointed out that after Israel encounters such a level of attack, it will definitely fight back more violently, and Gaza will become even bloodier. Kobe Michael, a senior fellow at the Israel Institute for National Strategic Studies, predicts that the death toll in Gaza may soon significantly exceed the death toll in Israel. “In the densely populated Gaza Strip, local people will pay a very heavy price.”
Mkaimal Abu Saada, a professor of political science at Al-Azhar University in Gaza, said that about 500,000 people live in battlefields attacked by Israeli troops. Because there are so many of them, they are unable to seek refuge with family or friends elsewhere in Gaza. He continued, “Nowhere in Gaza is truly safe.”

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