The history behind Hamas’ unprecedented attack on Israel – DIGIWIZ CENTRAL

The history behind Hamas’ unprecedented attack on Israel

A missile explodes in Gaza City during an Israeli air strike on October 8, 2023.

MAHMUD HAMS/AFP via Getty Images

The Palestinian militant group Hamas launched an unprecedented attack on Israel this weekend. Israel has since retaliated with force, reigniting a decade-long conflict. 

On Saturday, the Palestinian militant group Hamas launched an unprecedented sea, air, and ground offensive on Israel. It marked the most devastating attack on the country for decades.

Thousands of rockets were fired by the group’s militants toward southern and central Israel, striking major cities like Tel Aviv and Jerusalem.

Israeli Defense Forces said Monday that more than 700 people were killed, including people who were attending a music festival near the Gaza Strip — the Palestinian exclave which has been controlled by Hamas since 2006. Scores more were taken hostage.

Israel has since retaliated with full force, drafting a record 300,000 reservists and attacking housing blocks, a mosque, and other buildings in Gaza with its own missiles. They have killed more than 550 people as of Monday, the Gaza Ministry of Health said.

Rockets are fired by Palestinian militants from Gaza into Israel.

Mohammed Salem/REUTERS

The attack has been a “historic failure” for the Israeli intelligence service, which used to be seen as one of the most capable in the world, David Khalfa of the North Africa and Middle East Observatory at French think tank the Fondation Jean-Jaurès, told France24.

Rising tensions between Israel and Hamas

Though it caught Israel by surprise, the Hamas attack comes after months of worsening tensions between the two sides.

Last month, Israeli police carried out a raid on the al Aqsa mosque in Jerusalem — one of the three holiest sites in Islam.

A spokesperson for Hamas told Al Jazeera it launched the attack partly because of “atrocities in Gaza, against Palestinian people, our holy sites like Al-Aqsa.”

Meanwhile, there have also been terror attacks in Israel, including when a Palestinian gunman shot seven people dead near a synagogue in January.

Palestinians clean the Al Aqsa mosque after clashes with Israeli police on the compound known to Muslims as Noble Sanctuary and to Jews as Temple Mount in Jerusalem’s Old City November 5, 2014

Ammar Awad/Reuters

The blockade of Gaza

The Gaza Strip has been at the heart of the tensions.

Gaza is a narrow strip of land wedged between Israel and Egypt, which has been controlled by Hamas since 2007.

After Hamas took over Gaza, its more than 2 million residents endured a border blockade enforced to varying degrees by Israel and Egypt.

The blockade included Israeli authorities intensifying their border controls and movement restrictions in the area in general.

Officials prohibited Palestinians from entering or leaving the area except in extremely rare cases and closed land-border crossings from Gaza into Israel except for one — which is open only to Palestinians with Israeli-approved permits.

This has led Human Rights Watch to liken the conditions in Gaza to “an open-air prison.”

Egypt has also closed its land border from time to time, which is often the only way people in Gaza can gain access to the rest of the world.

Israelis have also curtailed the flow of goods into the area, particularly construction materials, medical supplies, and food. It said the blockade was necessary to protect Israelis from Hamas.

“The current conflict didn’t begin just two days ago; it began when Israel decided to treat Palestinians as less than equal human beings and forcibly displaced them from their ancestral lands and towns, the same lands they yearn to return to today,” wrote Mohammed Mhawish in The Nation.

On Monday, Netanyahu’s office declared they would stop sending food, fuel, and electricity from entering the disputed territory.

“We are fighting human animals and we are acting accordingly,” Israel’s Defense Minister Yoav Gallant said, according to The Times of Israel.

Disrupting negotiations

Former U.S. intelligence and military officers told NBC News that they believed the timing of the Hamas attack was primarily aimed at disrupting a transformative three-way deal between Israel, Saudi Arabia, and the United States.

The agreement would have seen Israel and Saudi formally recognize each other within a security, defense, and economic partnership with the US.

However, the attack has now derailed that possibility — at least in the near term, Western analysts said.

“There was a palpable frustration among the Palestinians at seeing the Saudis and Israelis moving closer,” retired Navy Adm. James Stavridis, a former commander of NATO, told NBC News.

Saudi Arabia has since publicly blamed Israel for the Hamas invasion, jeopardizing the peace deal.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu attends a cabinet meeting in Jerusalem, Wednesday, Jan. 3, 2018.

AP Photo/Tsafrir Abayov, Pool

Israel dealing with domestic division

For months, Israel’s government has been in turmoil over plans to change the way the judicial system works, the BBC reported.

Earlier this year, Netanyahu announced plans to remove the power of the Supreme Court so that it cannot scrutinize and overrule the government.

Thousands of people against the proposal took to the streets in cities across the country. The protesters, who were backed by Netanyahu’s political rivals and some military officials, also called for his resignation.

Khalfa told France24 that Hamas launched its attack now “to capitalize on Israel’s vulnerability.”

“This terrorist operation comes at a time when Israel is facing an unprecedented political and institutional crisis,” he added.

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