The number of those killed in the Hamas attack on Israel on the morning of October 7 was more than 600 from both sides as of the late hours of October 8. In some Israeli towns, clashes between Israeli soldiers and police and Hamas militants who had infiltrated the Gaza Strip continued. The Israeli army was caught unawares, armed with the world’s most advanced war technologies supported by the US, and backed by the world renown intelligence networks such as the Mossad and Shin Bet. The supposedly impenetrable “Iron Dome” air defense system was shattered by Hamas’ homemade rockets.
“A deep shame fills our hearts with fury and our eyes with tears,” Haaretz commentator Yossi Verter wrote, blaming Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s “reckless” policies for the “war upon Israel”.As Netanyahu called for “civilians to evacuate Gaza”, Israeli jets began raining fire on Gaza, where the civilian exit routes were under total siege. Seeking to turn the shock of the attack into political capital, Netanyahu immediately offered opposition leaders Yair Lapid and Benny Gantz a national unity government headed by himself. The so-called “Iron Swords” operation to level Gaza had begun.
“Al Aqsa Flood” of Hamas
Hamas said they were distributing Israeli prisoners throughout Gaza to be exchanged later for Palestinian prisoners. Israeli soldiers and officers, now estimated to number more than 50, were being held as “human shields” in underground tunnels in Gaza; if Israel struck, it would kill them too.
For the Palestinian militants, death meant martyrdom; it is even possible to say that the attack was a full-scale suicide bombing.
The “multi-front” offensive launched by the military wing of Hamas, known as the Izz ad-Din Kassam Brigades, under the name of the “Aqsa Flood” is the largest attack on Israel by a Palestinian organization since Fatah was founded in 1959.
Saturday, October 7, coincided with both the Jewish weekday holiday of Shabbat and the religious holiday of Sukkot. Hamas’ attack began in the morning with missile strikes. According to Hamas, more than 5,000 missiles were fired; according to Israel, more than 2,000. At the same time, hundreds of militants infiltrated into Israel, some by land borders, others by motorized hang gliders, and turned Israeli cities into a living hell.
Needs long preparation
In certain Arab media, the Hamas attack is seen as a reaction to Israel’s unprecedented Sukkot holiday, when Jewish pilgrims piled up the gates of the Al-Aqsa Mosque and desecrated its sanctity with tourist trips. However, this “multi-front” attack seems to have required a long period of planning. Preparations such as the smuggling of so many explosives into Gaza even though it was under siege, the formation of motorized hang glider units, and perhaps the infiltration of some militants into Israel long beforehand and putting them to sleep, cannot be explained by reacting to a recent event like that and taking action.
Hamas’ chief of military operations, Mohammed Deif, has called on all Palestinians to mobilize to “stop Israeli aggression, with the help of Allah”. At the same time, its leader Ismail Haniyeh has threatened to expand their actions to the West Bank and Jerusalem. Haniyeh’s political rival, Ramallah-based Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, said the Palestinian people have the right to defend themselves “against settler terrorism and the occupation army.”
Hamas or Fatah?
Unfortunately, this crisis, described as a “war” by both Netanyahu and Haniyeh, will result in heavy destruction and more civilian casualties in Gaza. Israel will surely use all its muscles to counter this humiliating attack and receive promises of additional help from the West. US President Joe Biden has already offered additional support to Israel, including deploying the world’s biggest aircraft carrier USS Gerald Ford off the Israeli coast. https://www.aa.com.tr/en/americas/additional-military-assistance-to-israel-on-its-way-biden-tells-netanyahu/3011871
Will the destruction of Gaza claiming civilian lives there be the end of Hamas or Fatah led by Abbas? Will the Palestinian people, who are constantly losing rights and positions, turn to Fatah in defeat fatigue or to Hamas in the spirit of resistance? These are open-ended questions for now.
Iran’s role and the F-35
Hamas spokesman Ghazi Hammad told the BBC that the organization received “direct” support from Iran regarding the organized attack. https://www.bbc.com/news/world-middle-east-67044182
This is in line with Israeli President Isaac Herzog’s statement that Iran was behind the attack.
Indeed, on the morning of October 8, Iranian-backed Hezbollah launched a rocket attack on Lebanon’s Israeli-occupied Sheeba Farms area. The aim appears to be to delay part of the Israeli army in the north.
Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Nasser Kanaani said that Hamas’ attack, which he described as “heroic”, “shows that Israel can be defeated”.
Let us remember from this link that Israel, in cooperation with the Netherlands, has been conducting cyber-attacks against Iran, including a war of spies in which Türkiye has also been a stage. It is also known that Israel is uncomfortable with the Iranian Revolutionary Guard presence in Syria. Now, could the Hamas attack lead to a direct Israeli attack on Iran, using, for example, the F-35s that Israel has so far only used in Syria? Could it, for example, attempt to strike nuclear facilities?
Or will the US directly hit Iran from its ships in the Mediterranean Sea and the Persian Gulf?
Reaction of Türkiye
The Israeli-Palestinian war, which began with a shock attack by Hamas, is likely to have adverse effects across the region. And not only because of Iran. For example, at midday on October 8, a police officer opened fire on Israeli tourists in Alexandria, Egypt, killing two Israeli and one Egyptian citizen. Turkish security services are on “high alert” just in case.
Türkiye, like Egypt, has declared its position that the attack should not spread to the region and result in more civilian deaths. It is worth noting that President Tayyip Erdoğan, who has previously reacted strongly to Israel’s attacks on Palestinians, especially in Gaza, “called on the parties to show restraint” at the AK Party Congress on October 7. So is the Foreign Ministry’s condemnation of the “loss of civilian lives” and its statement that it is in “intensive contact with the parties” to avoid a crisis by calling on “the parties to refrain from the use of force”. Foreign Minister Hakan Fidan has been in touch with his US, Palestine, Saudi Arabia, Iran, Egypt, and Qatar counterparts. Some opposition parties, and media, particularly on the Islamist flank criticized Erdoğan for not reacting to Israel strongly or even sending Turkish troops to help Hamas.
There is a vital line between defending the rights of the Palestinian people and fueling the region’s descent into all-out war.
Impact on Türkiye
The crisis will also affect Türkiye in ways other than political. Erdoğan met Netanyahu in New York on September 20 after many years. Energy Minister Alparslan Bayraktar was expected to enter Israel next week for natural gas pipeline talks. It would not be a prophecy to say that these and many similar projects will be shelved until the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is resolved. This is also true for the attempts of Arab countries such as Saudi Arabia and the UAE to rapprochement with Israel. Even the ambitious India-Middle East-Europe Economic Corridor project that was discussed at the G20 meeting. The Israeli port of Ashkelon, a key element of that project, was also a target of Hamas attacks.
The agenda altered with one move
The Hamas offensive that began on October 7 not only caught Israel by surprise but gave it a major shock of insecurity since its establishment in 1948. It also pushed Russia’s war on Ukraine, the Azerbaijan-Armenia conflict, and Türkiye’s confrontation with the US over its anti-terror operations in Syria and Iraq following the October 1 PKK attack, to the back of the international relations agenda. With this proxy move through Hamas, Iran also intervened in the Middle East and the world agenda by saying “Don’t forget about me”.
Like the Russia-Ukraine crisis, it would be beneficial for Türkiye to maintain a balanced stance in the Palestinian-Israeli crisis as a better means of defending the basic rights of Palestinians.