A Paper for the Students by the Students.



A Paper for the Students by the Students.

A Paper for the Students by the Students.


Israel At War

IDF strikes ammunition depot in Gaza

Israel declares war after Hamas terrorist attacks

On Saturday, Israel declared war. It is the first time the Middle Eastern nation has formally declared war since the 1973 Yom Kippur War exactly 50 years ago, when an Arab coalition led by Egypt and Syria invaded. 

On Saturday morning, troops belonging to the terrorist group Hamas, which governs the Palestinian Gaza strip, invaded Southern Israel. Although many of us are familiar with the constant bickering in the levant, the attacks perpetrated on Saturday were unprecedented. Already several commentators have begun to refer to them as “Israel’s 9/11” as the attacks took the country by complete surprise due to a large portion of the IDF (Israeli Defense Force) being on leave at the time. Hamas, which is supplied and trained by Iran, launched an offensive into Southern Israel, infiltrating 22 towns, including those as far as 15mi (24km) from the Gaza border per AP. It was also reported that Hamas launched around 2000 rockets towards Israeli cities at the beginning of the attacks. Most of the nearly 1000 Hamas fighters who launched the attack came in on motorbikes and trucks, with a smaller number attacking from paragliders and speed boats. While most of the atrocities that followed in captured Israeli towns are too gruesome to describe, it can be said that Hamas went door-to-door massacring civilians. Not far outside of Gaza, a rave was being held by Pro-Palestine peace activists. According to reports on social media, Hamas fired indiscriminately into the crowd, with some young people suffering an indescribable fate before being paraded through the streets of Gaza. As of Monday morning, 800 Israelis are confirmed dead, most of them civilians, in addition to 2040 wounded. This makes the attacks of Saturday morning the worst attacks in Israeli history, and 2nd worldwide only to the events of September 11th. The US State Department has confirmed the deaths of at least 9 Americans. 

The Israeli response to the attacks has been swift and unilateral. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, leader of Israel’s far-right coalition government, quickly released a statement that Israel was at war. It stated that “Citizens of Israel, we are at war. Not an operation, not a round [of fighting,] at war! This morning Hamas initiated a murderous surprise attack against the state of Israel and its citizens.” Later that afternoon, Israel officially declared a state of war, and the IDF began to push Hamas back into Gaza. As of Monday morning, the last Hamas hold outs in Israeli territory have been pushed back into Gaza, although lone attackers and further incursions are likely. 

Per the BBC, Hamas is currently holding as many as 53 Prisoners of War hostage in Gaza, although how many of them are alive or can be rescued is hard to determine. An IDF spokesperson confirmed that soldiers and civilians had been captured, although he denied the Hamas claim that they had captured a major general. 

The international response to these attacks has been somewhat predictable along the standard lines of this historic conflict. In the West, the events of Saturday were met with near complete condemnation, with EU Commision President Ursula von der Leyen tweeting “I unequivocally condemn the attack carried out by Hamas terrorists against Israel… Israel has a right to defend itself against such heinous attacks.” Alongside most other western leaders, she was joined by British Foreign Secretary James Cleverley who posted to social media that “The UK unequivocally condemns the horrific attacks by Hamas on Israeli civilians. The UK will always support Israel’s right to defend itself.” Following the attacks, the EU suspended all aid to Palestine Monday per Politico

However more mixed reactions have been met in the Eastern and Arab worlds, ranging from soft condemnations to support for Palestine. Some Arab nations, including the UAE, and other governments such as China, have attempted to take a neutral stance and urge for a ceasefire. The UAE foreign ministry released a statement that “The UAE calls for the exercise of maximum restraint and an immediate ceasefire to avoid serious repercussions. The UAE has expressed its sincere condolences to all the victims of the recent crisis.” Most nations in the Arab world have taken the stance that Israel is responsible for the violence, with the Arab League releasing a statement that “Israel’s continued implementation of violent and extremist policies is a time bomb depriving the region of any serious opportunity for stability in the foreseeable future.” Russia has attempted to take a stance on the issue, despite being tied up elsewhere, stating that they support the Palestinian side and are urging for a two-state solution to the conflict. By far the most extreme reactions to the war came from Iran, who uses Hamas and the Lebanon-based group Hezbollah, as launching pads for attacks against Israel. An advisor to Iran’s supreme leader stated that “We congratulate the Palestinian fighters… We will stand by the Palestinian fighters until the liberations of Palestine and Jerusalem.” Hezbollah, who sits on Israel’s northern border and has a large stockpile of equipment and rockets, has threatened to join the war if Israel launches a ground attack against Gaza, although the credibility of these threats has been questioned.  

The US has responded to the attacks by condemning the “appalling Hamas terrorist attacks in Israel.” President Biden made a short address to the nation Saturday afternoon, reiterating American support for Irael’s self-defense and warning “against any other party hostile to Israel seeking advantage in this situation,” likely in a message to Iran, Syria, or Hezbollah. Accordingly, to protect US assets in nearby Syria and seemingly to deter foreign actors from becoming involved, the US has deployed the U.S.S Gerald R Ford aircraft carrier strike force into the Eastern Mediterranean, per AP. The Ford is the Navy’s newest and most advanced aircraft carrier, with 5000 personal and some of the most advanced aircraft in the Navy. It should be noted that, as of now, there will be no direct involvement from the United States militarily. 

Worldwide, there have been protests both in favor of Israel and Palestine. In Times Square and in Kirkland, Washington, protestors were broken up and ordered to disperse after tensions grew between them. 

Tensions between the Jewish Israelis and Muslim Palestinians have been an issue since Israel was founded after WWII in 1948. Almost immediately after Israel’s independence, UN plans collapsed, and a coalition of Arab nations consisting of all their neighbors invaded. The war ended generally in an Israeli victory, with the West Bank being occupied by Jordan and Gaza becoming occupied by Egypt.


Israel’s borders in 1949 following the independence war

 Israel then went to war again in 1967 when it launched a preemptive attack on Syrian and Egyptian forces. That war ended in a complete Israeli victory, taking control of the West Bank, Gaza, the Egyptian Sinai Peninsula, and the Syrian Golan Heights. In 1973, 50 years ago Saturday, Egypt launched a surprise attack on Israel during Yom Kippur, retaking the Sinai Peninsula and forcing the West Bank and Gaza to become autonomous.  

Israel’s borders after the 6-Day War

Since then, the relationship between Israel and Palestine has been complicated. The West Bank is generally under Israeli control, although it has its own government. After Hamas took political power in 2006, Gaza has been ruled by Hamas, and has become a launch pad for rocket attacks on the cities of Tel Aviv and Jerusalem. Meanwhile, Palestinian activists have decried Israel’s human rights record, most notably police brutality towards Palestinians in West Bank. Palestinian activists have also accused Israel of apartheid, in the separation of Palestinians in West Bank and the introduction of Israeli “settlers” buying property in the region. Supporters of Israel have generally pointed out Israel’s right to exist, and its right to self-defense from the annual wrath of rocket attacks from Gaza and Hezbollah. American conservatives have been especially supportive of Israel, due to its stance as a long-lasting American ally and its biblical significance. 

Current border situation in Israel, per BBC

The geopolitical and political consequences of this war are obvious, as only a week ago Saudi Arabia and Israel were in talks to finally normalize relations after decades of hostile relations. These normalizations were being supported by the US, as a Saudi-Israel alliance would have helped strengthen the Middle Eastern bloc being built against Iran and their allies. The war has also badly hurt opinions of Palestine globally, as shown by the cutting of aid from the EU. In Israel, the attacks have seemingly united the country, greatly strengthening the power of the previously hated far-right coalition government. The war will also undoubtably become a domestic political issue in the United States, as Republicans criticize Biden’s foreign policy response to the war and spread claims that his policy towards Iran has been weak. 

As of Sunday, IDF command green-lit a ground operation to take back Gaza by force after troops pushed Hamas out of Israeli territory. The IDF, which has one of the largest and most advanced armies and reserves in the region, has already called up 150,000 troops back to Israel for service. The IDF is currently launching widespread air strikes against Hamas positions in Gaza, in addition to a complete blockade of the enclave. Israel has now cut off practically all food, water, electricity, and other supplies going into Gaza, launching a siege of the strip containing 2 million people. The IDF is building up its troops on the border in anticipation of the assault, although it will not be an easy one. Hamas has been preparing the strip for this outcome for 20 years and has created a network of tunnels deep beneath Gaza in addition to the traditional difficulties of urban warfare. The IDF will also have difficulty dealing with Hamas’ traditional tactic of using civilian shields. There is also the possibility of Hezbollah opening a second front in the North, which could cause problems for Israel both in terms of committing to a second front and the vast surplus of weapons and rockets held by Hezbollah.  

Current situation on the front line (Monday morning), per War Mapper

Only time will tell how long this war may last, and how many casualties may occur, but it can certainly be said that the war will last for many more months, and any insurgency to follow in post-war Gaza will be a problem for years to come.  

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