GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip – In a significant turn of events, Hamas launched a surprise attack from Gaza, breaching a barrier previously thought to be impregnable. The attack resulted in the deaths of at least 100 Israelis and the kidnapping of soldiers and civilians. This marked a major shift in the conflict between Israel and Palestinians, as Hamas demonstrated its military prowess and sent a deliberate message to the Middle East during a crucial moment in international relations.
For years, Israel has held the upper hand in the conflict with Palestinians, with the issue taking a backseat to other global priorities. However, the Russian invasion of Ukraine in 2022 has shifted the focus of foreign ministries, leading to a diminished attention on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Additionally, Israel has gained recognition from several Arab countries without having to concede on the Palestinian issue or work towards resolving the conflict with the creation of a Palestinian state. This recognition has increased the Palestinians’ sense of strategic isolation, markedly altering the dynamics in the region.
The attack also comes at a time when Israel is pursuing recognition from Saudi Arabia, a major player in the region. The negotiation of a pact between Washington and Riyadh, which would involve recognition of the Jewish state, has gained traction. This has raised tensions in the region, with Hamas using the attack to send a message that they are the ones who define the fate of the conflict and can lead the fight against Israel, regardless of normalization efforts.
The coordinated attack caught Israeli forces off guard, despite the country’s military might and surveillance systems. The amount of planning and logistics required for the attack points to months of preparation amid an escalating conflict, making 2023 the deadliest year since the Second Intifada. The attack was justified by Hamas using “aggressions” on the Temple Mount/Esplanade of Mosques in Jerusalem, a site of significance for both Muslims and Jews. Additionally, it comes at a time when the Palestinian Authority is being discredited, further strengthening support for Hamas as the true standard-bearer of the Palestinian “resistance.”
After years of avoiding open confrontations with Israel, Hamas is now stepping up its involvement with the attack. The movement is divided between supporters of a pragmatic approach and more irredentist ones, with the latter prevailing in the attack. The key now lies in Israel’s response and whether the conflict spreads to other areas. The government will face pressure to take decisive action, potentially changing its relationship with Gaza from A to Z and raising questions about the future of the region’s stability.