On October 7th Israel found itself at war with a terrorist organization called Hamas. The attack came out of Gaza, a coastal strip south of Israel and north of Egypt. Gaza and the West Bank together constituted the Palestinian state. Fatah, the Palestinian political party that originally governed both, lost the Gaza strip in an election, and then a brief civil war, to Hamas, a more radical but more capable group, due to Fatah’s overwhelming corruption. Hamas then denied any further Gaza elections while ruling it in a far more brutally tyrannical and almost as corrupt fashion as Fatah.
Hamas also had some presence in the West Bank, which was adjacent to Israel and subject to Israeli army raids if it appeared that someone, like Hamas, was preparing attacks on Israel. Hamas was preparing for such an attack, but most of the preparations were in Gaza. Israel left Gaza alone as long as there did not appear to be any threat against Israel. Hamas in Gaza did attack Israel several times but the Israelis fought them off and bombarded Gaza a bit to discourage further attacks.
Hamas successfully concealed preparations for its most recent attack from Israel, notably with aid from Iran and the corruption of Egyptian border guards on the Gaza Strip’s southern border with Israel. Iran, whose fanatical Shia theocracy had long sought to destroy Israel, smuggled thousands of missiles and unguided rockets into Gaza. The Egyptian border guards eagerly accepted bribes to ignore the movement of these weapons into Gaza. Iran also provided technical advisors to show Hamas operatives how to quietly obtain information about Israeli settlements and military bases between Gaza and Israel.
Hamas had a lot of equipment, like bulldozers and trucks, that were needed for the attack on Israel but had legitimate uses inside Gaza. All the missiles and rockets were concealed in a network of tunnels underneath Gaza. Israel knew of some of these tunnels but had not been able to monitor their current status or use. Hamas prepared tunnel exits that allowed rockets and missiles to be quickly brought to the surface and launched. They practiced getting the missiles and rockets to the surface, but obviously did not fire any. Hamas wanted to convince Israel that nothing unusual or threatening was going on in Gaza. Israel had many opportunities to establish effective informant networks in Gaza but failed to do so. Hamas made it appear that there was no meaningful threat from Gaza. This was a major intelligence failure for Israel, and an expensive one.
The Hamas attack plan was thorough and there were numerous small groups of Hamas attackers, each of which had specific objectives during the offensive. The bulldozers were used to quickly create breeches in the wall Israel built between Gaza and Israel. Through those gaps came Hamas members in trucks or on foot. They were told to kill anyone, civilian or military they encountered as they advanced towards Israel. By killing as many Israelis as they could, Hamas expected to make Israel look weak. That may have been the intention, but Israel responded by declaring war on Hamas.
The Hamas attack stalled after achieving its initial objectives, which included killing 1,400 Israelis and a few foreigners, almost all of them civilians. Its surviving personnel retreated to Gaza with several hundred hostages, where they and Hamas’ other forces and cronies prepared to continue fighting by launching more rockets and missiles, and installing scores of thousands of booby-traps throughout Gaza against expected invasion by Israel. Hamas planned to use the hostages to delay an Israeli attack. The Israelis did not cooperate. First the Israelis used airstrikes on known Hamas targets in Gaza. At the same time Israeli tank and infantry units maneuvered to attack Gaza from several directions.
In the north, Hezbollah attacked Israelis with rockets and missiles but refused to try and enter Israel. There were a lot of Israeli troops in the north and Hezbollah had to worry about the Lebanese army attacking them, if Hezbollah forces tried to advance into Israel. Hezbollah has no allies in Lebanon and is considered an Iran-backed group that is hostile to the Lebanese government. The feeling is mutual.
The battle for Gaza continues, with Israel declaring it would eliminate the Hamas presence and take control of Gaza. Israel might eventually find some locals who can run Gaza and do so without threatening Israel or anyone else. Until then, Gaza will be under Israeli military occupation. That’s not a perfect solution but it’s better than putting Palestinians in charge. Any solutions seem to have eluded the Palestinians. It wasn’t always like that. The original UN plan for the area included separate Israeli and Palestinian states. The Palestinians were not satisfied and instead sought to destroy Israel and make the entire area Palestinian. The plan failed.
Currently fighting continues in Gaza, where 2.3 million Palestinians are dependent on foreign aid to survive. By the end of October, more than 7,000 Palestinians in Gaza had died, and Israeli troops haven’t begun the ground conquest of Gaza. Hamas forces are mostly in the vast network of tunnels below Gaza, along with the remaining hundreds or thousands of guided missiles and rockets which are still being launched at Israel.
Iran has tried to smuggle weapons, including rockets, into the West Bank but that has not been successful because the West Bank is landlocked with Jordan on its eastern border and Israel on the western border. Since 1967 the West Bank has been under Israeli military occupation. Some portions are under Palestinians control but are surrounded by Israeli troops and 23o Israeli settlements. Jordan cooperates with Israel in keeping things quiet in the West Bank, especially on the Jordanian border. There is some anti-Israel violence in the West Bank, but the Palestinians have not been able to sustain that because of their hostile, to groups like Hamas, attitude.