Hamas kicked off a surprise attack called Operation Al-Aqsa Flood at about 6:30 am (GMT+3) on October 7, infiltrating Israeli towns, targeting military outposts and firing a barrage of rockets in various parts of the country. The assault by Hamas, a group designated as a terrorist entity by Israel, caught the Israeli military off guard and manifested the failure of the nation’s intelligence services to proactively thwart the massive and seemingly preplanned operation. In response, Tel Aviv started Operation Swords of Iron. According to some estimates, the hostilities have already claimed the lives of 300 Israelis and 232 Palestinians.
Last time, Hamas launched rocket attacks on Israeli settlements in May 2021 as Tel-Aviv commemorated its 73rd anniversary of independence. On May 10, Hamas targeted areas near Jerusalem, Ashkelon and Tel Aviv. The major escalation was preceded by clashes between Israeli forces and Palestinian Arabs at Jerusalem’s Al-Aqsa mosque compound. Still, the origins of the confrontation between Hamas and Tel Aviv go deep in history. Hamas was founded in 1987. Since then, the
group regularly participated in clashes between various Palestinian organizations and the Israeli state as part of broader geopolitical disputes and rivalry between Israel and its Arab neighbors going back to 1948, when Israel was established.
By 2005, Israel dismantled Jewish settlements in the Gaza Strip and completely withdrew from the region, which came under the control of Hamas (that had turned into a political force by the time) in 2007, after the group ousted the Fatah Party (formerly the Palestinian National Liberation Movement) from Gaza. Two years later, Israel imposed the blockade of Gaza. Per Tel Aviv, the 16-year-long blockade is aimed at halting the flow of arms into the region; for their part, Palestinians denounce the move as ‘collective punishment’ which exacerbates the already dire situation.
In 2017, Hamas rebranded itself as an Islamic national liberation movement with the aim of liberating Palestine – the geographical area covering the State of Israel, the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. Hamas does not recognize Israel and proclaims that resistance to ‘the occupation with all means and methods is a legitimate right guaranteed by divine laws and by international norms and laws.’
Besides strife with Fatah, Hamas was repeatedly at odds with the Palestinian Authority (PA) leadership as the latter appeared not to support Hamas’ radical methods as well as the group’s unwillingness to recognize Israel’s right to exist. This time, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas responded to Hamas’ operation by expressing his solidarity with Palestinians and blamed Israel for a stalled peace process.
‘We have repeatedly warned against the consequences of blocking the political horizon and failing to enable the Palestinian people to exercise their legitimate right to self-determination,’ the Palestinian Authority Foreign Ministry tweeted.
World Players Call for Halting Hostilities
In general, the Palestinian cause has long been supported by the Muslim world. Commenting on Hamas’ surprise attack, Iran’s Foreign Ministry called it ‘the spontaneous movement of resistance groups and Palestine’s oppressed people in defense of their inalienable rights’ and said it stands by Palestinians.
For its part, the Turkish Foreign Ministry said it is ‘deeply concerned about the violence and tension occurred [sic] in Israel and Palestine today,’ calling for ‘the restoration of calm in the region as soon as possible’ and strongly condemning the loss of civilian lives.
Russia called on the warring parties to cease fire and return to the negotiating table. It is currently in contact with Israel, Palestine, Egypt and other Arab countries to de-escalate the situation.
Is Hamas Using Ukrainian Weapons?
Meanwhile, some have alleged that Hamas is apparently using Soviet-era ‘Igla’ (‘Needle’) as well as Western MANPADS, triggering concerns that these and other weapons actually originated in Ukraine’s infamous black market. Previously, international non-profits warned about Ukraine’s long weapons-smuggling record.
‘Saudi Arabia will watch and see and assess its steps toward normalization toward Israel. So it’s a major setback for normalization efforts and for the US plans for the region. And that is. So instead, now, maybe Saudi Arabia will resort back to its rapprochement with Iran through China, and it really favors it, and it’s moving in that direction,’ the Lebanese academic continued. Inbar does not think Riyadh and other Arab countries would halt dialogue with Israel over the recent escalation:
Meanwhile, demonstrations in support of Gaza and Palestinian groups were held in several Muslim countries including Turkiye, Yemen, Kuwait, Iran, Bahrain, and others at the weekend.