Publish Date: 11 OCT 2023
Analyst Team: AA, RR
Crisis in Israel: October 11, 2023
In the deadly pre-dawn hours of Saturday, October 6, 2023, over 900 lives were lost in Israel when the borders were violently breached by Hamas militants, causing hours of widespread fear and devastation among civilians. The tragic death toll is expected to continue rising, with women and children sadly among the deceased. A mass murder took place at an outdoor music festival in Southern Israel, where hundreds of youths tragically lost their lives. Reports suggest that militants also invaded residences, causing further casualties.
In a comprehensive strategy by Hamas, recognized as a terrorist organization by several nations, a significant number of hostages, including women and children, were abducted. The current location of the hostages remains unknown, with reports suggesting Egypt's intervention to advocate for a prisoner exchange, particularly for women and children from both sides. This hostage situation, viewed as a control measure against potential retaliation from the better-armed Israeli military, could complicate any prisoner swap efforts.
Israel's response to the crisis has been simultaneously escalating and calibrated. The defense minister announced a complete blockade of the Gaza Strip, cutting off electricity, food, water, and fuel supplies. This strict stance signals Israel's determination to respond powerfully. Many have compared the events of October 6 to iconic attacks on the US such as the 9-11 and Pearl Harbor incidents.
The Israeli military is preparing for a significant ground operation, with hundreds of thousands of reservists summoned and military vehicles moving into strategic assault positions. The Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) have also ramped up security at its northern border with Lebanon in anticipation of possible Hezbollah attacks. The IDF has responded to reports of incursions from Southern Lebanon, despite Hezbollah denying responsibility for these attacks.
In the immediate aftermath, the Israeli Air Force has executed sorties targeting Hamas' infrastructure and strategic facilities. However, disturbing reports suggest that residential and civilian-dominated areas have also been hit, causing a rapidly increasing death toll among the Palestinian population. Overcrowded health facilities in the Gaza Strip are grappling with a surge of wounded civilians, including women and children, needing emergency care.
Israel maintains that Hamas militants, who have been launching rockets into Israeli territory, are embedding within civilian populations and using them as human shields. The Israeli military emphasizes the challenge of mitigating civilian casualties while neutralizing threats to Israeli security.
Benjamin Netanyahu, in anticipation of navigating a nuanced response to one of Israel's worst attacks in modern history, appointed retired Brigadier General Gal Hirsch as the hostage contact person. The hostage situation could potentially constrain the extent of Israel’s military response. Hamas has threatened to execute hostages in response to airstrikes in Gaza, forcing the Israeli government into a delicate balancing act - showing a robust response to a distressed population and reassuring hostage families of their loved ones' possible return. Despite these dilemmas, airstrikes have continued through Monday and into Tuesday.
The United Nations has unequivocally condemned the attack and urged all parties to address their concerns diplomatically. It appealed to Israel to avoid escalating the situation further, impacting civilians in Gaza, and adhere to international law in its military response. The Secretary-General denounced the Hamas attack as an act of terror.
The United States has staunchly backed Israel's security, with President Biden announcing additional military aid beyond the standard $3 billion annual assistance. The US Navy's presence in the Eastern Mediterranean with a Carrier Strike Group demonstrates its commitment to deterring further conflict escalation.
Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and Jordan are not expected to intervene militarily. However, potentially dangerous actors like Syria, Hezbollah, and Iran, with their potent military capabilities, pose threats to Israel's security. The US Navy's presence serves as significant deterrence against possible action from these actors, further reassuring the Israeli population.
Arab states amending their relationships with Israel have cautiously responded. Given the widespread Palestinian sympathies within their territories, they are balancing their diplomatic positions carefully to avoid endorsing Hamas' actions. Saudi Arabia opined that Israel's policies contributed to the attacks.
Global powers like China have called for calm and de-escalation, while African nations are divided over the Middle East crisis. Public opinion varies based on religious and ideological factors.
In the coming days, and possibly weeks, the Palestinian death toll is likely to rise as Israeli airstrikes target locations perceived as threats. Due to the attack's magnitude and casualties, an immediate ceasefire seems unlikely. Israel is committed to establishing a strong deterrent against future large-scale attacks.
In the short term, Prime Minister Netanyahu is working to incorporate centrists and former senior military officers into his government to rally broader public support despite internal political divisions. As Netanyahu is known for his meticulous crisis management, he is likely to sideline hardliners who could complicate his efforts.
However, the intelligence failure leading to the attack and its severe consequences cannot be overlooked. Responsibility will have to be assigned, and Netanyahu is attuned to the Israeli public's questions, having generally supported his security stance.
Reports of Egypt brokering a prisoner swap have been denied by Israeli authorities, as, in principle, Israel does not negotiate with Hamas. However, some form of compromise must be reached to secure the release of hostages, particularly women and children, despite expected continued retaliation by Israel.
In the United States, this situation has prompted a political debate. Republicans blame the Biden administration for "enabling" the attacks through a recent deal with Iran, releasing prisoners for billions in frozen funds. They suggest this deal empowered Iran to support Hamas in executing the attacks. This accusation is unlikely given the deal's recency and lacks evidence linking Iran directly to the Hamas attacks, as stated by Secretary of State Blinken.
In conclusion, the immediate prospect of conflict de-escalation seems unlikely, given the current global diplomatic efforts. In this time of crisis, the strength of Israeli unity will be vital in their resistance against the attackers.
IPlease continue monitoring the RILEYSENTINEL platform for additional updates, analysis, and insights produced by the Security and Geopolitics Analysis Team. Our team continues to observe the situation closely and is committed to providing accurate, timely information.
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