Burning Inferno of Gaza
By Asif Haroon Raja
Surprise Offensive of Hamas
On Oct 7, 2023, about 1500 Hamas fighters assaulted Israel from ground, air and sea and inflicted heavy losses upon Israeli forces and captured territories and hostages. 5000 rocket attacks were fired in one hour, and a large number breached the impenetrable Iron Dome Air Defence system.
The sudden attacks took the Israelis by complete surprise, baffled Israeli forces, and their high command remained in a coma for a few hours. The world was stunned and confused. No Arab Army had ever penetrated Israeli territory.
Reasons which Spurred Hamas
The big question is what spurred Hamas to opt for this extremely dangerous option which could lead to obliteration of the Gaza Strip. The armies of the whole Arab world couldn’t defeat Israel in the four wars. They couldn’t recover their lands occupied by Israel in 1967. Fighting against the most powerful country of the world and fully backed by the US and Europe by a group of Hamas Mujahideen was impossible and yet this adventure was undertaken.
Possible reasons could be:
· Constant bleeding of Palestinians and usurpation of their lands by Israel and latter’s ulterior objectives. Once it was ascertained by the people of Gaza, locked up in the biggest open jail, that they had been abandoned by the Arabs and the international community, and were being slaughtered on almost daily basis like animals, their women dishonored and Aqsa Mosque desecrated routinely, and soon they would be annihilated, they thought that instead of dying helpless like sheep, they should hit back hard like a cornered cat to strike terror into their hearts, and to die fighting.
· The foremost need was protection and self-defense from repeated drones, air and ground invasions of the IDF.
· Hamas and Al-Jehad formed militant brigades (Al Quds and Al Qasam) for the defense of the Gazans. They built a vast network of tunnels in Northern Gaza and stocked homemade surface-to-surface rockets, with the help of which they have fought back the marauding IDF tenaciously.
· Iran provided them better quality unguided rockets, some of which managed to penetrate the Israeli impenetrable air defense system in 2021. They are now in possession of guided missiles and sophisticated weapons and equipment.
· Military assistance provided by Iran and alignment with Hezbollah in Lebanon bolstered the spirits of Hamas to fight back Israeli aggression strongly.
· An assurance was probably given to Hamas by some countries that political, moral and military support including supply of arms, guided missiles, drones and anti-tank weapons will be supplied unabatedly.
· An understanding with Houthis in Yemen after the peace agreement between Iran and KSA, could be another motivating reason.
· Other reasons could be the USA’s weakening presence in the Middle East (ME) and China and Russia filling up the vacuum; deep involvement of the US and Europe in Ukraine which is creating an energy and food crisis in Europe, causing strains in the US-Europe relationship. It was foreseen that the US was losing the war in Ukraine.
· It is also a well-known fact that the US is no longer a sole super power; it is a descending power and it has lost its old clout.
· Conversely, none can deny that China is an ascending power and the next super power. Both China and Russia have gotten closer to the GCC States and are sympathetic towards the Palestinian cause.
· Hatred of the Muslim world against the US has peaked and Netanyahu is unpopular and the most despised PM in Israel.
· Hamas foresaw the possibility of other radical Islamic groups that have suffered a great deal at the hands of the US-NATO forces, coming in aid of the marooned Gazans.
· Discreet support from China, Russia, Iran and Turkey, and their support becoming overt in case the US and Europe supplied war munitions to Israel.
· Lastly, Hamas must have carried out thorough preparations and drills spread over six months to a year, and also prepared plans to deal with counter actions of Israel. Secrecy was a key to success.
Objectives of Hamas
· Reinvigorate the cause of Palestinian issue that had become lifeless, and to impede the process of Arab countries eagerly wanting to restore diplomatic ties with Israel.
· Reawaken the dead conscience of the UN, the Muslim world and the international community.
· Take the fear of The Israelis out of the minds of the Palestinians and the Arab rulers.
· Compel the UN and UNSC to resolve the 75-year-old dispute by granting a separate homeland to the Palestinians in accordance with the agreed upon two-state resolution.
· Coordinated missile attacks from the northwestern and southern flanks on Israeli cities and on the Golan Heights would pose a dilemma for the Israeli defense mechanism and its Iron Dome.
· The IDF is not trained to fight a prolonged insurrectional war.
Israel’s Brutal Response
After coming out of paralysis, infuriated Benjamin Netanyahu, his felonious cabinet and arrogant IDF blew to smithereens human rights, Geneva and UN resolutions, international conventions and international laws with impunity and is indulging in state terrorism savagely.
In order to restore the confidence of the traumatized Israelis, Netanyahu replaced his govt with a war cabinet. He spelled out his intentions to obliterate the Gaza Strip through massive air bombings followed by a ground offensive with tanks, mechanized vehicles and artillery. 300,000 reservists were mobilized and deployed.
To teach a lesson to the Gazans for housing and supporting the Hamas fighters, Netanyahu ordered closure of electric, fuel, gas, water and other supplies and blocked all the exit and entry points including the Rafah crossing in Senai.
Israeli forces behaving like wounded tigers, rained bombs and drones by air, ground and sea relentlessly upon the hapless besieged Gazans with a xenophobic frenzy.
Mosques, churches, schools, hospitals, buildings, living apartments, refugee camps, graveyards and safe compounds of the UN and UNHCR were not spared. A Red Cross ambulance was targeted; even the convoy of injured moving across Rafah crossing was targeted. Spaces for graves in the graveyards choked, forcing the Gazans to bury their dead in open grounds and in mass graves. Hospitals were rocketed on the plea that the militants were using the basements as command centres and shelters despite denials by the Hamas.
A 24-hour notice was given to the 1.7 million Gazans living in North Gaza to move to South Gaza. They were told to disown Hamas, or else die like human animals (Israeli defense minister Yoav Gallant). Those who were migrating were also bombed.
The ground offensive in Gaza, was launched after a considerable delay with caution on 27 Oct. Biden had warned that it would be a mistake to capture Gaza. Ex Mossad chief cautioned Israeli leaders not to undertake ground offensive and advised them to exercise restraint.
Ground operations became obligatory to destroy the tunnel network and eliminate each and every member of Hamas, painted as terrorists. It was propagated that the people of Gaza were forced to support them. The US unequivocal support in terms of intelligence, weaponry, technology and sending a 3-star Marine Corps General to guide IDF’s tactical assaults gave heart to Israel to start the ground offensive.
Israeli leaders pledged to continue annihilating subhuman “savages” in Gaza and not to enter into any negotiations or agree to a ceasefire till the accomplishment of their objectives. Ceasefire was rejected on the plea that it would enable Hamas to regroup and harm Israel.
Even white phosphorous bombs were dropped on hapless Gazans. There were reports that the hawks in the Netanyahu Cabinet contemplated dropping a neutron bomb on Gaza. One of Israeli ministers talked of using nuclear bombs to wipe out the enclave.
The motive of Israeli leadership is to flush out Hamas and 2.3 million Gazans from Gaza and to annex Gaza as well as the WB.
Immediate motive is to push out 1.7 million Gazans from congested Northern Gaza into Southern Gaza. It would render Hamas vulnerable, making it easy for the IDF to operate their mechanized forces freely and carry out systematic demolition of the tunnels.
Netanyahu has now spelled out his agenda of controlling Gazan security indefinitely.
Destruction wrought till 14 Nov 2023
Well over 11,100 fatalities have occurred in Gaza which includes the deaths of over 45000 children. Every ten minutes a child is martyred. Netanyahu described them as the “children of darkness”. 30,000 civilians are injured of which 70% are women and children. Hospitals are overflowing with injuries and there are no doctors and medicines. 1300 children are under the rubbles. There are 50,000 pregnant women in Gaza. Majority of 36 hospitals including the biggest Al-Shifa are non-functional due to bombing and stoppage of fuel and medicines supplies. Bombing of Ahli Arab Hospital resulted in deaths of 500, (blame was put on Islamic Jehad). Unburied dead bodies are getting decomposed, increasing health hazards.
So far, 40,000 houses, 56 mosques, 88 offices have been completely destroyed, and 2,22,000 housing units, 237 schools, 136 mosques, 113 health centres damaged.
Casualties incurred in the five-week war in Gaza have surpassed the casualties in the 18-months old war in Ukraine.
It is estimated that from 8 Oct till this day, 26000 tons of explosive molten has been dropped in the first 27 days which is equivalent to two atomic bombs.
To be continued
The writer is a retd Brig Gen, war veteran, defence, security and political analyst, international columnist, author of five books, MSc War Studies, served as Directing Staff in Staff College Quetta, defence attaché Egypt and Sudan and Dean of the Corps of military attaches, held high staff and command appointments, after retirement he was appointed Colonel of the Battalion he commanded, he chaired Thinkers Forum Pakistan for 4 years, takes part in TV talk shows.