The authorship and editorship of this article have been made anonymous at the request of the writer.
Early on Saturday, October 7th, Hamas, an armed military group based in Gaza, fired rocket launchers over the wall into southern Israel. A barrage of more than 3500 rockets were launched on the first day, hitting major Israeli cities including Tel Aviv.
The Gaza Strip, where the attack was initiated, has been blockaded by Israeli occupiers, and controlled by Hamas since 2007. The United Nations (UN), alongside various human rights organizations, has labeled Gaza an “open-air prison” and a “chronic humanitarian crisis.” Living with minimal access to clean water, electricity, and food, the people of Gaza have undergone severe oppression and suffocation. Calling this attack “Al Aqsa Storm,” Hamas military commander Muhammad Al-Deif has defended the strikes as a response to the violent Israeli attacks on the holy Al-Aqsa mosque during Ramadan of 2023 and the perpetual siege of Gaza.
Early Saturday morning, Hamas bulldozed through the blockade, sending the first wave of fighters from Gaza into Israel. The long-standing occupation of Palestine and the topic of the Middle East as a whole have received less attention amidst other geopolitical shifts. However, this attack has the potential to instill a paradigm shift. As of Monday October 9th, the attack has killed 680 Palestinians and 900 Israelis, leaving thousands injured on both sides as Hamas has declared to fight in the name of decolonization.
To understand the most recent attacks, it is critical to understand the history of the Gaza Strip. The small geographical exclave was originally established as Palestinian territory and occupied by Israeli forces until a full military withdrawal in 2005.
Once Hamas took control of Gaza in 2007, political tension and their designation as a terrorist organization led to a land blockade put up by Israel to control and restrict the transfer of goods, services, and people entering and exiting Gaza. As a result of the blockade, Gaza quickly became a hotspot for conflict and violence with occasional airstrikes hitting the towns in the Strip. This wave of attacks is unprecedented and has taken the world by surprise.
As rocket launches continue to fire into Israel, Hamas has kidnapped and dragged Israeli soldiers across the border in a brutal protective measure for Israel’s counteraction. Initial reactions around the world have labeled Hamas as a terrorist organization, immediately characterizing the strikes as terrorist attacks. On October 7th, Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, formally declared the conflict as a war, citing that he will turn Gaza into “cities of ruins.” The attacks have hit Israel at a vulnerable time, amidst a struggle for unification in Israeli society and a backing for Netanyahu’s right-wing government.
In a speech early Saturday, President Biden declared the U.S.’s undying support for Israel, calling for Hamas to retreat and cease its attack. In recent days, Iran, as well as Lebanese militant group, Hezbollah, have voiced its support for Hamas. On the other hand, US President Biden, French President Macron, Prime Minister Sunak of the UK, and Chancellor Scholz of Germany, issued a joint statement condemning Hamas and supporting Israel.
Questions persist as officials investigate whether Iran and Hezbollah helped orchestrate the attacks. Saudi Arabia, which has been conducting normalization talks with Israel, has called for an “immediate halt to the escalation between the two sides.” The Kingdom reminded Israel of its continuous advice and warnings against its occupation and restriction to basic human rights for those living in Gaza in particular. The normalization deal in progress has put Biden in a difficult position, as his unwavering support for Israel push Saudi Arabia further away from a deal.
As Israel tries to grapple with what appears to be a major intelligence and security failure, dynamics across the Middle East are at risk. Hamas’ resistance against a suppressive system comes at a time where more Arab states are shifting towards normalized relations with Israel.
Undoubtedly, this attack has sparked a war which will likely result in the death of hundreds, if not thousands, of innocent civilians.