As dawn broke this morning, Hamas, the party that has been in power in Gaza since 2007, launched a coordinated attack by land, air, and sea that has taken Israel by surprise. At this stage estimates must be uncertain, but reports say that Hamas has fired several thousand rockets into Israel. At least one hundred civilians are reported dead and hundreds more wounded. Hamas managed to break through the security fence separating Gaza and Israel then began capturing soldiers and killing and taking hostage whole families, including women and children. The leader of Hamas was recently in Tehran, where he openly assured everyone that what he called the “Zionist entity” was soon to be exterminated. This forecast is being tested.
I spoke to an Israeli who in his day served in intelligence. In his view, things will get much worse. He foresees that the fighting in the south of the country will draw the army down there and expose the northern border with Lebanon to invasion by Hezbollah, also funded by Tehran and so Hamas’s brother-in-arms. The West Bank and its Israeli Arabs may well think that Tehran will be the winning force and that it is time to join in.
It is possible that none of this would have happened if not for the internal conflict spurred by the judicial reforms Netanyahu’s government has been pushing for months, thereby dividing the country. Massive demonstrations every Saturday in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem may have taken attention away from considerations of national security. At least the inhabitants of Gaza are realistic: they are fleeing in the thousands, fully aware that Israel will resort to whatever means it has to defend itself. Self-defense in the case of Israel is considered by progressives and leftists everywhere to be aggression, while Hamas’s truer aggression is considerd justified. Not this time.