In 2021, Israel and the Hamas engaged in standoff rocket and air strikes which were spread over 11 days before a cease fire led to some calm.
On 7 October this year, the Hamas surprised by launching multiple asymmetric attacks using not just a barrage of rockets but fighters penetrating Israel at multiple locations infiltrating through the barrier separating the two, using paragliders and motorboats to reach interior areas.
The asymmetric attacks were unprecedented in scale and simultaneity of targets that were attacked including military installations and Israeli civilians in numerous kibbutzim creating an extraordinary wave of terror.
The operation was named, “Al-Aqsa Storm.” Hamas military commander Muhammad Al-Deif claimed that the group had “targeted the enemy positions, airports and military positions with 5,000 rockets” and that the assault was a response to attacks on women, the desecration of the al-Aqsa mosque in Jerusalem and the ongoing siege of Gaza.
The strike was launched on the anniversary of the 1973 War in which Arab states blitzed Israel on Yom Kippur, the holiest day of the Jewish calendar thus achieving complete surprise.
“If you have a gun, get it out. This is the time to use it – get out with trucks, cars, axes, today the best and most honorable history starts,” Al-Deif added calling out more fighters from the enclave.
Hamas has reportedly mobilized several fighters with Saleh al-Arouri, deputy chief of Hamas in the occupied West Bank, issuing a call to arms. “We must all fight this battle, especially the resistance fighters in the West Bank,” he said in a statement.
The Asymmetric Attack in Detail
The operation commenced with a rocket attack with some 5000 strikes which served as cover for the multi-pronged infiltration of fighter’s early morning. The fighters breached the security barriers separating Gaza and Israel. Some landed by powered parachutes while motorboats were also used to target coastal towns such as Zikim, with a military base.
Bulldozers were used to tear down the fence while fighters entered Israel on motorcycles giving them the mobility to move deep and attack multiple areas including civilians.
The Hamas targeted at least 22 locations near the Gaza Strip indicating the level of penetration achieved.
These included three military installations around the frontier – the Beit Hanoun border crossing (called Erez by Israel), the Zikim base, and the Gaza division headquarters at Reim.
The military posts were apparently caught completely by surprise thus ensuring easy penetration by the armed attackers.
Several captured Israeli military vehicles were later pictured being driven into Gaza and paraded there.
The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) said Hamas had taken “hostages and prisoners of war.”
Such an effort would have taken weeks if not months of preparation, and all of it under the most reputed Israeli intelligence service seen as of the most effective in the world. Thus extraordinary security of information by the Hamas is evident.
Israel launched retaliatory airstrikes, with Prime Minister Netanyahu saying the country is now at war.
Israel strikes on Hamas targets in Gaza bringing down the Palestine Tower, a high-rise building hosting residential apartments and media offices in Gaza City
Hamas Justification for Attacks
Hamas justified the attacks indicating that these were in retaliation to frequent Israeli military raids in Palestinian towns and cities, which Israel has said are a necessary response to a rising number of attacks by Palestinian militants on Israelis.
The attacks also exploited the political divisions in Israel as the nation is deeply divided over the contentious plan to reduce power of the country’s courts which some reservists stating that they would not join if called up. However there have been apparently no refusals from the reservists so far.
Hamas targeting of innocent Israeli civilians and their inhuman treatment needs to be condemned.
Whatever be the outcome of this round of exchange of violence between the Hamas and Israel, a new paradigm in asymmetric attacks using a multipronged approach to strike and not just rockets exploiting surprise and somnolence of the Israel intelligence and defence establishment is evident.
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