Geopolitical Insights

Academy SITREP – War Between Israel and Hamas

October 7, 2023
What has Happened:

  • Early this morning, Hamas militants launched a surprise attack on Israel firing thousands of rockets in a coordinated air and land assault.
  • Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said that his country was now "at war” and has retaliated with massive airstrikes on Hamas targets.
  • Hezbollah, the Lebanese Shiite militia organization that fought a war with Israel in 2006, said that it was monitoring the situation but has not yet pledged its support to join forces with Hamas in this attack on Israel.
  • An adviser to Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei said that Iran supported the cross-border operation by Hamas, which is not surprising and could partially be in response to the ongoing Saudi Arabia /Israel diplomatic talks.
  • Netanyahu has spoken with President Biden and Secretary of Defense Austin said that “The Department of Defense will work to ensure that Israel has what it needs to defend itself and protect civilians from indiscriminate violence and terrorism.”
  • While still early, initial reports are coming in indicting over 40 Israelis have been killed along with hundreds more injured.
Why it Matters:

“I hate to say that the timing of the attack was aligned to an anniversary, but this may not be a coincidence as it marks the 50th anniversary of the ’73 Arab/Israeli War this weekend. But why? Lack of attention to the plight of the Palestinians? The last major escalation in Gaza was in May of 2021. One of the take-aways from the 2021 conflict was that there was simply a degree of Hamas fatigue, and that the Palestinian issue was no longer garnering as much attention from regional Arab leaders. What we are seeing unfold now (given the Israeli and Saudi talks) may simply be Hamas seeking to bring their cause back into the international media and trying to hold the increasingly hardline Israeli government more accountable to the international community. The attack is a forcing function to reinitiate dialogue regarding their cause. Given the timing of the attack, casualties, potential IDF hostages, and the right-wing nature of the current government it will be interesting to see if Israel exercises the same level of restraint as it demonstrated in the May 2021 conflict.” General Robert Ashley

“The surprise attack by the militant group Hamas on Israel this morning was obviously well planned and wrapped in secrecy. The incursion occurred during Israel’s commemoration of the 50th anniversary of the Yom Kippur War. Israel’s immediate response has been punishing Hamas targets with airstrikes inside Gaza and an estimated 200 Palestinians have been killed so far. It is far too early to determine if this will accelerate into a much wider war. The support from regional players Iran, Syria, and Hezbollah was essential for Hamas to execute such a synchronized and multi-domain assault. It was rapid, sophisticated, and initially caught Israel off-guard. However, Israel will respond fully. Israel commands the skies over Gaza and has a well-trained, professional, and networked military. Israel will target planning cells, communications networks, cell towers, and weapon delivery systems. Israel will try to minimize collateral damage, but Gaza is packed with nearly two million people. There will be extensive civilian casualties and damage. Expect Israel not to be as kinetically restrained as it has been in the recent past. Gaza will suffer but the topic of Palestinian sovereignty is now top of mind.” General Spider Marks

“As context, Russia, Iran, and Lebanese Hamas have a long and deep history, so I would be surprised if there has not been collusion. Israel has historically been willing to find a long-term peace arrangement with the Palestinians (to include land for peace), but they have also been unconvinced that the Palestinians are trustworthy enough for such a deal. It is hard to know what motivated Hamas, but it could easily be a combination of Iran’s desire to drive a new wedge between Saudi Arabia and Israel (and the U.S.), Russia’s desire to take attention away from Ukraine, an attempt to force the U.S. to take a clear and publicly stated side, and to cause NATO and the EU to blink on Ukraine (fear of a broader war).” General Mastin Robeson

“The horrific terrorist attacks by the militant group Hamas in Israel from Gaza are strategically intended to stop the recent defense talks between the U.S. and Saudi Arabia. Those talks seek a historic recognition of Israel by Saudi Arabia that would normalize ties. Such a deal enables the U.S. objective to isolate Iran in the Middle East. Iran and Saudi Arabia recently agreed to renew diplomatic relations that were brokered by China in a move that Iran hopes will drive a wedge between the U.S./Israel and the rest of the Arab countries. Iran also sees this as a time of political turmoil in Israel over President Netanyahu’s far-right coalition taking power. The brazen attacks by Hamas could result in a full-scale conflict and are not expected to end soon. Hamas, supported by Iran, is willing to take significant punishment by Israel to paint Israel as the aggressor as scenes of death and destruction in Gaza are shown across the Arab media. Hezbollah, another terrorist group backed by Iran, said that the attacks were a decisive response and “message to those seeking normalization with Israel.” It will be difficult for the U.S. to broker a diplomatic agreement between Israel and Saudi Arabia while there is an ongoing war between Israel and Hamas. Iran wants the focus in the Middle East to be on the Palestinians and weakening support for recognizing Israel by the Arab countries. The U.S. would like to keep the focus on isolating Iran. A short war is in the strategic interest of the U.S. and Israel.” General Robert Walsh

“The reason for this attack is clear and straightforward. The stated objective of Hamas is to destroy Israel—period. Hamas exists only because of the support of Iran. Iran is the mastermind of this attack, attacks on Israel in the past, and attacks on Israel in the future. If the world wants to see a solution to the Palestinian issue, then the current Iranian leadership must be replaced. Perhaps this is the opportunity for Israel to do that.” General David Deptula

“Israel historically finds the key leaders and cells over the period of conflict and eliminates them. Israel in my experience is not worried about collateral damage as long as the leadership targets are eliminated. This particular government will likely use excessive force. I have seen no comments from KSA or Egypt in the press reports yet to give an indication of their positions. While there is a chance that this can disrupt a U.S. brokered KSA-Israel deal, I believe that the Saudis would like a U.S. security agreement and freedom to build nuclear power plants. The degree of violence levied upon Hamas in Gaza will determine the GCC responses.” General Frank Kearney

“This is undoubtedly one of the more complex scenarios that Israel could have faced (aside from an extreme “doomsday” situation such as an Iranian nuclear attack). The scale of the rocket attack is significant, but it is mostly the reports and evidence of militants butchering civilians in Israeli towns and other reports of kidnappings of Israeli civilians and soldiers that may dictate the scale of Israel’s retaliation here. The Israeli public is exceptionally sensitive to hostage situations and may force the government to take unprecedented actions. The Israeli public is in a state of shock.” Stav Gaon, Head of Securitized Products Research and Strategy at Academy Securities and a former staff sergeant and combat medic in the Golani Brigade infantry unit in the Israeli Defense Force