In response to the escalating conflict, Israeli forces have repelled at least 1,000 Palestinian gunmen who infiltrated from Gaza during incursions that commenced over the weekend.The military has also reinforced all communities in Israel as the conflict spread to various fronts.
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On Monday, Hamas militants, holding Israeli soldiers and civilians hostage, issued a threat to execute a captive for each Gaza home hit without warning, although there is no confirmation of them carrying out this threat.
Israeli defence minister Yoav Gallant, speaking to soldiers near the Gaza fence, said: “Hamas wanted a change and it will get one. What was in Gaza will no longer be.”
“We started the offensive from the air, later on we will also come from the ground. We’ve been controlling the area since Day 2 and we are on the offensive. It will only intensify.”
Meanwhile, Hamas officials are bracing their population for a possible ground invasion of Gaza, saying that they will continue to fight against Israel, even if it means suffering. According to a report in the Economist, a Hamas official referring to Israel said: “Either we die slowly or we die taking the occupation with us”. Hamas officials claim that they have the upper hand, having gained battle experience and advanced equipment from previous wars.
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Despite the Israeli air force’s bombardment, Hamas believes that Israel’s target list is outdated and biased. The group also thinks that Israel’s decision-making process is hindered by internal political disputes and that it may not be well-suited to succeed in a ground war. Hamas hopes that the fighting will cause significant human suffering and turn global public opinion against Israel, potentially drawing other regional sympathizers into the conflict, the Economist report said.
Moreover, the Islamist group is not limiting its ambitions to Gaza alone. A Hamas official expressed their desire to incite rebellion in the occupied West Bank, targeting both the ailing President of the Palestinian Authority, Mahmoud Abbas, and the state of Israel, which supports the Palestinian Authority. Additionally, Hamas aims to elevate the issue of Palestine to the forefront of the Middle East’s political agenda.
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Most importantly, emphasized Hamas’s military spokesperson, the group currently holds over 100 Israeli hostages, who would be in as much danger as Palestinian civilians during an Israeli offensive. Hamas plans to use them as leverage, aiming to secure a large-scale release of Palestinian prisoners and put an end to Israel’s blockade.
Furthermore, Hamas is actively seeking support from other members of the “axis of resistance,” a term used by Iran and its allies in Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, and the Houthi-controlled region of Yemen, indicating their aspiration to ignite a broader conflict.
However, it remains uncertain whether the other members of this axis will be eager to engage in the conflict. Hezbollah, the political and militant group in Lebanon, possesses a substantial arsenal of rockets targeted at Israel. Yet, the devastating 2006 war with Israel has deterred them from initiating another conflict since then, the report said. Lebanon, already grappling with a crumbling economy, is ill-equipped to handle another disaster. Iran, Hezbollah’s sponsor, appears inclined to preserve its satellite’s resources; the rockets provided to Hezbollah serve as a deterrent against potential Israeli strikes on Iran’s nuclear facilities. Despite its strong rhetoric, Iran has never gone to war on behalf of the Palestinians. A Gaza official acknowledged this, observing that Hamas and Iran are on opposite sides of the sectarian divide within Islam between Shias and Sunnis. “In the end, we are just a tool [of Iran],” the official noted, describing their relationship as a temporary marriage, referred to as “zawaj muta’.”
We have to wait and watch how the Israel-Hamas conflict is likely to unfold in the coming days. A ground assault would result in significant casualties on both sides and raise concerns about Israel’s ability to formulate an exit plan for the conflict. Additionally, it could trigger repercussions throughout the Middle East, jeopardizing Israel’s delicate reconciliation efforts with its Arab neighbors and escalating the likelihood of the conflict expanding into a wider regional war.
(With inputs from agencies)
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