Israel Under Fire

October 9, 2023 Topic: Israel-Palestine Region: Middle East Tags: IsraelPalestineHamasIDFAbraham Accords

Israel Under Fire

Hamas' brutal offensive against Israel must provoke a change in U.S. Middle East policy. 

The 1973 Yom Kippur War began as a surprise attack on one of the holiest days on the Jewish calendar. And, now, history has repeated itself.

Today, Hamas, an Iran-backed terror group, launched a surprise attack by land, water, and airincluding glider assaults and more than 5,000 rocket strikes in the first 20 minutes. On the ground, Hamas punched through the border fence, attacked armored vehicles, and waged gun battles with police and Israeli reservists for hours. Countless neighborhoods have become battlefields. Dozens of civilians and soldiers have been taken hostage.

The total death and injury toll, which tops 800, is expected to pass 1,000 by the day’s end. One hospital in the border region of Beersheba reports that it is treating some 280 civilians, more than 60 with life-threatening wounds. This is the most extensive Hamas combined-arms campaign in memory. Within hours of the invasion, Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu concluded in a solemn televised address: “We are at war, and we will win it.”

Today is Simchat Torah, a holy day of celebration, which translates as “joy of the Torah.” On this day, observant Jews do not work, drive, write, or turn on electronic devices. It was a perfect day to attack a quietly celebrating democratic nation.

Already, social media is polluted by those trying to justify the unprovoked barbarity of the surprise attacks. Some said that Israel should give land for peace. This ignores that Hamas planned its attacks from the Gaza Strip, which Israel handed over in 2006 to make peace. Others talked of the “humiliation” of having to show their identification at the border fence, just as millions do at border checkpoints and airports all over the world. Still, others talk about self-determination—forgetting that Palestinians elect their own leaders in the Gaza Strip and those leaders ordered these attacks.

And all this babble ignores the human view: the wives who watched their husbands die outside their homes, the children lost in rocket attacks or slain by stray machine-gun rounds. The suffering of the many who have no part in politics is immense.

The Abraham Accords, which brought peace between Israel and four Arab nations, offered historic hope. Finally, it seemed the Arab nations and Israel would work together to focus on improving the lives of ordinary Palestinians who, like the Israelis, want jobs, housing, health care, and schools for their children.

But Iran had other plans, supplying vast amounts of rockets, mortars, guns, and ammunition to the Gaza Strip by ship, plane, and truck. (Some of those deadly cargoes were intercepted by the U.S. Navy and diverted to Ukraine.) Iran wanted war, and Hamas complied.

Hamas has killed more Americans than any other terror group, except for Al Qaeda. It has access to underground weapons warehouses, platoons of drones, squadrons of rockets, thousands of fighters, and training facilities to produce more. Hamas plans, promotes, and encourages terrorists and then lionizes them as “martyrs.”

Its war with Israel could last longer than the Yom Kippur War.

If we tolerate extremism, it will erode the rock of security and ultimately destroy all U.S. efforts to stabilize the Middle East.

Hamas’ leader, Ismail Haniyeh, should no longer be received as a hero in some Arab capitals. The U.S. Treasury Department must sanction Haniyeh and his loved ones and deprive them of travel and international payments.

It is also not normal that Hamas continues to be supported by a series of non-state initiatives and foundations, some of which are based in Europe.

This terrorist attack comes as the United States works to negotiate a historic deal that normalizes relations between Israel and Saudi Arabia, which could transform the Middle East. Perhaps that is the real target of today’s attacks.

President Joe Biden expressed his support for Israel in a phone call with Netanyahu. “We stand ready to offer all appropriate means of support to the Government and people of Israel,” Biden said in a statement.

This is important, but the United States must do more. The State Department confirmed that nine American citizens perished in the attacks. Hamas is now a threat to America’s national security and its attempts to bring peace to the region.

Ahmed Charai is the Publisher of Jerusalem Strategic Tribune. He is on the board of directors of the Atlantic Council, the International Crisis Group, the Center for Strategic and International Studies, the Foreign Policy Research Institute, and the Center for the National Interest.

Image: Shutterstock.