Netanyahu says Israel is at war after hundreds die in Hamas attacks | FINANCIAL TIMES

Avi Melamed’s insights about “Netanyahu says Israel is at war after hundreds die in Hamas attacks” were quoted in this article by James Shotter for the FINANCIAL TIMES.

Read the article in the Financial Times – October 07, 2023

“Israel’s strategy of defence vis-à-vis the threat of Gaza . . . built through many years, basically failed,” said Avi Melamed, an analyst. “It’s a very significant failure of the whole system.”

Benjamin Netanyahu declared that Israel was “at war” after Hamas launched the biggest attack inside the nation in decades, sending militants across the border from Gaza, killing hundreds of Israelis and taking others captive.

More than 200 people in Israel were killed and more than 1,100 wounded in the unprecedented multipronged dawn assault on Saturday, when Hamas gunmen targeted civilians and military posts in southern Israel.

Palestinian militants said that they had taken hostages, with Hamas claiming it was holding “dozens” of Israeli soldiers captive and that they had been “secured . . . in the resistance’s tunnels”.

An Israeli military official confirmed hostages had been taken, adding that there was a “severe” situation in two places, but did not say how many people were being held. He added that Israel was fighting in 22 locations.

Officials in Gaza said 232 people had been killed by retaliatory Israeli strikes in the territory, and that 1,697 had been wounded.

As the fighting continued inside Israel, its prime minister said he had ordered “an extensive mobilisation of reserves” and that they would “return fire of a magnitude that the enemy has not known”.

Israeli jets struck targets in Gaza, which has been subject to a blockade by Israel and Egypt since Hamas took control there in 2007.

Speaking again later on Saturday, Netanyahu warned Hamas they were responsible for the wellbeing of the hostages and vowed that Israel would extract a heavy price if “even a single hair” was harmed.

Israel would “take revenge for this black day”, he said.

The assault, during which hundreds of Hamas militants entered Israel on paragliders, by land and from the sea, and fired thousands of rockets in to Israel, drew expressions of support from other militant groups in the region.

Analysts said the attack’s complexity was unlike anything that Israel had witnessed in decades.

“Since 1948 there was not such a military assault inside Israeli territory, all the other wars were on distant fronts. Right now it’s inside Israel,” said Michael Milshtein, a former IDF military intelligence officer. “This is an invasion, I have no other term to describe it.”

The surprise attack, which was launched on the Jewish holiday of Simchat Torah and appeared to catch the military off-guard, poses a serious challenge for Netanyahu’s far-right government, which came to power last year with hardliners in important posts pledging to bolster security.

Avi Melamed’s insights about “Netanyahu says Israel is at war after hundreds die in Hamas attacks” were quoted in this article by James Shotter for the FINANCIAL TIMES.

Footage broadcast by Israel’s Channel 12 appeared to show a bulldozer smashing through the border fence between Israel and Gaza. Videos released by Hamas, which it was not immediately possible to verify, depicted drones dropping mortar rounds on an Israeli tank, a guard tower and a group of soldiers near a vehicle. 

Other footage showed Hamas gunmen dragging a soldier alive from a burning tank, and a few captured men whom Hamas claimed were IDF soldiers. Islamic Jihad, a smaller militant group in Gaza, also claimed to have captured Israelis.

“Israel’s strategy of defence vis-à-vis the threat of Gaza . . . built through many years, basically failed,” said Avi Melamed, an analyst. “It’s a very significant failure of the whole system.”

Mohammed Deif, the leader of Hamas’s military wing, said the Palestinian group had fired more than 5,000 rockets at Israel and called on Palestinians and other Arab states for support.

The Iran-backed Hizbollah militant group in Lebanon said the attack was a “message” to countries such as Saudi Arabia that are seeking to normalise diplomatic relations with Israel. It said it was “direct in contact with the leadership of the Palestinian resistance”.

Major General Yahya Rahim Safavi, who advises Iran’s supreme leader on military issues, said Tehran “backs [Hamas’s] operation” and that “we believe the resistance movement also supports it” — a reference to other militant groups in the Middle East.

Richard Hecht, a spokesman for Israel’s military, said the army was watching the situation on Israel’s northern border where Hizbollah, which has a far bigger and more sophisticated arsenal than Hamas, is based, and that multiple firefights were taking place in the area around Gaza.

“We’re fighting in certain locations around the Gaza Strip, in the Erez crossing, in Nahal Oz . . . also in the Re’im camp, which is [Israel’s Gaza] division headquarters,” he said. 

The rocket fire from Gaza set off warning sirens across the south and centre of Israel, sending citizens fleeing to air raid shelters as missiles targeted cities including Tel Aviv and Be’ersheva.

Missile strikes destroyed buildings in the southern city of Ashkelon and the thud of interceptions was heard as far north as Jerusalem, a city rarely targeted by missiles from Gaza.

The Israeli military closed roads around Gaza and said that it was flooding the south of the country with reinforcements in a bid to regain control of the situation.

The fighting comes after 18 months of simmering Israeli-Palestinian tension with outbreaks of violence in both Gaza and the West Bank, which Palestinians seek as the heart of a future state but which Israel has occupied since 1967.

US president Joe Biden said he had spoken to Netanyahu and condemned Hamas’s “appalling assault”. “We stand ready to offer all appropriate means of support to the government and people of Israel,” he said.

A senior Biden administration official said the US had no warnings of the attack.

The official said the US was looking “very closely” at whether Iran was involved in planning or supporting the assault, but had no indications that it was. Still, Iran is a main supporter of Hamas and the group “would not exist” without Iran’s support, the official said.

The official said the administration was examining how it could work with Congress to send more missile defences to Israel if it required them. But the lack of a Speaker in the House of Representatives would make the process more challenging, officials and analysts said.

Republican senator Lindsey Graham, a proponent of normalisation between Israel and Saudi Arabia, said he believed Hamas’s attack was intended to halt efforts to reach a US-mediated peace deal between the two countries.

Additional reporting by Najmeh Bozorgmehr in Tehran, Samer Al-Atrush in Dubai, Adam Samson in Ankara and Felicia Schwartz in Washington

Avi Melamed’s insights about “Netanyahu says Israel is at war after hundreds die in Hamas attacks” were quoted in this article by James Shotter for the FINANCIAL TIMES.

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Avi Melamed
Avi Melamed
Avi Melamed is an expert on current affairs in the Arab & Muslim World and their impact on Israel & the Middle East. A former Israeli Intelligence Official & Senior Official on Arab Affairs, Fluent in Arabic, English, and Hebrew, he has held high-risk Government, Senior Advisory, Intelligence & Counter-Terrorist intelligence positions in Arab cities & communities - often in very sensitive times - on behalf of Israeli Government agencies. He is the Founder & CEO of Inside the Middle East | Intelligence Perspectives - an apolitical non-partisan curriculum using intelligence methodology to examine the Middle East. As an Author, Educator, Expert, and Strategic Intelligence Analyst, Avi provides Intelligence Analysis, Briefings, and Geopolitical Tours to diplomats, Israeli and foreign policymakers, global media outlets, and a wide variety of international businesses, organizations, and private clients on a range of Israel and Middle East Affairs.

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