The shocking attack in southern Israel this weekend was the most deadly killing of Jews since the Holocaust. The death toll is worse than the worst day of the Yom Kippur War. It is a massacre that will transform Israel and the Middle East.
What happened? How did the most sophisticated military power in the Middle East get brought to its knees? And what will this mean for the Jewish state moving forward? The answer to those questions will be the reckoning of our lifetimes.
But there are more basic questions that so many are asking. What follows are some answers that explain how we got here and where we might be going.
What is the extent of the attacks? Why are people calling this “Israel’s 9/11”?
More than 700 Israelis have been killed and more than 2,100 wounded in a series of coordinated surprise attacks that occurred inside Israel. The attacks began on the morning of Saturday, Oct. 7. That’s when, according to an IDF spokesman, some 1,000 Hamas terrorists crossed the internationally recognized border between Gaza and Israel and began massacring civilians in at least 14 Israeli towns and communities, entering homes and apartments and killing men, women, and children—including nearly 300 young people who were attending a rave in the desert.
The scenes of horror and bloodshed that resulted, including the murders of entire families, the kidnapping of small children, and rape of young women, were seemingly intended to cause maximum anger and shock inside Israel. More than 150 people were seized by the terrorists and taken back into Gaza, where they are being held hostage. They include women, very young children, and the elderly.
To give a sense of the scale of these attacks, 700 dead in a country of 9.3 million people (where everyone knows someone’s cousin) is the equivalent of a terror attack on America in which over 25,000 people were brutally murdered. And not in a single catastrophe: Imagine 25,000 Americans killed in various murder sprees across the country.
Who carried out these attacks?
Hamas is the short answer, the terrorist organization that rules the Gaza Strip.
Hamas does not recognize the right of Israel to exist and has waged what it calls a war of resistance since its inception. Its tactics over the years have evolved from the recruitment and deployment of suicide bombers to launching barrages of rockets and missiles. But Hamas had never before launched a military operation of this magnitude into Israel.
OK, but doesn’t Israel have settlements in Gaza, and don’t they control the lives of the Palestinians who live there?
Israel unilaterally withdrew from every last inch of Gaza in 2005, after dismantling the 21 Israeli settlements that had existed in the territory and handing them over to the Palestinian Authority.
The rationale behind Israel’s withdrawal, carried out by Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, was the notion of land for peace—that Israel would hand over control of certain territories in exchange for security. The land was handed over. The peace never came.
According to sources in Israel and America who deal with national security and technology, one possible scenario involved a cyberattack that took down Israel’s border fence, with its layers of sensors, early in the morning on Saturday, Oct. 7. The attack would also have affected parts of the Iron Dome system that protects Israeli civilians from frequent rocket attacks by their neighbors in the Strip.
It also seems likely, as security expert Edward Luttwak explained in Tablet, that Israel’s vaunted security services were deceived by operatives inside the Strip who have been secretly partnering with Israel for the past few years to pass information about rocket attacks by Hamas’ rival inside Gaza, the Iranian-backed terror group Islamic Jihad. As the Israelis became reliant on people they thought to be their partners, they began to imagine that they could quietly manage Hamas by increasing trade with the Strip, letting in more goods, allowing Gazans to enter Israel for free medical treatment, and issuing work permits for Gazans to work inside Israel, where a month’s income can feed a Gazan family for a year.
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