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Realism on the War in Gaza

The current war in Gaza is not a contest of arms or strategy, it is a conflict fueled by generational hatred and the mutual desire for vengeance. Brutality breeds brutality, as in all war. Violence is seasonal in Palestine, it is currently in bloom.


History is irreversible. Despite the indisputably controversial formation of Israel, the Jewish state in Palestine will undoubtedly persist. The fate of the Palestinian pseudo-states is unfortunately less clear. 


Underlying Realities  


War broke out on October 7th, when Hamas conducted its first-ever invasion of Israeli territory. The orchestrators of this cunning operation are certainly wise enough to have anticipated the response from the Israeli Defense Forces. Infamously, on that day over 1,000 Israeli civilians were killed or kidnapped by Hamas, intentionally antagonizing an intense answer from the Jewish state. 


The dire situation on Oct 7th led the IDF to use what is known as the Hannibal directive. This controversial military doctrine states “kidnapping must be stopped by all means, even at the price of striking and harming our own.” In the attempt to stop the transport of Israeli hostages to Gaza, the IDF ordered its soldiers to destroy both homes and vehicles containing Hamas militants and Israeli hostages alike.

Israel would rather kill its own civilians than allow them to become hostages, as this limits the enemy's leverage in future negotiations. It is dangerous to provoke an enemy that conducts war in this way, especially one with superior firepower; unless it is part of a greater strategy.


Fire and Brimstone

The IDF laid waste to Gaza, responding with thousands of airstrikes followed by an invasion, indiscriminately killing tens of thousands and displacing millions. This was Israel's answer to the most deadly attack in the nation's history, leaving it so vulnerable the IDF elected to kill its own civilians. Consequently, the IDF is relatively unfazed by the deaths of Gazan civilians, accidental or otherwise.  


Throughout the war’s duration, much of Hamas’ territory has been occupied. However, most of the group's supplies and personnel remained inside the hundreds of miles of tunnels below the Gaza strip. These tunnels run beneath all of Gaza. For Hamas, separating its guerrilla military operations from civilians would be tactically feeble; they serve as a shielding camouflage from IDF strikes. Hamas–the party in control of Gaza–rather than building civilian infrastructure, opted to spend a billion dollars on a vast 400-mile labyrinth of tunnels. Obviously, Hamas had war in mind. There has not been an election in Gaza since 2006, this war was not the will of the people, but of the men beneath the ground.


How and Why?


Hamas was motivated to attack when it did because of the burgeoning diplomatic relations between Israel and Saudi Arabia. While Hamas is not allied with the Saudis–because they are allied with Iran–they are an Islamic militancy and Saudi Arabia is the center of the Muslim world. If the historical hostilities between Israel and Saudi Arabia subsided in favor of diplomacy, the Muslim world may come to accept the Israeli presence in Palestine. Hamas needed to act decisively. 

To end these talks, Hamas relied on the international media's observance of the heavy-handed IDF response to turn both Saudi Arabia and the West against Israel. Hamas antagonized the IDF via the surprise invasion of Israeli territory on October 7, attacking both the IDF and Israeli civilians. Hamas intentionally caused as much harm in the region as possible to provoke a severe response from the IDF and thereby pressure Saudi Arabia into disengaging from diplomacy with Israel. Presciently, Hamas took civilian hostages as leverage for future negotiations.


Receipts and Realizations


Israel responded first in Gaza City and then in Rafah, the two most populous areas in Gaza. It is estimated that around 35,000 Gazans have been killed throughout the war. Protests condemning the IDF have broken out across both the Muslim and Western worlds. Israel claims to have killed half of the original 30,000 Hamas fighters but also admits that thousands more have joined their ranks since the outbreak of the war. 

A lesson of counter-insurgency that never seems to be learned is that when you slaughter a man's family, accidentally or not, he tends not to turn the other cheek. The IDF campaign in Gaza is the most successful recruiting season Hamas has ever had. For many young men, Israeli bombs are invitations to pick up rifles and grenades.


At What Cost

Israel has only lost 290 soldiers since the 1200 civilians killed on October 7th, but it has paid a much greater price in generating self-animus around the globe. Netanyahu has committed a self-defeat, as his stated goal was to destroy Hamas and this has not been achieved, yet Israel recently agreed to a cease-fire


Gaza's destruction was the likely outcome of retaliation. Yet Hamas achieved the desired end of Israeli diplomacy with Saudi Arabia. It achieved the goal of reheating anti-Zionism in the Muslim world and elsewhere. At what cost did these victories come? The lives of 35,000 people and the incineration of the entire industry, infrastructure and agriculture of Gaza. If there ever was a Pyrrhic victory, this is it. 


Acknowledgment: The opinions expressed in this article are those of the individual author.




4 Comments


Your paper provides in depth insight on the current situation in Gaza as of now, it also shows how both sides have in one way or another pushed for this war without placing blame on one side versus the other. I believe this paper to be very well written, and intentioned! Great work.

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First, I would like to point out that your paper has educated me beyond my previously studied knowledge of the Israel and Palestine conflict. I was unaware of the true intentions of the Hamas oct 7th attack on Israel and theories have circulated regarding their intentions I always believed it was done in retaliation to the instability of the region the state of Israel has brought and I had no clue of the influence Saudi Arabia had on the region or conflicts taking place in the region... this is great journalism. Also tying this whole conflict together as a pyrrhic victory was done extremely well. I have seen the rise of antisemitic attitudes since the beginning of the conflict more…

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Amazing work, Ryan. I immensely enjoyed your piece and the way you distill a complex topic into highly comprehensive and engaging writing. You lend appropriate credence to multiple perspectives on this topic and present a compelling conclusion about the perils of this ongoing conflict. Great work!

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Hi Ryan, I really enjoyed reading your commentary on the War in Gaza! It was shocking to learn about how so few IDF soldiers have died, considering how many Gazans died since the outbreak of the war. I also think that the involvement of Hezbollah in the war has potential implications that would, as you said, further cause even more brutality.

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