7 reasons why Hamas attacked Israel now

The US has been pushing normalisation of Saudi Arabia–Israel relations, and the G20 summit under India’s presidency did not have a word to spare for Palestinians

People gather at Fatih Mosque in Istanbul, Turkey in support of the recent attacks on Israel by the Palestinian militant group Hamas on 7 October (photo: Burak Kara/Getty Images)
People gather at Fatih Mosque in Istanbul, Turkey in support of the recent attacks on Israel by the Palestinian militant group Hamas on 7 October (photo: Burak Kara/Getty Images)

AJ Prabal

The Middle East is once again spinning out of ‘stable instability’, to the horror of the whole world.

The surprise attack by Hamas on Israel from the occupied Gaza strip, where 2 million Palestinians live with its sea, borders and airspace under Israeli control, has put the Palestine question front and centre on the West Asia map—again.

While Israel retaliates fiercely, Palestinians are set to pay a heavy price in lives and property. So why, analysts are asking, would Hamas launch an almost suicidal attack to kill civilians in South Israel?

The attack has been hailed by the Hezbollah in Lebanon and by Iran as ‘heroic’, while Saudi Arabia — which has been rapidly normalising relations with Israel — has maintained a studied silence thus far.

Meanwhile, the United States has famously said “Israel has the right to defend itself”. India's own prime minister has made it clear that the nation stands with Israel. BJP supporters in India have barely been able to hide their glee at the unfolding tragedy, which they believe in their innocence and ignorance will end in Israel extracting a heavy price from Palestinians — as premier Benjamin Netanhyu promised — and by extension from 'Muslims'.

The situation may again draw in the the rest of the world, as West Asian conflicts are in the habit of doing. West Asia itself, never too far from boiling, may again froth over—with terrible consequences for the rest of the world, still reeling over the war in Ukraine.

The UN and the super powers, including the multilateral forums like the G7 or G20 nations, must equally share the blame for this situation, however, for turning their back on Palestine. Experts on West Asia have since yesterday been pointing out that the attack on Israel is partly Israel’s own doing.

The following points compiled from international commentaries over the last 24 hours should provide a better understanding of what led the Hamas to launch this attack now.

  1. Hamas has said that the attack was provoked by recent events surrounding the Temple Mount, a site in Jerusalem holy to Jews and Muslims alike. Israeli settlers have been entering the Al-Aqsa Mosque atop the mount and praying, which Hamas described as ‘desecration’. Hamas has in fact named its operation 'Al-Aqsa Storm' or 'Al-Aqsa Flood'.

  2. People in the occupied Gaza Strip, where the Hamas took control in 2007 and had been at loggerheads with the Palestinian administration under President Mahmoud Abbas, have been enduring a humanitarian nightmare. Israeli security forces and Israeli settlers have been antagonising Palestinians, who constitute 20 per cent of Israel’s population. Violent attacks on Palestinians have increased in the bordering cities of Huwara and Jenin too.

  3. Normalisation of relations between the Arabs and Israel is widely seen by the Palestinians as the Arab world giving up on them, agreeing to treat Israel like a normal country even as the Israeli occupation deepens. The attack does appear to be a ‘message’ to the Arab world as well.

  4. Israel has been carrying out military raids in the occupied West Bank almost on a daily basis. In April 2023, Israeli police raided Jerusalem’s Al-Aqsa Mosque compound, Islam’s third holiest place of worship, triggering rocket attacks from Gaza, which were then followed by Israeli air strikes.

  5. In May 2023, Israel and the Palestine Islamic Jihad, which is based in Gaza, fought a short battle. In July, Israel carried out a major raid in the town of Jenin, which has emerged as a hotbed of militancy in the West Bank.

  6. The world has moved on from the Palestine problem and is preoccupied with Ukraine now, and seems to have abandoned all efforts at the Palestinian peace process. Hamas is trying to cash in on rising Palestinian anger and emerge as their only pillar of support.

  7. Fissures within Israel may also have emboldened Hamas to undertake the attack. The Israeli government’s attempts to make itself more powerful than the judiciary have triggered massive protests within the nation. There have been resentful voices even within the military, and the Israeli civil society stands deeply divided—a situation ripe for Hamas and perhaps Palestine in general to take advantage of.

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