Friday, October 13, 2023

Questions over Israeli response to Hamas attack

When Hamas launched its attack into Israel it wasn't just Israelis and Jews that became the target of their onslaught. Some six days on it has become clear that many other nationalities were killed, kidnapped or suffered injury. Victims included Chinese, Thai, British and American citizens, details of which are only just emerging. The attacks have been widely condemned with many saying Israel has a "right to defend itself". But Israel's response to the attacks has been criticised as one of retribution and revenge. With pictures emerging from Gaza showing the destruction from days of aerial bombardment Israel risks losing support and feeding propaganda which will act as a recruiting sergeant for extremists.

Hamas targets

While the vast majority of victims in the Hamas attack were Israeli or Jewish, other nationalities also became victims.

Three Chinese were killed in the Hamas terror attack according to the foreign affairs spokesperson Wang Wenbin who spoke in a press briefing on Thursday. "We can confirm that three Chinese nationals were killed in the clashes," he said "Two are missing and several are injured." [Newsweek]

Meanwhile 12 Thai workers were killed and 11 kidnapped with a further 13 injured according to the Thai foreign ministry [BBC]. A video posted on social media also appears to show Hamas terrorists beheading one of the Thai workers with a garden hoe while shouting 'Alah Akbar' [God is great]. The video has been disputed by some on social media and the veracity of it cannot be established.

Children are amongst 17 Britons killed in the assault carried out by Hamas on Saturday 7th October [BBC]. It is not known how many British citizens have been taken hostage although one 26-year-old has been reported as missing after the attack at the Re'im kibbutz.

Some 27 Americans have been reported killed with around 14 unaccounted for [Guardian / The Hill].

At least 1,200 were killed in the assault, around 300 reportedly IDF soldiers. Some 200 are believed held hostage by Hamas, their fate unknown. The youngest is said to be 9-months-old while the oldest is reported to be an 85-year-old grandmother. A further 3,400 were injured in the assault [Wikipedia].

Defence or revenge?

It is clear, for anyone with eyes, that the Hamas attack was indiscriminate. And while accounts of the debauchery and bestial nature of the attacks on women, children and babies have been disputed, the fact is Hamas clearly targeted civilians and killed them in cold blood.

However, Israel has lost the moral ground in many respects by initiating a large-scale air assault on the Gaza region.

It is well known that Hamas fighters embed themselves in civilian areas and as such any air assault would undoubtedly result in civilian casualties. Taking out water and electricity supplies, as well as preventing humanitarian supplies from entering the region, also leaves Israel open to criticism.

Netanyahu has said Israel's objective is to weed out and destroy Hamas once and for all. But by killing civilians and babies in large scale airstrikes may only give Hamas and similar groups fuel for their anti-Israeli propaganda.

Of course, Israel could not have sat down and done nothing. But perhaps a better solution would have been a ground offensive, backed up with air support. There would undoubtedly be IDF casualties in such an assault but Israel would have maintained the moral high ground in such a venture especially if run in tandem with placing displaced citizens in a safe area behind enemy lines as they moved south and provided them with humanitarian supplies. Following a full sweep of the territory, which would have likely taken many weeks, Israel could then have initiated either a peacekeeping operation giving way to UN peacekeepers overtime. A gradual withdrawal could then be made as the situation became stable. This would not happen overnight and would require establishment of moderate political leaders in the region who would be acceptable to, not only Israel, but also the population in the Gaza strip itself.

The current reality on the ground seems to be heading in a far different direction. Israel's military has called on civilians to leave Gaza city and head south in what has been widely perceived as a signal that a ground offensive is imminent. Hamas meanwhile have reportedly ordered citizens to remain in their homes. Even if free to leave, many would not have the means to escape. Few people would have vehicles and a journey on foot would be arduous even though the strip is only some 40 km long.

There is much speculation as to how intensive the ground assault will be. Some commentators say it will be fraught. Ben Wedeman, CNN's international correspondent, suggested it could be a "bloodbath".

Israel cannot sit back and do nothing, especially given the nature of the attack launched by Hamas on unarmed civilians. But its military response also needs to be measured and targeted or it may only serve to fuel the fire and feed Islamist propaganda.

As Mahatma Gandhi is often attributed as saying, "An eye for an eye leaves the whole world blind"

tvnewswatch, London, UK

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