Israel’s security cabinet voted to officially declare a state of war, granting the nation the authority to engage in “significant military activities.” This decision came in response to a murderous terrorist assault originating from the Gaza Strip, an attack that tragically cost hundreds of innocent lives. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, in a firm and resolute statement, vowed that Israel would exact “mighty vengeance” for the heinous act committed by Palestinian militants. The declaration of war was made in accordance with Article 40 of Israel’s Basic Law, a testament to the gravity of the situation. The recent escalation in hostilities began when Hamas terrorists infiltrated southern Israel, prompting Prime Minister Netanyahu to announce that the country was already at war. In light of these developments, IDF Spokesperson RAdm. Daniel Hagari, speaking on October 8, underscored that Israel has been left with no alternative but to embark on a challenging and potentially protracted ground operation aimed at reoccupying Hamas-controlled territory. It is a stark reality that this war, if it indeed unfolds, will exact a heavy toll, with the most probable outcome being the toppling of the Hamas regime in the Gaza Strip.
For years, it has been an unwritten policy for Israeli governments to tolerate Hamas’s rule in Gaza, operating in parallel with the Palestinian Authority’s governance in the West Bank. However, the recent events have put an end to this approach. Financial aid from Qatar to Gaza has been halted, and Egyptian-mediated ceasefire efforts are no longer on the table. The ongoing fighting in Gaza, where dozens of Israelis are being held hostage, poses a significant tactical challenge, especially when the IDF may not be at its peak readiness, as underscored by concerns regarding the state of the ground forces. Nonetheless, it appears that Israel’s only recourse is to execute a ground operation to topple Hamas’s control. Such an operation would require substantial preparation, including softening the territory, mobilizing reserve forces, and redeploying units to the south—all while maintaining vigilance in other sectors. Only after these preparations are complete can the primary phase of the operation commence.
It is essential to recall that in 2009, during Operation Cast Lead, the IDF was on the cusp of gaining control over Gaza before receiving a halt order from the political leadership. Since then, Hamas has significantly fortified itself, while the IDF’s capabilities have diminished. The mission at hand will undoubtedly be more challenging and painful. However, the disparities in power and determination between the IDF and Hamas remain substantial. The IDF is poised to conquer Gaza and, potentially, bring an end to Hamas’s rule. This monumental task will likely involve long weeks of combat, with casualties a grim inevitability, assuming the decision to proceed is indeed made. Moreover, questions will inevitably arise about the future of Gaza once the fighting subsides. When the dust finally settles and the conflict comes to an end, Israel will grapple with profound questions about the lessons learned from this immense challenge. It is a sobering reminder of the complex and volatile nature of the region, and the difficult decisions leaders must make in the pursuit of peace and security for their nation.