Terrorists from the Palestinian radical movement Hamas, who attacked Israel over the weekend, have long had influential allies. According to the American newspaper The Wall Street Journal, Iran and the Lebanese movement Hezbollah are also behind the current escalation, although Tehran denies this.
Both Iran and Hezbollah openly supported the Hamas attack against Israel – the Ayatollahs’ regime so far verbally, the Lebanese militia even joined in shelling the north of the Jewish state. However, his actions do not yet indicate that he is going to get involved in any significant way, says analyst Jan Daniel from the Institute of International Relations (IIR) in an interview for Nauzal.
According to him, however, it cannot be ruled out that Hezbollah is waiting and will become significantly involved when Israel launches a possible ground invasion of the Gaza Strip to eliminate Hamas. “At that point, Hezbollah will have much more leverage on what it can do and its actions will have a greater impact,” says an expert who has long focused on the security of the Middle East and Lebanon in particular.
He recalls that Hezbollah has been careful in recent years not to escalate the conflict with Israel more seriously. “Maybe it was in anticipation of this Hamas action,” speculates Daniel. In the interview, he also draws attention to the pitfalls of a possible Israeli ground invasion of Gaza, saying that Hamas is probably counting on it.
Israel has already launched intensive airstrikes against Hamas targets in the Gaza Strip. How long and difficult a war can this be?
The conflict has most certainly flared up in recent years, if not decades. It is certainly the largest within the Israeli-Palestinian conflict as such, or attacks on the territory of Israel as such. It is said to be the biggest crisis since the 1973 war.
As for how long the war will actually be, how difficult it will be, that is, I think, something we cannot fully see at the moment. It depends on what Israel ultimately decides to do with the Gaza Strip, what happens to the northern front, that is, how Hezbollah reacts.
Testimony from Ashkelon
Hamas penetrated directly into Ashkelon, where Moran Hisan lives. Although she is used to occasional rockets, after Hamas started shooting at civilians there, she no longer feels safe. “Where was the army?” he asks, predicting that the war will be long.
It also depends on what happens in the West Bank and how the situation escalates there, and ultimately it also depends on what happens in Israel itself. We have seen some incidents of that inter-group violence in 2021 and there are predictions that something like this may happen again.
Can it be said that it was a failure of the Israeli army, at least in the southwest, where cities like Sderot were practically occupied by Hamas?
There is a fairly large consensus on this that it is a major failure of the Israeli government and the Israeli army and the Israeli security forces in general.
The scope or scale of the attack was not large, and at the same time it is probably not something that Israel could not have expected. It is actually said that the attack came in the context of the internal Israeli political crisis, the long-lasting protests against the attempt at judicial reform.
Some argue that the Israeli security forces were bound far more by the escalation in the West Bank (ongoing construction of Jewish settlements and disputes between settlers and Palestinians, editor’s note)rather than controlling Gaza’s borders.
The security cabinet and the Israeli government formally declared martial law on Sunday. What does that step actually mean?
According to the law, war must be declared by the government, and it is some kind of symbol that there is a unity of political decision-making by all political actors that these military operations should take place and that they will be large-scale military operations.
My understanding of this is that, to a certain extent, it is more of a declaration of how serious the threat actually is and how serious or how extensive the Israeli response will be. The state of emergency within Israel itself, which governs how conscription works, canceling public events, and so on, is actually a different declaration. From my point of view, it is about emphasizing the seriousness of the threat and the extent of the response.
Could this justify, for example, a ground attack on the Gaza Strip?
I think that yes. I can imagine that’s one of the steps it might take. On the other hand, those past conflicts – airstrikes against the Gaza Strip, as well as the Lebanon war in the 1980s – took place without declaring a state of war, so things are a bit complicated here.
I think that the Israeli government perceives it as the need to somehow solve the problem that Hamas represents for Israel. I can’t imagine any way to deal with this other than a ground operation that actually tries to get into all those Hamas hideouts in Gaza.
What would cause the Israelis the greatest difficulty in the event of a ground operation?
The problem, of course, is that it is militarily difficult. If Israel decides to do so, it will face a long, very complicated operation in a built-up environment, for which Hamas is probably already prepared in some way.
Safety device failure and shock
Listen to the 5:59 podcast on the current war between Israel and Hamas:
I can’t imagine Hamas not expecting any retaliatory strike from Israel, including a ground operation. And I can imagine that it is also something that is part of some plan of theirs in the sense that they will manage to get the fight on the territory of Israel, however, as soon as Israel conducts a ground invasion of Gaza, then they will already be ready to fight them.
It is further complicated by the fact that there are now, as we have heard, over a hundred Israeli hostages in Gaza, who, given what we know of Hamas, no one will mess with.
Most likely, they will not be afraid to use them as human shields, possibly for very tough negotiations about what Israel will actually be able and willing to do.
The head of Hamas’ armed wing has spoken of wanting to exchange hostages for Palestinian prisoners held by Israel. Could it happen? Would Israel exchange prisoners for civilians?
They have done it in the past. It’s actually something that both Hamas and Hezbollah have done quite often. Kidnappings and perhaps attempts to return the bodies of dead soldiers back in exchange for the release of prisoners.
If Israel agrees to this, that’s probably a difficult question at the moment, there are so many hostages that I can’t quite imagine what Hamas is demanding for them at the moment. At the same time, the attack by Hamas was so brutal that it is difficult for me to imagine that Israel would still resort to this form of blackmail.
I think this is something that will speak very strongly to the eventual ground invasion of Gaza.
I’m not entirely sure if this is something that Hamas planned. As part of my reading of the situation, Hamas could have actually gotten further than they even expected. I don’t know if the movement even currently has a plan for what to do with the foreign hostages.
In Gaza, people are stocking up, waiting for a long war
Interview with a resident of the Gaza Strip:
Of course, it is complicated by the fact that a number of international humanitarian organizations operate in Gaza, where citizens of those countries also operate at the same time. At the moment, Hamas is coming to the point that it has violated all the conventions of war. The organization carried out a rather brutal terrorist attack, so by abducting foreign citizens it is getting into an even more complicated situation. I really have no idea what they want to do with them.
The Lebanese Hezbollah already started mortar fire on Israel on Sunday. Can we expect any stronger support for Hamas from him?
Hitting those sheba farms is the smallest part of the escalation of mutual conflict that Hezbollah usually does. Basically, it’s “just” some symbolic support for Hamas at the moment.
In addition, Hezbollah always interprets these attacks as a strike on occupied Lebanese territory, which means that even though it may attack Israeli troops there, from its point of view it is actually still something that is part of the fight against Israel on Lebanese territory.
Another part of this escalation is usually strikes on Israeli territory, carried out by apparently unnamed Palestinian groups, however, attacking from Lebanese territory. Only subsequently does Hezbollah itself carry out the actions.
What he has done at the moment is the first part of the so-called escalation ladder. What he will do next is of course the big unknown.
The Wall Street Journal website, citing its sources, wrote that the Hamas action was planned in cooperation with Hezbollah and Iran. What can this mean?
This means that Hezbollah was involved in some way, and the question is whether there is a broader strategy that Hezbollah actually wants to operate within. Hezbollah and Iran have long talked about the existence of a united front against Israel, with Hamas, Hezbollah and Iran acting as part of a united resistance.
Hizballah’s actions so far do not fully indicate this, however, I have also come across an opinion that points out that Hizbollah may not want to play all its cards at the moment and that it may be more advantageous for it to escalate once the Israeli army begins a ground invasion to Gaza and once it begins to have all of its attention tied up with troops and activities in the south.
At that point, Hezbollah will have much more leverage over what it can do and its actions will have a greater impact. Of course, we don’t know exactly what will happen. However, in the last two years or so, we have seen that Hezbollah has been doing a lot of provocations on Israel’s borders, but it has always been very careful not to start a bigger conflict. Maybe it was in anticipation of this Hamas action.