Hamas launches surprise attack on Israel

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The Gaza Strip is a narrow region in Southwest Israel. Hamas launched rockets over the border before launching an air, sea and land offensive. (Map courtesy of Nations Online Project)

Pro-Palestinian Islamist group Hamas breached the Gaza border on Saturday to launch a surprise offensive against Israeli citizens and government.

Hamas launched thousands of rockets at cities in southern Israel early Saturday morning, according to a press release by UN Secretary General António Guterres. Explosions were heard in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem. An hour later, Hamas infiltrated the border in a joint air, land and sea operation.

The Israeli government formally declared war on Hamas on Sunday after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu made statements condemning the attacks and announcing retaliatory rocket launches in Gaza.

“Hamas has started a brutal and evil war,” Netanyahu said. “All of the places which Hamas is deployed, hiding, and operating in, that wicked city, we will turn them into rubble.”

Since the first attack, Israel has retaliated with their own series of missile launches. Current estimates of fatalities are in the hundreds, while thousands more are injured. A large majority of current casualties are civilians.

“We already have reports of Israeli missiles striking health facilities inside Gaza as well as multi-storied residential towers and a mosque,” Guterres said.

Eric D. Huntsman, Jerusalem Center Academic director, confirmed Saturday, Oct. 7 all BYU Students at the Jerusalem Center are safe in a statement to X.

“Our student are in good spirits,” Huntsman said. “Jerusalem itself has had alarms, but it is secure.”

The Jeruslam Center has been posting security updates twice a day. In Monday morning’s briefing, it stated air sirens went off in the morning, but there was no damage to Jerusalem and the center is planning to operate classes as normal.

“Rocket attacks from militants in Gaza continue and sirens sounded in Jerusalem Monday afternoon,” the brief stated.  “Everyone at the Center, including students, moved to the Center’s shelters for the short duration of the attack. Students and others were at the Center all of Monday and have been asked to remain at the Center on Tuesday. Students were in classes much of Monday and will be in classes much of each day this week.”

On Monday, Utah Governor Spencer Cox released a statement on X announcing Utah’s commitment to stand by Israel.

Cox also ordered flags in Utah should be flown at half mast in support of Israel on Tuesday. This mandate will continue from Oct. 10-13.

As the conflict escalates, Israel has already looked to foreign allies for support. In a press conference Monday, Netanyahu thanked its international allies.

“I want to thank President Biden for his unequivocal support,” Netanyahu said. “I want to thank leaders across the world who are standing with Israel today. I want to thank the people and Congress of the United States of America.”

As the conflict continues to develop, the world looks to the history of different countries and groups within the region to contextualize the expanding violence.

Hamas

Hamas has origins in the Muslim Brotherhood and is a group of entities that political scientists refer to as Islamist, BYU professor on the Middle East and the Israeli/Palestinian conflict David Romney explained.

“These are entities that want a greater role for Islam in social and other aspects of Life,” Romney said. “One of the big reasons for the emergence of Hamas is in the 70s-90s there is a resurgence of focus on Islam throughout the Muslim world.”

In 2006, Hamas was not recognized in a national election. They took over the Gaza strip by military force and have occupied the area since that time.

Several countries, including Iran, have publicly praised Hamas’ attack. The United States has publicly condemned Hamas’ attack. (Map courtesy of Nations Online Project)

In the years since Hamas gained control, Israel constructed a security border around the Gaza stip. It is this border that was breached on Saturday morning in a coordinated air, sea, and land strike.

“Hamas demonstrated more sophisticated military techniques than many people saw them capable of,” Romney said.

Iran

Shortly after the onset of the attack on Israel, Iranian government congratulated Hamas on their surprise attack.

Iran is the main financial backer of Hamas, according to Romney. They supply Palestinians with military and financial aid. During the Trump administration, Abraham Accords helped establish diplomatic relations between several gulf states.

On Sept. 20, Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia Mohammed bin Salman announced in a Fox TV Interview the possibility of normalizing relations with Israel in an Abraham Accord-esque agreement.

According to Romney, this would likely undermine Iran’s power in the region.

“One of their main reasons to support an attack like this is to make it harder for Israel to enter into a peace agreement with Saudi Arabia,” Romney said. “Iran and Hamas have an interesting relationship because neither of them really likes the other. Iran is Shi’a and Hamas is Sunni. But Iran is the main one willing to fund Hamas right now.”

Israel

Because of consistent levels of violence over the last few decades, Israel has an extensive anti-rocket system called the “Iron Dome.” It is designed to shoot down rockets that enter Israel’s territory. Despite an intricate system of security cameras and intelligence capturing operations along the border, Israel seemed to have no prior indication that an attack was happening.

The precedent for what some are calling an intelligence failure comes from the 1973 Yom Kippur wars.

“There is definitely an intelligence failure,” Romney said, “It will be interesting to see (after a commission is created) who is held responsible for this failure.”

United States

Israel is a long-standing ally of the U.S. The U.S. has significant resources in the region and has provided military and financial support to Israel in the past.

Biden released a statement on Saturday condemning the attacks.

“The United States unequivocally condemns this appalling assault against Israel by Hamas terrorists from Gaza, and I made clear to Prime Minister Netanyahu we stand ready to offer all appropriate means of support to the Government and people of Israel,” Biden said. “Israel has a right to defend itself and its people.”

Biden is expected to maintain close contact with Netanyahu in the coming weeks.

As the conflict continues, Romney calls for students to be educated about the situation and remain updated through verified sources.

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