The October 7th attack on Israel launched by jihadists from Gaza has provided the world with a new lesson in the precarity of freedom. The grotesque spectacle of Israeli civilians—a distinction plainly not observed by enemies of the Jewish state—being beaten, murdered, mutilated, raped, and kidnapped by invaders has presented us with an unsparing view of the enemies of civilization.
The scale and sophistication of Hamas’s slaughter indicates that this operation was many months in the making. According to Israeli authorities, no fewer than 1,500 of the Palestinian terrorists who breached Gaza’s border fence were slain on Israeli soil as they laid siege to 20 communities and 11 IDF bases. It was an attack by land, air, and sea paired with a barrage of thousands of missiles directed at civilian targets across the country. In an address, Hamas’s former leader Khalid Mashal exhorted Muslims around the world to lend their support to a global jihad:
In time, Israeli commissions and inquiries will be established to determine what went wrong beyond the narrow matter of the catastrophic intelligence failure. Meanwhile, the chilling realization of Israel’s newfound vulnerability is likely to foster an entirely new political reality and strategic footing. Just as the Yom Kippur war shattered Israel’s complacent political culture exactly 50 years ago, so this terror campaign will mark the end of an era when Israel was able to subordinate the Palestinian issue to wider regional concerns. Most immediately, the task for Israel will be to swiftly reestablish deterrence against those who have demonstrated a dramatic improvement in their martial capabilities.
This will not be easy, which is why there is no sign that half-measures are being contemplated in Jerusalem. Citizens of Israel are instructed to remain close to their bunkers. More than 360,000 reservists have been called up to serve. A ground invasion of Gaza appears to be imminent. October 7th was the bloodiest single attack in their state’s young history. As of this writing, Israel has lost more than 1,200 lives to the attack. A further 2,800 were injured. Those numbers are still rising. Israelis are understandably enraged and petrified. In these dire circumstances, deterrence will only be restored with overwhelming force.
The siege of Gaza will continue, in some form, indefinitely. The duration of the conflict will be shaped by the consideration that Iran reportedly helped to plan the surprise attack and gave the operation its green light. Although still described as unconfirmed by cautious US authorities, Iranian involvement looks increasingly likely. Iranian assistance has been claimed by its proxies in Gaza and Lebanon, and is consistent with Iran’s sworn mission to export its Islamic revolution by force.
It defies credulity that such a complex and multifaceted operation could have been conceived and implemented without the Iranian mullahs’ consent, if not their active support. A longtime financial backer of Hamas and Islamic Jihad, the Islamic Republic also smuggles weapons into Gaza and provides technical assistance for building rockets and drones. According to reporting from the Wall Street Journal, Iranian officers attended meetings for several weeks in Beirut, though it isn’t yet clear that they ordered their terrorist proxies to launch a mass attack on Israel.
The possibility of a larger conflagration in the region cannot be ruled out. In Lebanon, Hezbollah—the Shia political and militant group active across the Levant and wider Middle East—has issued a statement of support for Hamas, saying that it was in “direct contact with the leadership of the Palestinian resistance,” and that the attack was a response to the continued Israeli occupation as well as a “message to those seeking normalization with Israel.” On the available evidence, Hezbollah is readying its terror brigades to turn this skirmish into a two-front war.
Any serious weakening of Israeli resolve or military strength is likely to draw its numerous regional enemies into the conflict, expanding the war in unpredictable and treacherous ways. This is why the United States and others in the free world deserve credit for announcing that they will not only provide moral support but also military assistance to Israel. The United States must resist calls for a premature ceasefire before Israel has successfully prosecuted its campaign against Hamas and other gangster organizations. Israel’s allies should freeze aid to the corrupt and compromised Palestinian Authority and to organizations like UNRWA with links to Hamas. And Washington should demand that Qatar extradite the Hamas leadership it harbors in Doha to stand trial for the murder of Americans.
Israel, too, has issued the most stringent threats against Iran’s “axis of resistance.” It has specifically singled out Hezbollah, warning that if the Party of God joins the fight, Israel will respond not only in Lebanon but also in Syria, a scenario that will destabilize and possibly even topple the fragile Assad regime. This threat has two implications. First, it serves as a substantial deterrent against further escalation by making clear that Hezbollah could rapidly find itself deprived of its patron and armorer in Damascus. Second, it points to a fact often obscured from view in the West: that the structures of terror in the Levant will never be dismantled as long as the Baathist regime in Syria—and by extension, the Iranian theocracy—maintains its grip on power.
Israel’s prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, has told his country to prepare for a “long and grueling war.” The airstrikes he has ordered in Gaza have already resulted in hundreds of Palestinian casualties, and given the density of the Strip and the extravagant barbarism with which Hamas employs its own civilians as human shields, many more Palestinians will share in this grim fate. This is sufficient proof that the greatest enemies of the Palestinian people are not the Jews, but their own theocratic regime.
The deliberate murder of civilians and the abduction of women and children and the elderly are heinous war crimes. As morally revolting as this savagery has been, it is to be expected from a death cult whose slogan, as set forth in Article 8 of the Hamas foundational Covenant, reads: “Allah is its target, the Prophet is its model, the Koran its constitution: Jihad is its path and death for the sake of Allah is the loftiest of its wishes.”
In its past operations in Gaza, Israel has abundantly demonstrated that it knows how to hurt Hamas. The personal addresses of its leadership are no mystery in Jerusalem, and the IDF is properly considered one of the finest (and most humane) militaries in the world. After this terrible onslaught, it’s past time for Israel to vanquish its blood-stained enemies once and for all. A return to the status quo ante is no longer acceptable. Israel must not relent until it achieves the objective of pacifying Gaza so that the days of Hamas endangering Israelis and oppressing Palestinians will never return.