On October 7, Hamas launched a shockingly bold ground and air attack into Israel, plunging the region into one of the most significant escalations between these two adversaries in decades.
Hundreds of Hamas fighters crossed from the Gaza Strip into Israeli territory, targeting border posts, military installations, and even residential areas.
This act has prompted Israeli leaders to label it as an act of war and signal their intent to respond forcefully. In this special edition, we delve into three potential explanations for Hamas’ audacious actions, each contributing to its theory of victory.
Expanding the Conflict: The Axis of Resistance
One theory suggests that Hamas anticipates the conflict they initiated to draw in other Palestinian militias and even Iran’s “Axis of Resistance.” This coalition includes Hezbollah in Lebanon, Syria’s Bashar al-Assad regime, Yemen’s Houthi movement, and various militias in Bahrain, Iraq, Palestine, and Syria, all backed by Iran.
While no concrete evidence implicates non-Palestinian members of the Axis of Resistance in the current conflict, their presence in Lebanon, Syria, and the West Bank implies the potential for intervention. Encircling Israel aligns with Iran’s longstanding objective, motivating its investment in proxy and partner militias.
Hamas’ choice of the 1973 Yom Kippur War anniversary for the attack hints at their expectation of external support. This historical war involved Egypt’s surprise attack, initiating a multi-front conflict.
Learning from Iran: A Ground Offensive
Another theory revolves around Hamas emulating Iran’s strategy to weaken Israel. In August 2022, Major General Hossein Salami, the commander of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), outlined a strategy for Israel’s destruction. This plan emphasizes ground operations and urban combat by Lebanese Hezbollah and Palestinian militias within Israel.
Salami posits that such actions would displace civilians, sow chaos, and ultimately destabilize Israel. Hamas’ choice to launch a ground attack into Israel, accompanied by indiscriminate violence and the online display of atrocities, aligns with this strategy, aiming to instill fear and uncertainty among Israelis.
… Major General Hossein Salami said ….
The Palestinians have reached such an evolution in their struggle that they can target any part of the lands occupied by the Zionists.
That is, there is at no time a safety margin for the Zionist regime to claim that there is an area where Zionists can take refuge and be safe from Palestinian fire.
If we add the Lebanese Hezbollah to this equation, we realize that, for example, hundreds of thousands of rockets are deployed in front of the Zionist regime, which can be launched from the north and west into the Gaza Strip and from the north. on the part of Hezbollah, but not in a limited volume, to make all points of the Zionist regime the focus.
Today, is the production of resistance power in Lebanon and Palestine only missile warfare and missile power, or does it have other reliable characteristics and characteristics?
The Palestinian resistance and the Lebanese Hezbollah have very strong elements.
Today, the ground power in Palestine and Lebanon is the power that can completely control the equation between survival and death in a land battle.
Lebanese Hezbollah, relying on the experience, self-confidence, knowledge, skills, equipment and techniques acquired from the battle in Syria against the Takfiris, can wage a full-scale ground war with victory.
The takfiris that we all know fought truly without fear of death and fighting them is only possible for men with jihadist faith.
It is difficult to overcome them, and if someone surpasses them, it means that it is an extremely powerful force.
In the case of the Takfiris, it can be seen that Hezbollah did this and successfully emerged from that war.
Furthermore, even today the Palestinians are ready for a land battle. Israel’s main point of damage is in the land battle.
The missile battle is not the main point of the battle.
They know that the earth must be freed from earthly power. Missiles are great for deterrence and waging static warfare.
But the rocket is not the liberator of the earth, the infantry must go down to the ground and liberate the earth step by step.
Like what happened to us during the Sacred Defense. When the battle ends and the brave and experienced people of Palestine and Hezbollah move in military formation on the ground, then the outcome of the battle will be determined.
What do you know?
In the field where the geography of population, the geography of politics and the geography of militarism completely overlap.
As soon as a ground operation begins, the massive migration waves of civilians and military personnel will be confused and the balance of the Zionist command and war management system will be disintegrated.
Do not look at the fact that, since the conditions are not war, this regime’s airplanes fly regularly, transportation is not stopped, power plants and refineries are functioning, administrative order prevails, and the regime can manage the environment in calm and low tension throughout the process.
When war conditions arise, all this accommodation will be separated….
Disrupting US-Led Normalization Talks
The third theory suggests that Hamas aims to disrupt US-led negotiations to normalize ties between Israel and Saudi Arabia. The attack has once again thrust Israel-Palestine dynamics into the international spotlight, prompting a statement from the Saudi Foreign Affairs Ministry expressing support for the Palestinian cause and a two-state solution. This renewed focus could potentially complicate or even derail the normalization talks.
Hezbollah’s Quiet Invasion: Establishing a Frontline Behind Israeli Lines
Since the end of the 2006 conflict between Israel and Hezbollah, the Blue Line has remained relatively calm, masking the obsessive preparations by both sides for a future conflict that they consider inevitable. While Hezbollah has been openly establishing frontlines in south Lebanon, the Gaza Strip, and Syria to fight Israel directly and through allies, it appears to be quietly building another front behind Israeli lines, both within the country’s official boundaries and the West Bank. This article delves into the details of Hezbollah’s activities and its ambitious objectives that extend beyond periodic chaos within Israel.
Hezbollah’s Recent Provocations
Hezbollah’s recent actions have raised alarms within the Israeli security establishment. In March, Hezbollah deployed seemingly unarmed personnel, including Hamas-affiliated Palestinians, along the Israeli-Lebanese border. Subsequently, two attacks on Israel occurred, orchestrated by Hezbollah but executed at a distance to avoid immediate Israeli reprisals.
These incidents were followed by a barrage of rockets fired by Hamas from Lebanon into Israel. Hezbollah also staged a massive war game, a piece of military theater designed to make headlines and reinforce its supporters’ belief in its ability to deter and defeat Israel.
However, beneath these visible actions lies a more insidious Hezbollah initiative to establish a proxy foothold behind Israeli lines.
Hezbollah’s Long-standing Ambition
Hezbollah has harbored ambitions of establishing such a foothold for decades, dating back to Israel’s expulsion and subsequent readmission of Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad fighters to south Lebanon in 1992. These fighters became a nucleus for Hezbollah and Iran’s efforts to fight Israel from within, assisting Palestinian groups during the Second Intifada and beyond.
Hezbollah’s Infiltration and Recruitment
Over the years, Hezbollah, with the support of Iran’s Islamic Revolution Guard Corps (IRGC), has worked tirelessly to enlist Arab Israelis, Lebanese nationals, Arab citizens with foreign passports, and Palestinians to gather intelligence, recruit assets, or establish sleeper cells within Israel. The connections between Lebanese and Arab Israeli criminal networks have proven invaluable in these efforts.
A Three-fold Objective
Hezbollah’s activities are part of Iran’s regional strategy to develop domestic weapons production capabilities for its proxies. Hezbollah, with Iranian assistance, has already achieved this in south Lebanon, Yemen with the Houthis, and the Gaza Strip. They aim to replicate this outcome in the West Bank. Recent rocket launch attempts from Jenin and the discovery of launch pads and weapons laboratories in the West Bank indicate progress in this regard.
The second objective is to transform the West Bank into an “unbearable inferno and hell” for Israel, as articulated by IRGC Commander-in-Chief Hossein Salami. Hezbollah’s continuous weapons smuggling into Israel and the West Bank has intensified since 2021, coinciding with an upsurge of violence in the region.
Hezbollah and Iran have also sought to exploit tensions between Arab and Jewish Israelis to establish “the unification of the fronts.”
This strategy aims to unite Palestinians in the West Bank, Gaza, Jerusalem, and Arab Israelis in response to any Israeli attack or encroachment. Hezbollah envisions using this unity to strike Israel from within, causing chaos and instability.
Hezbollah’s Future Utility
Establishing a front within Israel and the West Bank allows Hezbollah to bleed Israel through proxies while maintaining plausible deniability. It keeps the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) engaged in combating low-level violence and increases the risk of miscalculation or overreaction, potentially igniting a new intifada. The younger generation of Palestinians, disillusioned with their leadership and negotiations, is increasingly leaning toward armed confrontation.
Hezbollah’s future utility lies in its ability to activate cells in the West Bank during a conflict, exploiting religious or nationalistic sentiments on both sides to initiate a cycle of actions and reactions. By creating disturbances on both sides of the Green Line, Hezbollah can force Israel to divert its attention from other active fronts, thereby posing a significant threat to Israel’s security.
Iran’s Strategic Calculations
Amid these theories, one must also consider Iran’s strategic calculations. While it remains unclear whether Iran directly orchestrated the Hamas attack, it could exploit Israel’s preoccupation with Gaza. This might involve moving advanced military systems into Lebanon and Syria or making significant progress in its nuclear program. While this scenario is currently less likely, it warrants attention, as it could set the stage for further escalations and geopolitical shifts.
The Evolution of Hamas’ Rockets: From Humble Beginnings to Strategic Weapons
The Al-Qassam Brigades, the armed wing of the Hamas movement, have been relentless in their efforts to develop a formidable arsenal capable of repelling frequent Israeli attacks on the Gaza Strip. Over the course of two decades, they have transformed their primitive “fireworks” rockets into strategic tools, as exemplified by the May 2021 conflict. In this detailed exploration, we will chronicle the development of Hamas’ rockets and their evolving capabilities.
The Birth of the ‘Fireworks’ Rocket (2001):
On October 26, 2001, the Al-Qassam Brigades marked a historic moment by unveiling their first rocket, commonly known as the “fireworks.” This initial rocket represented a basic attempt to develop a defense mechanism against Israeli assaults on Gaza. However, its reach was limited, with a range of only 2 to 3 kilometers and a small warhead. Despite its simplicity, the “fireworks” marked the inception of a journey towards greater capabilities.
The May 2021 Turning Point:
Fast forward to the May 2021 war, which served as a watershed moment for Hamas and their rocketry capabilities. During this conflict, Palestinians showcased their ability to transform rudimentary weapons into strategic assets against Israel, catching the attention of the international community. This evolution underscores the adaptability and determination of the Palestinian fighters.
A Multitude of Rockets:
While the exact number of rockets held by Hamas remains undisclosed, estimates suggest that their inventory comprises tens of thousands of these projectiles. Each rocket is unique in terms of range and capabilities, tailored to fulfill specific operational requirements. Let’s delve into some of the known Hamas rockets and their characteristics:
Qassam Rockets 1, 2, and 3 (2001-2005):
Range: 2-3 kilometers (Qassam 1), 9-12 kilometers (Qassam 2), 15-17 kilometers (Qassam 3).
Range: 75-80 kilometers.
S55 (Sejjil – 2014):
Range: 55 kilometers.
J90 – J80 (2014):
Range: 80 kilometers.
Notably used in the vicinity of Tel Aviv.
The R-160 Rocket
One of the most noteworthy claims made by the al-Qassam Brigades is their ability to manufacture rockets, including the R-160. This rocket is purportedly their own version of the M-302, which is a Syrian-made projectile known for its long range and destructive capabilities.
The R-160 is named after Abdel Rantisi, one of Hamas’s prominent leaders who was killed in an Israeli airstrike in 2004. It represents a symbol of defiance and resistance against Israeli forces. Hamas asserts that the R-160 is locally manufactured, showcasing their self-sufficiency and independence from external suppliers.
M302 – (2006) – 302 mm Khaibar-1 / M-302 / B-302
Range: 100 kilometers.
The Khaibar-1 rocket is an unguided artillery rocket, developed and manufactured by Syria. Reports suggest the Khaibar-1 is based heavily on the Chinese Wei Shi (WS-1) MRL system. The rocket is named after the 629 CE Battle of Khaibar, fought between early Muslims and resident Jews.
The Khaibar-1 has a range of 100 km while carrying a 150 kg payload. It is typically equipped with large, anti-personnel warheads. The rocket has a length of 6.3 m, a body diameter of 0.302 m, and a launch weight of approximately 750 kg.
The launcher features two layers of three firing tubes each.
The Khaibar-1 is unguided but more accurate than most indigenous Hezbollah/Hamas rockets, and can be stored more easily due to increased durability. However, the rocket does not spin like the Fajr-5, and is therefore likely less accurate.35
The Khaibar-1 was first fired by Hezbollah on July 28, 2006, striking the city of Afula. Subsequent targets included Haifa, Hadera, and areas in the northern West Bank.
Range: 160 kilometers.
The first to reach the city of Haifa.
A120 (May 2021):
Range: 120 kilometers.
Features an explosive warhead with high destructive capacity.
SH85 (Ayyash 250 – May 2021):
Range: 220 kilometers.
First deployed on May 13, 2021, with an extended range, demonstrating Hamas’ growing capabilities.
Hamas’ surprise attack on Israel raises numerous questions about its underlying motives and its vision of victory. Whether Hamas aims to expand the conflict, emulate Iran’s strategy, or disrupt normalization talks, one thing is certain: the consequences of this escalation extend beyond the immediate area in which it occurred.
With Iran and its partners potentially seeking to exploit the crisis, the United States and its allies must remain vigilant and avoid tunnel vision on Gaza. This event underscores the broader context of Iran’s offensive strategy in the Middle East, adding to the complexities of an already volatile region.