Global Affairs October 8, 2023 by

Raffaele Petroni

The operation Al-Aqsa Storm and the repercussions on Israel and the Middle East

The surprise attack of Hamas on Israeli soil at dawn of October 7th that has allowed the terror militants to have control of some parts of Israeli territory for more than 24 hours and caused hundreds of dead and several dozens of hostages taken captive to the Gaza Strip has raised questions about the failure of the Israeli security apparatus. The operation has been called Al-Aqsa Storm by Mohammed Deif, the head of the military wing of Hamas, and some commentators have even defined the events as the 9/11 of Israel.

The techniques and technology used by Hamas show how this type of attack is the consequence of a long and expensive preparation, but also that technology cannot prevent everything and the human factor always plays the most crucial role. However, the limited information currently available do not allow to jump to final conclusions. What can be expected is that a thorough internal investigation will be conducted in Israel to understand what has not worked.

The elements that transpire through the social media of Hamas and its militants show that the preparation of the operation have followed the path of ISIS and Al-Qaeda in the past: the videos that have been mounted and uploaded have the type of songs in the background that aim to recruit new militants. In the first hours of the attack, Hamas has invited the Arab Israeli population to join the battle against Israel. Some of the videos of hostages available on internet show an Israeli child kidnapped and brought to the Strip that is being poked with a stick by some Palestinian children, who probably have never seen an Israeli child before, and refer to him not as the Israeli but as “the Jew”. The use of this label is peculiar as it brings to mind the call of Al-Qaeda and ISIS to fight against the infidels. 

Some reports speak about dormant terror cells hiding throughout the Israeli territory. These reports have not been officially confirmed, however, the way alerts have been raised throughout the territory leads to the conclusion that it is an option that is not being discarded by Israeli authorities. 

Similarly to what the leaders of Al-Qaeda did in the past, the leader of Hamas in the Gaza Strip, Mohammed Deif, is hiding and not making known his current face. He is thought to be in his early fifties, however, no recent picture is available. 

The questions that are currently being asked is what will happen now. Israel is expected to intervene by land and enter the Gaza Strip, hitting in an unprecedented way Hamas’ strongholds. However, how will the issue of hostages affect the operation? While no answers can currently be given on this aspect, Israel is expected to operate in a more clinical manner.

Other questions concern the way the international community will respond to this new crisis. Iran, just as Hezbollah, have shown support to the operation. In the specific case, Iran is thought to have played a crucial role in the operation through a cyber attack on the areas surrounding the Gaza Strip that have caused a temporary isolation, therefore slowing the Israeli response. 

Will Hezbollah join the fight and attack Israel from the north? Despite the launch of rockets from Hezbollah into Israeli territory and the quick response of the Israeli Defence Forces that have taken place on Sunday, October 8th, currently it does not seem that Hezbollah wants to join the fight. However, the situation is so volatile that things can change anytime. 

If Hamas operation is successful in the long term, will other groups, and particularly the Palestinian militants in the West Bank, attempt to follow the example of the Gaza Strip based militants? Answers cannot be given at the moment. However, this crisis is expected to be long and tortious. 

Other questions concern how Egypt, Qatar, and Turkey can be mediators between the parties. Particularly, Qatar sends money to Hamas in the Gaza Strip for the day-to-day services to the population. This has been taking place over time with the approval of Israel and the US administrations. Could then Qatar, which hosts former heads of Hamas like Ismail Haniyeh, be asked to dose its transfers based on how Hamas will deal will the hostages and be willing to negotiate? Also, most of the Western international community has shown support for Israel’s rights to exist and defend itself: will this support last throughout the land operation that Israel will conduct and that will inevitably cause civilian casualties among the Palestinian in the Gaza Strip? Even in this case, these questions cannot have an answer at the moment.

In conclusion, the situation is only at the beginning and in constant evolution. The implications are not known yet. However, working on worst case scenarios, the repercussions of this crisis can lead to an extension of the crisis well beyond the borders of the Gaza Strip, Israel and the West Bank. 

In a region that is a continuing powder keg ready to explode, any crisis can be a new trigger. The actors of this crisis are not only Israel and Hamas, but current information available lead to conclude they can be found well beyond their territorial borders.

About the author

Raffaele Petroni

Raffaele Petroni