Israel is currently facing its biggest security challenge since the Yom Kippur War. Ironically, on the 50th anniversary of the war, Hamas and various Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) Iranian-linked groups conducted a bold, brutal, and calculated terrorist attack against Israel’s southern regions.
The attacks’ death toll is staggering, with hundreds killed, most civilians. Thousands of rockets were launched in one day, and several potential fronts could open against Israel.
Akin to the 1948, 1967, and 1973 war, Israel is now in an existential moment. Along with a declaration of war not seen in 50 years, Israeli intelligence services will question how Iranian-affiliated groups were able to conduct the most sophisticated terror operation the world has seen since the 9/11 attacks.
The Ongoing Massacres
On October 7th, Hamas, using various methods such as paragliding and hitting critical points of the Israeli border, stormed the Israeli city of Sderot and other villages, massacring every civilian they could find. As of writing this article, Israel’s ministry has confirmed at least the deaths of at least 700 citizens, the overwhelming majority being civilians.
Hundreds of Hamas reinforcements poured into the country, capturing an abundance of Israeli Defense Forces hardware and taking an abundance of civilian and military hostages. Some women have been filmed naked and paraded around, while others show signs of sexual assault.
Despite the counterattacks on Gaza and other fronts in Lebanon and Syria, some militants still hold key points in Israel proper. All available reserves have been mobilized, including those who initially participated in the judicial reform protests.
An Attack Like This Takes Several Months to Plan
The infiltration of Israel by IRGC-backed groups is by far the most sophisticated caught-off-guard operation the world has seen since the September 11th attacks—eclipsing ISIS’ surprise offensive on Mosul in 2014. To bolster militants along the borders and coordinate processes with other affiliated groups, it would have to take several months, if not a year, to prepare for such a brazen attack.
Iranian-affiliated groups, such as Hamas, Hezbollah, Islamic Jihad, and other paramilitaries, have felt encouraged by the lukewarm policies of the United States, which has more heavily focused on Eastern Europe and East Asia. The JCPOA extension and maritime border dispute with Lebanon arguably gave the militant groups new life, which the Biden administration has come under scrutiny for.
During the judicial reforms protests, Israel’s defense minister, Gallant, stated his country was wide open to attack and faced a security situation that their enemies could exploit. Indeed, the IRGC-linked groups did use the months of protests and lack of reserves as most of the country had weekly demonstrations against the increasingly authoritarian government of Prime Minister Netanyahu.
Potential Support Outside Iran
For such sophisticated and complex terror operations, the Palestinian militants have received support outside Iran’s Quds Force and intelligence apparatus.
In the backdrop of its 2015 intervention in Syria, Russia has become increasingly close with Iran. Israel, which has cordial relations with the Kremlin, attempted to keep a power balance between striking Iranian and Hezbollah targets. Still, they are not arming Ukraine for fear Russia would send weapons to IRGC-backed organizations.
Though attempting to appease Moscow, there are signs Russia has increased cooperation with Iran, which includes armed drone procurements, transfer of warplanes, and potential help on the Iranian nuclear program. Iran, currently under a United Nations weapons embargo set to expire, has benefitted from the Russian partnership. It wouldn’t have sold Shahid drones at much international condemnation unless they received reciprocal help from the Kremlin.
Kremlin propagandists see the ongoing fighting as beneficial to Russia as the United States, and most of the world’s attention is focused on Israel—especially as military aid to Ukraine has come at a political gridlock in US Congress with the House Speaker currently vacated.
Turkey is another country that could potentially be involved. President Erdogan has heightened rhetoric against Israel, and the Turkish Republic is increasingly close with Qatar. This country actively funds militant groups that fight Israel and, at times, US forces such as the Taliban. Both Turkey and Qatar currently shelter Hamas’ leadership in their respective countries.
Ankara has taken slightly to lifting the Cypriot arms embargo by the US. Nicosia has grown relations with Tel Aviv, including the Merkava tank purchase and EastMed cooperation. Erdogan condemned plans for the new Indian trade route to the European Union, including ports in Israel and Greece—two of Turkey’s most significant regional rivals.
A degradation and destruction of the Israeli port if the war escalates out of control would benefit the Islamic Republic and Turkey in their plans to subvert India’s growing soft power in the region.
There is also another major factor of rogue elements of Middle East and North African intelligence agencies that could’ve possibly colluded with the IRGC against Israel. Israel and Saudi Arabia were near a breakthrough landmark peace agreement, which would’ve excluded many issues relating to Palestine.
The ongoing war and massacres could be an attempt by various MENA nations that don’t want the peace deal to commence. With Saudi Arabia being the most influential Muslim country, anti-Israel groups know there would be a domino effect of other Islamic nations making peace with the Jewish state.
What Israel’s Retaliation Could Look Like
Though a military response will be swift and deadly, it’ll be the more covert operations to look out for. Hamas’ leadership currently resides in Qatar, Turkey, and Iran. Hezbollah is stretched out along the Lebanese-Syrian-Iraqi-Iranian corridor.
Israeli external intelligence agencies such as Mossad will attempt to clean houses throughout the region to liquidate all those implicated in the surprise attacks. Israeli officials have conducted prior operations against fugitive Nazis post-WWII and Palestinian militants after the Munich Massacre in 1972.
There is a chance IRGC supporters will attempt to globalize attacks against Jews, as seen with the deadly shooting of Israelis in Egypt by a rogue policeman. If global attacks against Jews and Israeli citizens were to occur throughout the region and even in Western countries, a brutal vengeance operation by Mossad would also drag in other intelligence agencies to try to dissuade escalation, as seen with the US with Ukrainian military intelligence.
A Painful Lesson Learned
The attacks by the IRGC umbrella structure are a painful lesson for Israeli society regarding complacency and a lack of unity. Though the protests against Netanyahu are a righteous cause, they also put Israeli security at risk with a lack of reserves, as noted by their defense minister earlier this year.
Netanyahu’s policies and coalition with Ben Gvir also exacerbated the regional conflict, but the IRGC’s growing presence in the West Bank and Gaza also lit fire to the gasoline.
The Israeli government will review the attempt to maintain a power balance with countries such as Turkey and Russia, as Turkey shelters Hamas leadership while simultaneously making threats against Israel. Russia, which firmly controls Iran as a vassal, could’ve also warned the Mullahs but instead continue to encourage them as Putin runs an increasingly rogue regime that now actively colludes with North Korea, the Mullahs, and the Taliban.
Likewise, a further drift in Israeli-American relations could occur if they aren’t swiftly mended. For the past couple of years, Israel felt restrained by the current administration’s policies of attempting to keep a peace deal with Iran that never had a proper end tunnel. Because of this, Tel Aviv will be more likely to conduct operations without informing Washington in the future if the former thinks their national security is in jeopardy due to Western indecision.
The well-coordinated attack is not only haunting Israel but the entire world. In the age of growing intelligence capabilities and decades of fighting terror organizations, militants, with covert backing, can still inflict a vast loss of life, and because of this, the international intelligence apparatus will continue to go through an overhaul to reassess capabilities.