On October 7, 2023, a sudden cross-border assault from Gaza orchestrated by Hamas terrorists set off a chain of violent confrontations between Israel and the Palestinian militant group. This offensive, which Hamas dubbed “Al-Aqsa Storm,” was an unprecedented move, displaying new tactics and a level of violence not seen since the 1948 Arab-Israeli war. Over 1,400 men, women, and children died, and hundreds were taken hostage as militants infiltrated deep into Israeli territory, igniting widespread shock and fear.

map of hostilities
Map used with permission from The Institute for the Study of War.

Swords of Iron

In the immediate aftermath, Israel retaliated by initiating “Operation Swords of Iron,” targeting Hamas and Islamic Jihad positions within Gaza through intensive air strikes. This military response, accompanied by the mobilization of 300,000 reservists, inflicted heavy casualties, with more than 7,300 reported dead and 18,500 injured, according to Palestinian health authorities. As always, take these figures with a grain of salt, as Hamas ultimately controls all information coming out of Gaza.

The crisis escalated further when the Israeli military commenced ground operations in the northern sector of the Gaza Strip. While the full extent of this ground offensive remains unclear, it signifies a pivotal escalation in a region already devastated by prior conflicts. As the fighting intensifies, civilians trapped within the enclave face dire humanitarian conditions, compounded by the blockade that has choked supply lines of essential resources like water and fuel.
The situation for civilians in Gaza is rapidly deteriorating. The sole power plant has ceased operations, and medical facilities are on the brink of collapse, a grim reality highlighted by the International Committee of the Red Cross. The blockade, enforced by Israel and Egypt since Hamas’ takeover in 2007, continues to exacerbate the humanitarian crisis. Despite the desperate circumstances, only a trickle of aid has been allowed through the Rafah crossing, the enclave’s sole link to the outside world. Hamas will ultimately decide what to do with the aid: give it to civilians as intended or use it to fortify their warfighters.

Crux Provides Video of the Conflict

Will Hamas be Annihilated?

At the heart of the conflict lies Hamas, an Islamist faction birthed from the Muslim Brotherhood in 1987. It views Israel as an occupying force and seeks to liberate Palestinian territories. The group’s refusal to engage in meaningful talks with Israel, coupled with its designated terrorist status by several nations, has led to a complex and volatile political landscape. The PIJ, an ally of Hamas and another offshoot of the Muslim Brotherhood, also plays a part in the ongoing violence.

The roots of the hostility trace back to decades of tension between Israelis and Palestinians, with the situation further strained by recent events in the West Bank and potential repercussions extending across the broader Middle East region. The involvement of Iran and Hezbollah in supporting Hamas raises concerns of a larger regional conflict, as exchanges of fire between Hezbollah and Israel near the Lebanese border have already commenced.

As the situation unfolds, the impact of this recent outbreak of violence continues to reverberate through the region, prompting international apprehension over the potential for a broader Middle East conflict. Amidst the ongoing strife, the dire humanitarian conditions in Gaza and the escalating military actions underscore the urgent need for a peaceful resolution to prevent further loss of life and regional destabilization.