One month later: How Gaza war has reshaped reality for Israelis, Palestinians as threat of WWIII looms
The article discusses the aftermath of the October 7 Hamas attacks and Israel's retaliatory war in Gaza, highlighting the resulting civilian casualties, regional tensions, and fears of a broader conflict involving Iran, Hezbollah, and the potential for escalation.
On October 6, 2023, as Jews around the world celebrated the holiday of Simchat Torah, a day of joy and festivity, Palestinian terror outfit Hamas were secretly plotting a sinister and deadly massacre. On the morning of October 7, Hamas launched 5,000 rockets in 20 minutes, overwhelming Israel's Iron Dome air defence system and its operatives stormed across from Gaza and struck kibbutzim and southern Israeli areas, brutally killing 1,400 civilians. Among the victims were primarily 270 young individuals attending a music festival, along with several hundred others. Israel, once highly regarded for its military and intelligence capabilities, faced a drastic blow to its reputation following the attacks and was deeply scarred as graphic images of charred and mutilated bodies drew parallels to the Holocaust's horrors. Meanwhile, the abduction of over 240 individuals by Hamas terrorists continues to provoke political and emotional unrest.
Israel swiftly responded by launching airstrikes on Gaza, while its forces engaged in combat with Hamas fighters who remained within the country's borders. On October 8, Israel formally declared war on the Palestinian terrorist group, positioning tanks and personnel carriers near the border in preparation for a significant military operation. What followed was a brutal war between Israel and Hamas, which have been marred by apprehensions about the conflict, leading to speculation of World War III.
One month following the barbaric Hamas attacks, both Palestinians and Israelis have had their lives dramatically disrupted due to Israel's retaliatory war in the Gaza Strip. Presently, the Jewish nation faces growing isolation, with even its prominent ally, the United States, advocating for a "humanitarian pause." Pressure for a ceasefire is mounting, yet Jerusalem remains resolute, refusing to yield to these calls.
Gaza, a densely populated territory of 2.4 million inhabitants, has turned into an apocalyptic battlefield due to a combination of airstrikes and ground offensives initiated by Israel, with the declared objective of eliminating Hamas. According to the health ministry in Gaza, which is under Hamas control, the death toll has exceeded 10,000 people, with a significant majority being women and children, indicating a high civilian casualty rate. Meanwhile, although Hamas released four hostages for 'humanitarian reasons', concerns grow over the lives and safety of the 240 others still in the Palestinian terrorist group's captivity.
Al Quds, the most widely circulated Palestinian newspaper, lamented, "Gaza has tragically transformed into a resting place for numerous innocent individuals." Meanwhile, this week, the left-leaning Israeli publication Haaretz conveyed the surreal nature of the situation, stating, "It feels like we need to pinch ourselves to accept this new reality."
The war has ushered in comprehensive change, affecting both loss of life and physical damage, generating widespread anxiety, reshaping the national agenda, and overturning long-established political norms from various angles.
A dire humanitarian crisis persists in Gaza, where the region has depleted its clean water supply, and stocks of essential food and medication have dwindled due to Israel's interruption of supplies. After a prolonged period, the initial humanitarian aid trucks accessed Gaza through the Rafah border crossing with Egypt on October 21. By November 3, over 370 trucks had entered to provide vital assistance.
Egypt initiated the opening of the Rafah border crossing on November 1. As a result, several wounded Palestinians and hundreds of individuals with dual nationalities or foreigners departed from the enclave. Egypt stated its commitment to assisting in the evacuation of "approximately 7,000" foreign nationals and individuals holding dual citizenship.
However, concerns have grown regarding the potential for a broader regional conflict. Iran, an ally of both Hamas in Gaza and Hezbollah in Lebanon, has issued warnings that the situation could spiral "out of control," transforming the Middle East into a highly volatile "powder keg."
A spokesperson from the Pentagon expressed the United States' apprehension, stating, "We are deeply concerned about the escalation of threats from Iran's network, which could lead to miscalculations and push the region closer to a full-scale war." The US has deployed military advisers to Israel, and two American carrier groups have been positioned in the eastern Mediterranean. Additionally, the Israeli army remains on high alert along its northern border with Lebanon.
Ending a month-long silence on Friday, Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah declared that "all options" were on the table for potentially escalating the conflict along the Lebanese-Israeli border, simultaneously placing blame on the United States for the ongoing war.
Pentagon spokesperson Brigadier General Patrick Ryder expressed his belief that Hezbollah was unlikely to intensify the fighting, stating to the BBC that "the risk of a broader regional conflict has been deterred." Nonetheless, Avi Melamed, an Israeli expert in Middle East affairs, issued a warning, saying, "Hezbollah has the potential to ignite the entire region." He emphasized their military capability, which surpasses that of the Hamas group tenfold, posing a significant threat to the state of Israel.
The Israeli military has expressed readiness to address any potential escalation in the West Bank, which has been under Israeli occupation since 1967 and has witnessed heightened violence since the outbreak of the Gaza conflict. Israel PM Benjamin Netanyahu refuses to budge as he continues to reject calls for a ceasefire, equating it to surrendering to Hamas. On the other side, Hamas spokesperson Abu Obeida vowed Gaza would become a grave for the enemy. For several Gaza residents, who experienced the creation of Israel in 1948, fear remains the ongoing violence could lead to another significant exodus, akin to the mass displacement following the first Arab-Israeli war, known as the Nakba.
Claude Klein, a former dean at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem, expressed skepticism about the prospects for a peaceful resolution, citing the strengthening stance in Israel claiming there are no viable partners for peace. Former Palestinian minister Ghassan Khatib, teaching at Bir Zeit University, highlighted how radicalization on both sides has exacerbated the conflict, fostering deep skepticism about the plausibility of a peaceful solution.
As of November 6, the Israeli military declared that it has partitioned the besieged coastal strip into two distinct sections. Rear Adm. Daniel Hagari informed reporters, stating, "Today, there exists both north Gaza and south Gaza." He further indicated that Israel "will persist with robust attacks and escalate our ground operation within the northern Gaza Strip and the broader Gaza City area."
According to the the Israel Defense Forces (IDF), they did not choose this war, but they are determined to win it, not just for Israel, but for the cause of peace in the region. Meanwhile, Hamas has emphasised their unyielding resolve to defend their homeland and warned Israel that they will repeat October 7-like massacre multiple times until Israel is annihilated.