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Israel-Gaza 2023 conflict: surprise Hamas attack and its geopolitical implications

Postado as 11/10/2023 09:04:19

Por Lucas George Wendt

The armed Islamic group Hamas surprised Israel Saturday morning (October 7th), with a surprise attack that stands out as one of the most significant experienced by the country in recent years. By claiming this offensive, Hamas announced the start of an operation with the aim of recovering the territory.

The long-running and complex conflict between Israel and Palestine, which combines political and religious elements, has spanned decades, resulting in large numbers of fatalities and injuries on both sides. In this text, you will find details about current events and the background to this conflict, which remains one of the most challenging and enduring issues in contemporary geopolitics.

Hamas, Israel, Gaza: another chapter in the Israeli-Arab conflicts in 2023

By Mateus Dalmáz, PhD in History, professor of Applied Human and Social Sciences courses at Univates

Hamas' offensive on Israeli territory from Gaza provoked a series of questions regarding the international actors involved in the episode and the motivations for it to occur. Four basic questions seem important to be answered and guide the path of this text.

After all, who is Hamas?

The acronym “Hamas” stands for “Islamic Resistance Movement”. This is a Palestinian Sunni group, created in 1987, which operates in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank and which defends three precepts: promoting Islam, practicing charity and fighting against Israel. Since 2007, it has governed the Gaza Strip, while the Palestinian Authority controls the West Bank. Hamas does not recognize Israel's territorial sovereignty and fights for the creation of a Palestinian state covering all regions: Gaza, the West Bank, Israel and especially Jerusalem.

Why did Hamas attack Israel?

Because the disagreement with the process of normalizing relations between Israel and Saudi Arabia, whose dialogue, promoted by the United States, a traditional ally of the Israelis, could make Riyadh recognize the legitimacy of the Tel Aviv government in the region. The Hamas attack is a demonstration that rapprochement with Israel does not represent the Palestinian group's point of view and that dialogue between Arabs and Israelis in the Middle East is not the policy proposed by Hamas for the creation of Palestine. There is, therefore, an interest in resuming the pro-Palestinian radicalism of Fatah, a group that, in the past, led by Yasser Arafat, had maintained a strongly anti-Israel stance and that, over time, made relations with the Israelis more flexible and which, therefore, began to be opposed by Hamas. Hamas leaders also have personal motivations for radicalizing relations with Israel. This is the case of Yahya al-Sinwar, head of the group, and Mohammed Deif, military commander, who suffered imprisonment and the loss of family members in the historic conflicts against the Israelis.

Who supports Hamas?

Hamas' offensive was surprising due to its organization and the military material used. There were thousands of missiles in a short space of time. This aspect raises hypotheses about aid offered by different allies, including: Hezbollah, a Lebanese Shiite Islamic fundamentalist movement, which has officially expressed support for Hamas' attacks; Iran, a Shiite republic that has maintained a radical anti-Israeli policy since the Iranian revolution of 1979, and which supplies resources and weapons to Hamas; Qatar, a Sunni monarchy that invests in infrastructure in the Gaza Strip and also supplies Hamas with military material.

Why did the creation of the State of Israel change the geopolitics of the Middle East?

With the decision of the United Nations (UN) to create the State of Israel in 1948, three historical processes began to unfold in the region: first, the escalation of conflicts and arms race between Arab countries and Israel for political hegemony, military and economic in the Middle East; second, the rapprochement between the United States and Israel, since the Americans saw the Tel Aviv government as a strategic ally to dissuade and suppress actions by Arab states to control the region, especially oil; third; the tension surrounding the creation of the State of Palestine, as the international community progressively converged on the idea of reuniting the Palestinians in an independent State, something strongly rejected by Tel Aviv.

It is worth remembering that Israel went to war against Egypt and Jordan due to the creation of the State of Israel (1948); against Egypt and alongside Great Britain and France over the Suez Canal (1956); against Egypt, Jordan and Syria, in the “Six Day War” (1967); and again against Egypt and Syria in their attack on Israel on Yom Kippur (1973). Especially since the Six-Day War, the United States promoted a partnership with Israel in the military, technological and strategic spheres, which caused the defense forces of both to develop, intensifying competition for armaments in the Middle East, which comes feeding the arms industry ever since.

The creation of the State of Palestine and the normalization of relations between Israel and Islamic countries is something that cannot be imagined to happen in any period other than the long term. In the very short term, we are certain that Israel will once again have an energetic and violent reaction as a way of demonstrating power and sovereignty in the region. And it will count on American support (hard power) and Western sympathy (soft power) on the issue.

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