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analysisIsrael at War

Eliminating Hamas: Obstacles and opportunity

Israel will find it challenging to eliminate Hamas completely, but it can, through an extensive military operation, assassination of its military leadership, and destruction of the military infrastructure in the Gaza Strip.

Israeli forces at a staging area near the Israel-Gaza border, Oct. 14, 2023. Photo by Erik Marmor/Flash90.
Israeli forces at a staging area near the Israel-Gaza border, Oct. 14, 2023. Photo by Erik Marmor/Flash90.
Yoni Ben Menachem
Yoni Ben Menachem, a veteran Arab affairs and diplomatic commentator for Israel Radio and Television, is a senior Middle East analyst for the Jerusalem Center. He served as director general and chief editor of the Israel Broadcasting Authority.

Senior Israeli political and military officials have made various statements to the media following Hamas’s deadly Oct. 7 attack, including promises to eliminate the terror organization via a ground offensive in the Gaza Strip.

But is this task indeed possible? Can the Israel Defense Forces fulfill this mission?

Hamas is a brutal terrorist organization. U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, who served as commander of the U.S. Army’s Central Command and was responsible for the war against Islamic State, told Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu on Oct. 13 that “Hamas is a much worse organization than the ISIS organization.”

However, in 2006, Hamas won the Palestinian Legislative Council (parliament) elections.

Although a Sunni organization, it receives large sums of money, as well as a great deal of weaponry, from Shi’ite Iran.

Since Israel’s “Operation Guardian of the Walls” in May 2021, Hamas’s popularity on the Palestinian street has dramatically increased; it has positioned itself as the “defender of the Al-Aqsa Mosque.”

Israel will have difficulty uprooting Hamas, which is deeply rooted in Palestinian society. Still, the IDF can eliminate its military leadership in the Gaza Strip, as well as its military infrastructure, such as its tunnel system, rocket depots, weapons factories, drone systems and more.

Steps Israel should take

Breaking the military power of Hamas in the Gaza Strip is possible, but will require an extensive and complex military operation throughout the entire enclave.

At the same time, Israel should take a series of additional steps to weaken the power of the Hamas organization.

  1. Launching an extensive international campaign demanding that Qatar expel the Hamas leadership from its capital, Doha, where they reside.
  2. The elimination of Hamas’s leadership abroad. Israel’s Mossad intelligence agency should pursue and eliminate the leaders of Hamas worldwide, as it did with the “Black September” organization that massacred Israeli athletes at the Munich Olympics in 1972.
  3. Israel should arrest all Hamas leaders in Judea and Samaria.
  4. Israel must demand from Turkey the closure of the offices of the Hamas military branch in Istanbul that directs the terrorism in Judea and Samaria.

After Hamas’s latest atrocity, Israel received from the United States and other countries in the West extensive freedom of action against the terrorist organization, on the condition that it heeds international law and avoids harming innocent Palestinians. The IDF must proceed with its mission carefully.

Israel should focus on hitting military targets only and eliminating the leadership of Hamas in the Gaza Strip, who are currently hiding in bunkers and tunnels.

Israel is in a race against time, and its window of opportunity may close quickly if it makes mistakes. One errant bomb could end its noble mission to root out evil.

Originally published by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs.

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