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OpinionIsrael at War

Hamas overplayed their hand

The group hoped to lure Israel into a trap, instead it united the world behind the Jewish state.

Israel Defense Forces reserve infantry and Merkava tank soldiers train in a military exercise in the Golan Heights on Oct. 23, 2023. Photo by Michael Giladi/Flash90.
Israel Defense Forces reserve infantry and Merkava tank soldiers train in a military exercise in the Golan Heights on Oct. 23, 2023. Photo by Michael Giladi/Flash90.
Enia Krivine
Enia Krivine is the senior director of the Israel Program and the FDD National Security Network at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies. Follow Enia on Twitter @EKrivine.

Israel massively misjudged Hamas, resulting in the brutal murder of more than 1,400 people in souther Israel with thousands wounded. But Hamas also gravely miscalculated. It underestimated Western outrage at the atrocities committed by the Iran-backed terror group, as well as Israel’s capacity for disciplined restraint, striking back at a time of its choosing rather than rushing into Gaza half-cocked.

On Oct. 7, Hamas instructed over 1,500 terrorists to penetrate Israeli communities and commit massacres. The orders included beheading, dismembering, rape and torture. They offered generous incentives for bringing hostages back to Gaza. The successful Hamas infiltration was the result of a winning Hamas disinformation campaign, a staggering intelligence failure on the part of Israel and a deadly misjudgment by Israel’s national security leaders.

But Hamas’s unhinged and repulsive bloodletting resulted in a remarkable embrace of Israel by world leaders. This could not have been anticipated by Hamas, which is accustomed to seeing the Jewish state immediately condemned when Israel retaliates against terrorists embedded in civilian infrastructure. Hamas gravely misunderstood the consequences of its actions this time. Its members have exposed themselves as genocidal despots, willing to risk the lives of countless Gazans in order to murder Jews.

Since the massacres of Oct. 7, Jerusalem has enjoyed a rare display of support from the international community, welcoming solidarity visits from U.S. President Joe Biden, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak and French President Emmanuel Macron.

Biden voiced support for eliminating Hamas, describing its crimes as “pure, unadulterated evil.” Despite the reports of mounting casualties in Gaza, Macron offered French support for an international coalition to fight Hamas. Scholz stated that Hamas bears the responsibility for the suffering of Gazans. In a joint statement with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Sunak said that Britain wanted Israel “to win.”

It seems that world leaders, repulsed by Hamas’s acts of barbarism and shocked by the audacity of the group’s deranged attempts to repeatedly deny killing Israeli civilians despite the overwhelming body of evidence, have coalesced around Israel’s mission of destroying Hamas.

Hamas may have elicited support on the Arab street and on many college campuses in the West, but a consensus has emerged among the leaders of Western civilization that Hamas must go.

The Israel Defense Forces has come to the same conclusion. It has taken control of the battlefield and will decide the next move. The Hamas terrorists attempted to goad Israel into an impulsive invasion by gleefully sharing hours of footage of its heinous crimes on social media. Broadcasting these messages was a psychological warfare tactic, intended to torment the people of Israel. Hamas likely assumed that Israel would immediately respond with a ground invasion. It hoped to lure the IDF into a deadly trap that would leave Israel exposed on other fronts. But Hamas failed in this objective and in many ways it backfired.

Contrary to Hamas’s hopes, the IDF has not rushed in. Despite some 200 hostages being held in Gaza, including up to 30 children, the IDF has not attempted a ground invasion nor a daring rescue like the storied Entebbe raid of July 1976. Instead, the IDF called up 300,000 reservists within 48 hours and told them to remain in place. Understanding that this was likely a trap, planned with Hezbollah and rubberstamped by the regime in Tehran, Israel is doing a careful evaluation of all its regional adversaries. 

Almost three weeks into the war, the IDF has struck thousands of targets in Gaza from the air and sea and sent in small sorties for reconnaissance and intel gathering. Israel has conducted interrogations of captured terrorists and built a database of intelligence based on weapons and documents retrieved from the terrorists. All of this intel will inform a ground invasion at the time of Israel’s choosing.

Untold numbers of IDF troops are still on the Gaza border, training and awaiting their orders. This pregnant pause was unexpected but hopefully points to Israel preparing to make its first move in a very perilous game of chess. Whatever happens next, Hamas has failed to achieve any strategic gains by killing 1,400 Israelis. Instead, it has guaranteed devastation for the people of Gaza. With the support of the international community, the IDF will now dismantle Hamas and hunt down its leadership overseas, one by one.

The opinions and facts presented in this article are those of the author, and neither JNS nor its partners assume any responsibility for them.
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