analysisIsrael at War

‘To do to Hamas what was done to ISIS’

Former Israeli national security adviser: We are towards the end of the beginning; This is a war against an enemy state called Hamastan.

Israeli soldiers at a staging area near the Israeli border with Gaza, Oct. 14, 2023. Photo by Erik Marmor/Flash90.
Israeli soldiers at a staging area near the Israeli border with Gaza, Oct. 14, 2023. Photo by Erik Marmor/Flash90.
Yaakov Lappin
Yaakov Lappin
Yaakov Lappin is an Israel-based military affairs correspondent and analyst. He is the in-house analyst at the Miryam Institute; a research associate at the Alma Research and Education Center; and a research associate at the Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies at Bar-Ilan University. He is a frequent guest commentator on international television news networks, including Sky News and i24 News. Lappin is the author of Virtual Caliphate: Exposing the Islamist State on the Internet. Follow him at: www.patreon.com/yaakovlappin.

Israel’s goal is to destroy the Hamas organization in Gaza just as an international coalition destroyed Islamic State’s caliphate in the Middle East, former Israeli National Security Adviser Maj. Gen. (res.) Yaakov Amidror said on Saturday, describing Gaza as “Hamastan, an enemy state.”

Amidror, a former head of the Research Department in the IDF’s Military Intelligence Directorate, stated, “We are now towards the end of the beginning. The first stage was to clean the area within Israel, communities and military headquarters and posts that Hamas succeeded to invade. We understand there was a huge failure of the system, intelligence and operational. But we decided not to allocate any energy time to investigate the past—that will come an hour after the war.”

Amidror said that between midnight and 4 a.m. on Oct. 7, the day Hamas murdered more than 1,300 Israelis, “there were discussions in the [security] system about signs they saw in the intelligence, but they decided not to do anything on the ground and not to report to the defense minister or prime minister.”

Looking ahead, Amidror stated, “This is a very challenging war that we are in now. And it will be more challenging in a few days when the decision to invade with ground forces is taken. If you want to achieve the goal of the [war] Cabinet, to destroy Hamas, that can be done only if we invade Gaza with ground forces. It is not going to be an easy war; it will be an urban war, which is known to be challenging. Here Hamas had time to prepare itself.”

Targets will include Hamas’s network of underground tunnels, which crisscrosses the Strip, stretching for thousands of kilometers, he assessed. 

“We have to identify, find entrances, and find a way to neutralize the tunnels and the Hamas members inside. The decision here is to do to Hamas what was done to Al Qaeda and ISIS, meaning we will run after them, bring justice to them and kill them one by one, even if it takes six months or more,” said Amidror. After this war, he continued, “Hamas will not exist as a military organization.”

Regarding what will happen afterwards in Gaza, Amidror said, “We don’t have good answers yet. But we made a mistake by taking responsibility for Gaza’s humanitarian needs. It’s an enemy state. When Europe gives weapons to Ukraine to bomb Russia, no one is asking about humanitarian needs in Russian cities. Nor did Americans do this in Fallujah. In World War Two no one asked about humanitarian needs of the adversaries. It’s a war against an enemy state called Hamastan, or Gaza.”

Looking to the north, Amidror said that Israel has moved very large reserve forces to the Lebanese border. 

“We have strong capability, unlike in the past, so many soldiers near the border with Lebanon. The air force is movable in minutes. It is not easy to deal with two fronts at the same time but it is something the IDF can do. It might make war in Gaza longer than we expect. We will be very aggressive; when we are in a war, we are in a war,” he said.

With regard to Iran, Amidror said, “[United States President Joe] Biden’s strong words regarding interference by Iran are also very important. The Iranian foreign minister met [Hezbollah leader Hassan] Nasrallah in Beirut [in recent months]. The Iranians have to make decisions, [whether to] confront us and the Americans—they understand [the repercussions].”

The Iranians, he continued, “are ready to sacrifice as many Arabs as needed. If Hezbollah loses 10,000, for the Iranians it’s OK.” However, he continued, “They know that to bring the war to Tehran is not wise for the dictatorship in Iran. They know we have capabilities to reach Iran.”

Iran, he continued, has “built around Israel a ring of fire, based on Hezbollah, Hamas and Islamic Jihad, and an independent Iranian controlled capability in Syria, though here the success was very limited since we are bombing all these efforts.” 

Iran’s goal is to keep Israel occupied with conflicts on its borders, but should Iran involve itself directly, it will see the results in Tehran, Amidror cautioned.  

“There is coordination between Hezbollah and Iran, Iran is very involved in Hezbollah decision making,” he said. The situation with Hamas is different, he said, as while Iran has influence on Hamas, it is not part of its decision-making process.

 Earlier on Saturday, IDF Spokesperson Rear Adm. Daniel Hagari told international journalists, “They slaughtered families, murdered people, burned women, babies beheaded, it’s things we remember from the Holocaust. I’ve been there [southern Israel] myself and [am] now getting all the footage and seeing all the horrible sights.

“This is Hamas, that we’re striking right now in Gaza. Babies were taken by Hamas terrorists into Gaza on motorcycles and cars with their mothers without their mothers, young girls were taken by the dozens to Gaza, old women, some of them Holocaust survivors, were taken to Gaza. They are all now in Gaza, God knows what’s happening. It’s worse than ISIS.”

He described the current war as one being fought “for our own survival next to our borders. Hamas has taken off its mask. It was supposed to be a sovereign, to govern, make Gaza prosper, with an economy, and sends workers into Israel to bring money into the Gaza Strip, gets money from Arab countries and Europe, as an organization that donates to [the] Gazan people.”

Instead, “All of this money went to one purpose: To plan this operation, to build a terror infrastructure in buildings where other Gazans live, tunnels [under] flats with innocent Gazan families,” he said.

“This was also [done] to create terror and fear. We are not afraid. We have nowhere to go to, this is our country and we are going to fight,” he continued.

Hamas is concerned by Israel’s efforts to evacuate Gazan civilians from the northern Gaza Strip, as their evacuation would strip it of its human shields, he said. 

“We tell the Gazan people to leave Gaza City … to go south of Wadi Gaza … [that] we are attacking Gaza City because this is the hub of Hamas governance and military capability and we have to strike them with severe force.” 

Hamas is under pressure because hundreds of thousands of Palestinians in Gaza are heeding the IDF’s call and moving south to Wadi Gaza, said Hagari. “[Hamas] is trying to block the roads. It says my calls [for evacuation] are fake.”

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