When it was created in 1987, Hamas, the Islamic Resistance Movement, It was an armed nationalist and Islamist group that fought for the liberation of Palestine. At that time, Israel supported it because it believed that in this way it would weaken the hegemonic Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) of Yasser Arafat. According to its principles, it demanded “the establishment of a completely sovereign and independent State of Palestine, with Jerusalem as its capital, on the borders of June 4, 1967” and emphasized its nationalist character over the religious onealthough without recognizing the State of Israel or abandoning the armed struggle.
Everything changed in 2017 when it was handed over to Iran and extreme radicalization began. Since then, it has transformed into an ultra-religious Salafist group fighting for the disappearance of Israel and Israelis. And with last week’s unprecedented attack within Israeli territory itself and its actions against civilians, definitively became a terrorist group that copied the tactics of ISIS, the Islamic State, the most extreme Islamic extremist group we have seen so far.
He attacked not only to devastate the enemy and deliver an extraordinary coup, but he did so to spread terror in the worst possible way. And he imitated ISIS in his way of showing what happened to the rest of the world. He killed, raped and beheaded civilians and uploaded the images to social media so that the rest of the population from that moment on felt terror in their bodies every time his name was mentioned.
The first Minister Benjamin Netanyahuwhich contributed to this radicalization with its policies of permanent harassment of the most moderate Palestinians and by allying itself with far-right parties that promote the colonization and annexation of the Palestinian territories in the West Bank, said it clearly just a few hours after the attacks: “Hamas is ISIS. And just as the forces of civilization united to defeat ISIS, the forces of civilization must support Israel to defeat Hamas.”
The United States immediately responded to the call. It has its ships very close to the coasts of the Gaza Strip to provide all its intelligence and infrastructure support in the offensive against Hamas. He knows that it is not just about punishing the radicalized Palestinian group but defeating it, end Hamas so that it can no longer have the capacity to attack as happened with Al Qaeda in Falluja and Ramadi, during the Iraq war, and with ISIS in Mosul, the Iraqi city taken and annexed to the caliphate. That is the objective of the Israeli army that it will try to achieve in a campaign that could last between one and three months. This, taking into account that We always know when a war starts and never when it ends.
The goal of ending this Hamas as happened with ISIS in Iraq and Syria cannot be achieved with a widespread bombing and air campaign or with a siege that leaves the civilian population without electricity and water. It is only possible with soldiers and tanks fighting in Gaza, block by block, house by housein the 360 square kilometers of the Strip, in the 41 kilometers long and between 6 and 12 kilometers wide, and the two million of its inhabitants, more than 40% of them children under 14 years of age.
to conquer MosulIn 2016, the Iraqi army supported by US special forces, They concentrated more than 100,000 soldiers for a very difficult and daunting task: expelling ISIS from a vast, densely populated city when the militants were deeply entrenched in the city and had been able to prepare elaborate defenses. Compounding the problem was the fact that the civilian population largely remained in the city and that The Islamic State refused to facilitate the evacuation of civilians. When the United States entered Fallujah in 2004 during its war against Al Qaeda in Iraq, the vast majority of civilians had already fled. When soldiers and Marines engaged insurgents in street battles, there were very few civilians in the combat zone.
The battle of Mosul, by contrast, was largely fought among civilians and was possibly, according to West Point analysts, “the largest and deadliest urban battle since the end of World War II.” Iraqi soldiers, supported by American aircraft, assaulted a city of more than a million inhabitants. The battle lasted nine months, killed thousands of ISIS fighters, by most estimates, cost Iraqi security forces thousands of casualties, and despite considerable efforts to protect non-combatants, officially killed 11,000 civilians (other estimates reach 20,000). But the objective was met. Iraq won that battle, in a few weeks ISIS ended up losing all its positions in Raqqa, on the Syrian side, and the Islamic State caliphate ceased to exist. ISIS today is just a group of fighters lost in the desert with minimal capacity to act.
The Israel Defense Forces are immensely better trained and prepared than the Iraqi security forces. The terrain also favors them, Hamas militants have no escape route. They are trapped in the Strip, with their backs to the sea and without an exit to Egypt. In that sense, for the Israelis it is “hunt in the zoo.” Although they are going to encounter some very particular factors: the density of the civilian population much higher than anyone has had to face in a long time; the extensive system of tunnels that pass beneath the city and constitute a formidable defense; the fact that the enemy has 150 hostages in their hands that they will use as human shields; and time, Israel does not have nine months – as the Iraqis needed – for its campaign.
Israeli forces will be under pressure to act very quickly and effectively. Global public opinion will be waiting for a concrete result with the release of the hostages. And they will have to do it causing the least amount of “collateral damage” possible. Civilians also have no exits or refuges in the Strip. Over there In Gaza there are not only 150 Israeli hostages, the vast majority of the two million Gazans are also Hamas hostages. These people must be protected. Human rights are universal.
The pressures, in that sense, will be felt from Washington. On Friday, a senior Pentagon official who spoke to accredited correspondents said: “The protection of civilians and humanitarian suffering is always an area of concern for the United States and is something that we are constantly discussing and will always discuss with allies and partners. . Gaza civilians are not to blame for Hamas’ horrific terrorism. Civilians are protected by the laws of armed conflict and must be given every opportunity to avoid fighting.”
This makes the Israeli campaign in Gaza an unprecedented military action with unpredictable consequences.