By: Dana Hathaway
Public Relations Manager
On Oct. 7, 2023, the military Islamist group Hamas carried out a surprise dawn attack on Israel, sparking a declaration of war from Israel’s President Benjamin Netanyahu. Hamas currently governs the Gaza Strip, a Palestinian territory between Israel and the Mediterranean Sea. The group carried out the assault using drones, rocket-propelled grenades, guided missiles, and assault weapons. As of Oct. 17, at least 1,400 Israelis, 2,800 Palestinians, and 30 Americans have died. Hamas is holding approximately 150 Israelis hostage.
Hamas, an Islamic political and military organization, was established in 1987. In 2006, it won the Palestinian legislative election in Gaza on the promise of using armed resistance to end Israeli occupation. Its methods of taking hostages, using human shields, and committing violence against civilians led many Western countries, including the US, to denounce Hamas as a terrorist group. However, the United Nations does not officially declare it so.
The recent war is due in part to Hamas’ Operation al-Aqsa Storm, following a particularly violent year of clashes that has killed 250 Palestinians and 25 Israelis. During the initial strike, Hamas launched 3,000 missiles into Israel in the early morning. Simultaneously, the military group broke through the Gaza-Israel barrier and infiltrated Israeli communities, taking hostages and killing civilians. Israel retaliated soon after in Operation Swords of Iron, detonating over 6,000 bombs. The Israeli government also cut off electricity, food, and fuel to Gaza.
On Oct. 13, planes dropped pamphlets over Gaza warning the 1.1 million civilians in the northern part of the territory to evacuate. However, there is no place for them to go, given that Egypt and Israel have both closed their borders to Gaza residents. The United Nations believes the evacuation is “dangerous and unfeasible.” According to experts, a ground invasion of Gaza seems likely.
The new war also sparked protests worldwide, both pro-Palestinian and pro-Israeli, often in the same place. Munir Ally of the New York Palestinian Youth Movement claims, “There was an astonishing amount of police [at our rally]…It was maybe more police than I’ve ever seen come to a protest.” Police around the country are also congregating around local synagogues and mosques.
The Oct. 7 attack prompted an international response. The US, a longtime funder of Israeli military efforts, continues to back Israel. President Biden gave a speech on Oct. 10, calling the Hamas attack “pure, unadulterated evil.” He stated, “we must be crystal clear: We stand with Israel. And we will make sure Israel has what it needs to take care of its citizens, defend itself, and respond to this attack.”
The situation continues to develop.
(Sources: CNN, Fox News, NBC, NY Times, US Dep. of Gov.)