A Single Morning that may Change the Middle East Forever!

Israel Tank

After 70 years of Israeli occupation of Palestinian lands; after 50 years of Arab-Israeli Yom Kuppar War; and after 9 months of “low intensity” Israeli violence that killed over 250 Palestinian civilians in the Israeli occupied lands in the first 9 months of 2023 alone, something unprecedented happened around 6:00am local time today!

According to Palestinian resistance movement HAMAS which is considered a terrorist organization by most Western countries, it fired 5000 homemade rockets into Israeli cities and towns; simultaneously its fighters launched first-of-its-kind ground assault in Israeli history; they claimed to have killed over 50 Israelis; they have captured about 57 Israeli soldiers and armed Israeli settlers; they are said to be in control of Erez crossing between Gaza Strip and Israel after killing many Israeli soldiers there. Their homemade rockets flew over a distance of 75 kilometers and hit various targets in the Israeli capital Tel Aviv. It is important to recall that after 6 years of captivity, HAMAS released one single Israeli soldier in exchange of 1035 Palestinian prisoners in 2014. This is how big blow today’s 50+ Israeli prisoners are for Israeli army in general and Prime Minister Mr Netanyahu in particular!

Israeli sources are also confirming the reports that Palestinian fighters have taken control of at least 3 Israeli settlements near Gaza Strip and they also control the prison in Israeli city Ashkelon where many Palestinian prisoners may have been kept by Israeli authorities. Tens of thousands of Palestinian men, women and children are detained in Israeli prisons over the years. All this has happened within two weeks of Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu’s chest thumping speech in the Annual United Nations conference in New York where he claimed that Israel is the Center of New Middle East. Emboldened by a series of peace agreements Israel has signed with various Arab governments, what he clearly meant by this very arrogant claim was that his country is impregnable and his military is invincible. And that Israel is now the-front-and-center of all powers in the Middle East. And no one can dare to harm it. But the most harmful morning it did face today when the Jews were celebrating their religious Sabbath holiday. It must be a fairly humbling, if not the most humiliating moment of his entire political career.

I have always believed that the myth of Israeli army’s “unmatched power and strength” is much less due its own quality; and much more due to the lack of quality of its regional adversaries. That belief has largely been proven correct today. While I write this, the situation is still unfolding in Gaza, Israel and occupied West Bank. Israel has already launched a wave of air strikes on Gaza Strip which is the most densely populated piece of real estate on this earth. There are over 2 million Palestinians live in an area which is just 41 kilometers long and between 6 to 12 kilometers wide. Almost 70% of these 2 million Gaza residents are refugees who have been exiled by Israeli settlers after their homes and lands have been taken over by Jews who have came into Israel from various parts of the world. Within the first two hours of Israeli air strikes, more than 40 Palestinian civilians have been killed. And this is just the beginning.

Today’s actions by HAMAS will have widespread local and regional implications. HAMAS has already appealed to other regional armed groups (like Hizbollah in Lebanon) to join its operations against Isreal. Hizbollah and Israel fought a bloody war in 2006. In that war also, Hizbollah successfully challenged the “invincibility” of Israeli armed forces. We will have to wait and watch if Hizbollah will respond to HAMAS’ call and open a second (rather deadly) front against Israel. Clearly, violence is not in anyone’s favor – whether states or militias – and therefore must be avoided at all costs. Because Iran-backed Hizbollah is far bigger and more lethal than HAMAS. Israel knows it too well.

Regionally, today’s HAMAS assault has created a challenging situation for those Arab states who have signed peace agreements with Israel in recent years; and will also present a challenge for those states who may be planning to go down that path in the near term. If we go by Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu’s recent claims, then he had envisaged a very different Middle East just a couple of weeks back. However, it is important for all arrogant and stubborn leaders in the world to know that the world rarely works according to their calculus. There is much Bigger Power who rules and controls the world – which may now witness a totally changed Middle East. But this belief requires both humanity and humility!

Dr Mansoor Durrani is a Middle East Based Islamic Banker

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