Current and former Israeli defense officials suspect Iranian influence played an important role in Hamas’s decision to stage a series of mass murder and kidnap raids on the South on Saturday.
During a Zoom call with journalists organized by Media Central, Eyal Hulata, who was Israel’s national security adviser from August 2021 to January 2023, discussed “the Iranian fingerprints on both potential [Hamas] planning and motivation, in light of attempts to normalize [relations] with Saudi Arabia.”
Both Tehran and Hamas stand out for their desire to act as “spoilers” to the Saudi-Israeli normalization process, which would likely benefit the Palestinian Authority at Hamas’s expense, Hulata assessed.
“Hamas clearly wouldn’t have wanted this to go. If Iran needs a player to act, it’ll be more in Gaza than in Lebanon. There are reasons for the spoilers of the region to put their heads up. Our enemies around us think Israel is weaker now. That is a concern of mine,” added Hulata.
“All of this is now in the background. We need to fight back and do whatever we can to bring our people back,” said Hulata.
“This morning, Hamas embarked on the deadliest terror attack in Israel’s history. They’ve been planning this for a long time, obviously. This is a very coordinated attack, and unfortunately they were able to surprise us tactically and cause devastating damage in casualties, people murdered in their beds and homes, and an unknown number of people taken back to Gaza. Civilians and soldiers have been abducted,” he continued.
“This is unprecedented. Hamas has never done something like this. We never encountered that. The fact that they felt they could or should do it is very alarming,” he said.
The fact “that this happened 50 years after Yom Kippur War is on everyone’s mind,” said Hulata. “They were hoping to mimic this event. Clearly, everyone is thinking that and is worried about this failure, which is grave and devastating. The IDF spokesperson said it will be investigated. But at this point, the crucial issue is first how we end the fighting in Israel and then conduct fighting in Gaza.
“This will end with devastating results in Gaza and if Hezbollah gets involved it will end with devastation in Lebanon,” said the former national security adviser.
The large number of Israeli hostages taken to Gaza “complicates everything,” he added.
“The Israeli Cabinet is likely weighing a range of options, including the option of conquering all of Gaza. If I was national security adviser, I would want to hear that option and weigh it compared to other options,” he stated.
“Iran’s tentacles everywhere”
Lt. Col Richard Hecht, the IDF’s international spokesperson, said during his own comments to international media that “Iran has tentacles everywhere,” when asked about its likely role in the Hamas onslaught.
All military options “are on the table,” he added.
“Hamas has declared war, a combined offensive on Israel,” said Hecht, describing its attacks on Saturday as involving some 3,500 rockets fired including very heavy salvos on Tel Aviv, and a major ground invasion of Israel.
There were still 22 locations late in the day where we were engaging with terrorists who entered “Israel from the sea, the land and the air. Some of the locations we cleared, some of the locations, fighting still happen [there],” he said.
“We have a severe hostage situation in Be’eri and Ofakim, still ongoing. We’ve mobilized mainly special forces to deal with these events. There’s a very strong professionalism on how to deal with this kind of event in these elements of the military. I can confirm we have hostages and casualties. I don’t want to go into numbers but they are substantial,” he said.
“Right now we’re fighting; there will be lots of discussions about intelligence [failures] down the road,” said Hecht.
“Right now we are focused on two courses of action: returning security around Gaza and the planning by the prime minister and IDF General Staff on future steps in Gaza. There will be a severe response to this inhumane attack,” said Hecht.
Earlier on Saturday, Israel Air Force jets struck military infrastructure in two multi-story buildings in the Gaza Strip that senior Hamas operatives use for carrying out terrorist activity.
In one of the buildings, the IDF struck the military offices of a number of units and arrays of the Hamas terrorist organization, including the Hamas intelligence headquarters, its weapons production offices and other offices belonging to senior Hamas organization leaders.
The other building contained military offices used by Hamas’s General Security Service, the IDF said.
According to Hecht, “Hamas has a massive amount of projectiles. They’re going to fire as much as they can. It’s still early days. PIJ [Palestinian Islamic Jihad] is also probably involved.
“We’re moving and mobilizing forces right now. Mainly mobilizing reservists to the South and special operations intervention units for communities under attack,” he said.
The next 50 years in Gaza
“Today we saw the face of evil. Hamas has launched a brutal attack against the citizens of the State of Israel, attacking men, women, children and the elderly, indiscriminately. Hamas will understand very quickly that it has made a mistake—a grave mistake—and will pay a [heavy] price,” said Defense Minister Yoav Gallant on Saturday,
“Fifteen years ago, as head of the [IDF] Southern Command, I came close to ‘breaking the neck’ of Hamas. I was stopped by the political echelon. This phenomenon will not continue. We will change reality on the ground in Gaza for the next 50 years. What was before will be no more. We will operate at full force. I ask Israel’s citizens to remain determined and to support our security forces,” said Gallant.
Earlier, “There are strikes by the air force in several locations. UAVs, scanners [sensors] and fighter jets are striking in the area of the [Gaza border] fence. Hundreds of such strikes were carried out—hundreds of deaths, including many terrorists,” said IDF Spokesperson Rear Adm. Daniel Hagari.
“In the [IDF] Northern Command we are on high alert, there are currently no events there but we are ready for any event and whoever attacks us in the entire northern arena will pay a very heavy price. Our focus is on Gaza but we are on high alert in case we encounter any incident, we currently do not have such information [about such enemy activity],” he continued.
Produced in association with Jewish News Syndicate
Edited by ISAAC OKOTH NYAMUNGU and Newsdesk Manager