October 15, 2023 | The Messenger

On the Gaza Border, Chaos and a Question: How Will Israel Defeat Hamas?

October 15, 2023 | The Messenger

On the Gaza Border, Chaos and a Question: How Will Israel Defeat Hamas?

Israel has begun moving into the next phase — ground operations against Hamas — after the terrorist group murdered more than 1,000 civilians.

I spent the first week of the war driving back and forth to the Gaza border from Jerusalem. The first days of the war were chaotic as Israel tried to regain control of the area. This meant moving tanks to the border and bringing in more army units to try to secure the border. More than 20 communities were evacuated and some 19,000 people moved into hotels or into other communities across Israel. 

This was only the beginning of the trauma facing Israel. Recovering and identifying the bodies of a thousand victims takes time. It’s also traumatic for many families because Hamas kidnapped at least 150 people and is holding them as hostages.

All of this is unprecedented in Israeli history. The country is also entering uncharted waters in how to cope with the sense of failure, and also the sense that security was so lacking at the border. Many communities were cut off for hours, while terrorists roamed their streets. I spoke to some of the first responders, including local security volunteers and police. In many cases, they were outgunned.

It is believed that Hamas struck the security fence around Gaza at 29 points, and where it breached the fence, sent thousands of armed men into Israel. This was followed by more waves of men who came to loot and kidnap. Disturbing videos have shown some of this, with evidence of crimes against humanity as terrorists carted children and elderly people off to Gaza.

Hamas has portrayed itself over the years as a legitimate alternative to other Palestinian political parties. It even ran in Palestinian elections. The group was founded during the First Intifada in the late 1980s, and its ideological wellspring is similar to other parties in the region that are linked to the Muslim Brotherhood. In addition to its backing from Iran, Hamas has received support from Qatar and from Turkey over the years, two Western allies.

The attack has confirmed as false the hope that some held that Hamas one day could become a peace partner. How can a group that ordered its members to massacre families be involved in a Palestinian government that seeks any kind of peace deal or two-state solution with Israel? Hamas has governed Gaza since 2006 and has shown that this violence is the kind of state it would develop. In the first week of the conflict, it fired 5,000 rockets at Israel.

Israel has received support from the U.S. Israeli officials have met with Secretary of State Antony Blinken, who traveled around the region, and Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin, who emphasized the depth of U.S. support and promised to supply Israel with munitions and other items it may need. 

However, the question that looms is this: How can Hamas be contained and defeated, and what might come next? 

A group involved in the worst mass murder of Jews since the Holocaust cannot be permitted to re-establish a mini-state in Gaza. Yet, rumblings in the Middle East indicate that Iran is threatening to escalate the war if Israel conducts a ground invasion into Gaza — and it is not clear what the preference is in Israel regarding what comes next in Gaza. The overall goal, however, is clear: Hamas must be defeated and should not return to running things in Gaza and terrorizing its people. As we learned with the Taliban, coddling extremists leads to great harm in the places they are allowed to govern.

On the border of Gaza, among the communities Hamas attacked, I found that Israelis will not accept the terrorist group’s return to border areas. In many cases, Hamas had outposts just a few hundred yards from the border fence, in plain sight. Many Israeli communities are located about a mile from the border and they can’t live under the shadow of this threat any longer. 

Seth J. Frantzman, Ph.D., is the author of “Drone Wars: Pioneers, Killing Machines, Artificial Intelligence and the Battle for the Future.” He has more than 15 years of experience covering conflict and security issues in the Middle East, as a correspondent and analystand is an adjunct fellow at The Foundation for Defense of Democracies (FDD). 


Iran Iran Global Threat Network Iran-backed Terrorism Israel Israel at War Jihadism Military and Political Power Palestinian Politics