Jack Guez Agence France-Presse Soldiers of the Israeli army positioned with their armored vehicles near the border with the Gaza Strip, in southern Israel, October 9, 2023
The element of surprise, the modus operandi, the capacity to last. The Hamas attack on Israel is the result of a carefully coordinated and likely to last operation, with accusations in the West pointing at Iran.
The offensive was launched on Saturday, at dawn, in the middle of Shabbat, 50 years more than a day after the Yom Kippur War, a symbol that cannot be a coincidence.
“It’s is a huge failure for Israel and a huge success for Hamas,” regrets Kobi Michael, researcher at the INSS think tank in Tel Aviv. “We [weren’t] prepared and still, I remain politically correct.”
The scale of the attack leaves no room for doubt: “To launch such an operation, you have to have a lot of preparation, planning, coordination and you have to have significant perspectives or objectives,” he says .
Because “Hamas knows very well that the price of such an operation will be very high,” adds the expert.
The precedent of 2021
In May 2021, Hamas had already surprised Israel by sending thousands of rockets, sometimes a hundred in a few minutes, aimed at saturating its “Iron Dome” anti-missile defense system.
At the time , 4,360 rockets had been used in the space of 15 days, while around 3,000 fell on Israel in two days, according to Elliot Chapman, Middle East expert for the British intelligence company Janes.
If Hamas maintains this pace, “this would be the largest rocket attack on Israel so far,” he assures AFP.
“Hamas should still have a substantial arsenal of rockets in reserve and it seems likely that it will be able to keep the fire going for a good while,” said Fabian Hinz of the International Institute for Strategic Studies.
Hamas has an arsenal that is difficult to evaluate numerically, but certainly very rich. It would come from Iran, from Syria before the revolution, from post-Ghadafi Libya, but also from other countries in the Middle East, assures a Western arms expert who requests anonymity and appears on X (formerly Twitter ) under the pseudonym Caliber Obscura.
Its small weapons come from China or the former Soviet bloc, with “significant quantities stolen or seized during combat with the Israeli army,” specifies- he, also mentioning drones and grenade launchers.
Most of Hamas' rockets are however manufactured locally, “unguided missile systems […] which do not require advanced technology” and are not very precise, explains Elliot Chapman.
The Palestinian movement could also imitate the Lebanese Hezbollah, which hides its forces until the moment to launch a major operation, observes Fabian Hinz. “We could see entirely new capabilities emerge in the event of a ground invasion of the Gaza Strip” by Israel.
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“It is too early to say” whether Iran is “directly involved” in this offensive and the United States has “no indication” in this meaning for the moment, declared the White House, adding however that it had “no doubt” about the fact that Hamas was “financed, equipped and armed” among others by the Islamic Republic.
< p>Tehran for its part declared “supporting the legitimate defense of the Palestinian nation” and a military advisor to the Iranian supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, welcomed Hamas’ “proud” offensive.
“He there have been transfers of weapons and know-how. There is clearly an Iranian leg which allows local manufacturing of missiles,” noted David Rigoulet-Roze, Middle East specialist at IRIS, on Saturday, to France Info.
For Kobi Michael, “ Hamas would not have dared to launch such an operation without having a serious insurance policy, and they are getting it from Hezbollah and Iran.”
Tel Aviv has said it has feared an attack on several fronts for months. Fear heightened since Hezbollah announced having fired “artillery shells and guided missiles” at the border between Lebanon and Israel.
A ground attack by the Israeli army in the Strip Gaza would be the promise of deadly urban combat. “There are good reasons to think that the Israelis have been trying to avoid it for years,” judges Fabian Hinz, while Hamas “has had time to prepare for this kind of scenario.”
Other groups could also be tempted to intervene against Israel. There is the threat of greater involvement from Hezbollah, which “declared that they were working in full coordination with the Palestinian fighters”, underlines Elliot Chapman.
According to him, the group affirmed “that it would intervene if Israel launches an assault on the Gaza Strip, which seems likely at this stage.”