Hamas releases report justifying October 7 attack on Israel
GAZA CITY – The militant group Hamas released a report on Saturday justifying its October 7 attack on Israel that sparked the ongoing conflict in Gaza. The report admits to some “security faults” and “chaos” during the attack but maintains it was a “necessary response” to Israeli “conspiracies” against Palestinians.
The October 7 attack saw Hamas militants flood into Israel from Gaza, killing over 90 Israelis. Israel retaliated with airstrikes on Gaza and later launched a ground invasion aimed at destroying Hamas’ network of underground tunnels.
In its report, Hamas claims the death toll in Gaza has now surpassed 25,000, with Israel showing no signs of relenting in its offensive. At the same time, Hamas asserts that “[Israel’s] aggressive policies left [Hamas] with no choice but to respond.”
“Carrying out the October 7 attack was a necessary step in confronting the occupier and a normal response to its crimes and conspiracies against our Palestinian people,” the report states.
October 7 attack “sparked the volcano”: Hamas
Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh commented further on the report, saying “The Al-Aqsa Storm operation, in defense of Jerusalem and the holy sites, is what sparked the volcano, unified the nation behind the resistance.”
However other Gazans have questioned the timing of the report’s release. Hamas has offered little clarity in past months on its rationale and preparations for the attack. Releasing an explanatory report now, some feel, serves to deflect criticism as the death toll rises.
“They could have published it earlier to spare many souls,” said Amal al-Tatri, who lost family members in an Israeli strike last week.
Hamas tunnel network sustains heavy damage
While defending its actions, Hamas does admit in the report that it was unprepared for the extent of Israel’s military response.
The group’s network of underground tunnels in Gaza, which it uses for smuggling weapons and launching attacks, has “sustained heavy damage” from Israeli airstrikes, the report says.
Over 160 miles of tunnels have been destroyed so far, limiting Hamas’ ability to move fighters and supplies. Israel has made eradicating the tunnel network a priority in its offensive.
Gaza death toll tops 25,000
Hamas spokesman Fawzi Barhoum stated Sunday that the death toll in Gaza has surpassed 25,000 since October 7. Over 5,000 of the dead are believed to have been Hamas fighters.
The heavy casualties suffered by Hamas’s military wing contradicts its previous claims of minimal losses. At one point early in the conflict Hamas asserted that less than 100 fighters had been killed.
Hospitals in Gaza are overwhelmed with wounded as shelters struggle to accommodate displaced families. The UN estimates almost 80% of Gaza’s population lacks reliable access to clean water and food.
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World urges immediate ceasefire
With the civilian death toll rising precipitously, the international community is increasing calls for an immediate ceasefire between Israel and Hamas.
Both UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres and U.S. President Joe Biden issued statements over the weekend pressing for an end to hostilities.
President Biden called the situation “a humanitarian disaster,” pledging $47 million in new aid for Gaza. But he also affirmed Israel’s right to self-defense in a phone call with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
Numerous attempts by Egypt and others to broker a truce have collapsed as violence persists on both sides. Israel insists it will continue military action in Gaza until Hamas is fully disarmed.
Further escalation threatens wider conflict
With peace efforts stalled, there is growing fear that continued fighting could spark a wider regional war.
On Sunday a barrage of rockets fired from Lebanon prompted Israeli artillery fire, raising tensions along Israel’s northern front. Several Iraqi militias have also launched attacks in solidarity with Gaza in recent days.
Seeking to prevent further escalation, the U.S. is reportedly in talks with allies like Jordan and Qatar to deploy a multinational stabilization force in Gaza with disarming Hamas potentially on the table.
Russia warned over the weekend that wider conflict threatens Russian interests in the region. As a broker of ceasefires in past Gaza wars, some analysts believe Russia may try to negotiate a resolution between Israel and Hamas once again.
Israel facing criticism on Palestinian statehood
The Gaza war is also putting Israel under renewed scrutiny for resisting the establishment of a Palestinian state.
Meeting with President Biden last week, Prime Minister Netanyahu firmly rejected reviving efforts for a two-state solution with the Palestinians.
“While supporting Israel’s security, we will continue to support a two-state solution if that’s what the parties agree to,” Biden responded.
Though backing away from an explicit call for immediate Palestinian statehood, Biden pressured Netanyahu on Israel’s continued expansion of West Bank settlements. The settlements are considered illegal by much of the international community and an obstacle to negotiations.
With the path forward on Palestinian statehood unclear, some feel a weakening of Hamas in Gaza could open space for the Palestinian Authority and President Mahmoud Abbas to reassert leadership over Palestinians. But after years of stalled diplomacy many others are more skeptical.
“As in the past, there is no military solution to this conflict,” said President Abbas following Israel’s rejection last week of proposed peace talks over Gaza and the West Bank led by Egypt.
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