Middle East

Israel should think twice before assassinating Hamas’s leaders

Israel knows that airstrikes alone cannot help it to win its war against Hamas. To handicap its enemy, the Israel Defence Forces (IDF) must kill or capture the group’s leaders, both in Gaza – where they are hiding out in intricate tunnel complexes – and elsewhere, in other countries in the Middle East, including Qatar. But the cost of such dangerous operations will be high – and could easily backfire. For now, the priority for Israel is targeting Hamas leaders in the Gaza Strip. On the hitlist is Yahya Sinwar, Hamas’s leader in Gaza; Mohammed Deif, the head of Hamas’s military wing, the Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades; and Deif’s second-in-command,

Why Israel is changing tactics in its war on Hamas

The conflict in Gaza is about to enter a crucial phase as Israel continues its military campaign to destroy Hamas. After a seven-day pause in hostilities saw Hamas release 110 hostages in return for 240 Palestinians, the Israeli Defence Forces (IDF) are now locked into a more complex and politically tricky battle as they venture into southern Gaza. If the IDF adopts the same tactics in the south as they did in the north of the Gaza Strip, then thousands more Palestinian civilians will die. There are signs, however, that Israel is changing tactics after bowing to pressure from allies. Over 15,000 civilians have been killed, according to the Hamas-controlled

How Hamas’s ceasefire gamble backfired

Hamas’s refusal to negotiate the return of the remaining women still in captivity and an early morning missile attack on Israel brought the ceasefire to an abrupt end on Friday. The Israeli government would have continued to put up with minor infractions by Hamas, and carried on with the deal, despite their repeated violations. However, Hamas’s insistence on drastically changing the terms of the agreement pushed Israel to resume assaults in a sign to Hamas that it refuses to be pushed around. Hamas needed the ceasefire, but miscalculated – thinking that it could push the envelope even more without consequence. It went too far. Israel’s bombardment of Gaza has been

Can Hamas really be ‘eliminated’?

The EU’s top diplomat Josep Borrell offered a provocative insight into the nature of Hamas this week. Speaking at the Union of the Mediterranean Forum, Borrell said that: ‘Hamas is not merely a group of individuals but an unkillable idea and ideology.’ This view is a worrying one for Israel as it seeks, in the words of Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu, to ‘eliminate’ Hamas. But what if Borell is right that Hamas cannot be destroyed? History suggests that seemingly invincible organisations and ideologies can indeed be defeated, often after military defeat, through thorough socio-economic and political reformations. Take Nazi Germany. While comparisons with the Third Reich are easy to reach

Has Israel learned the lessons of Ukraine’s war with Russia?

Israel’s ceasefire with Hamas – which has allowed for the release of dozens of hostages – looks set to continue. But make no mistake: this war is far from over. Israel’s prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu has vowed to destroy Hamas, a mission that he will not back down from any time soon. The fight against an estimated 30,000 Hamas soldiers will be a long and difficult one. While Israel’s firepower vastly outmatches that of Hamas, defeating an insurgent army will prove a difficult endeavour for the Israel Defence Forces (IDF). Israel could find itself in a situation comparable to Ukraine – another country with state-of-the-art weaponry that struggles to deliver

Jake Wallis Simons

A ceasefire leaves Israel in a dangerous position

A four-day pause and the release of 150 Palestinian prisoners. Seen from London or New York, this seems like a reasonable measure to secure the return of 50 Israeli hostages. Pause the fighting; allow humanitarian aid to reach Gaza; satisfy the Americans, who were reportedly pushing hard for the deal; get a good number of your citizens back. What’s not to like? The reality, however, is somewhat more complicated. A four-day pause in fighting is not a static affair. At least, it may be for the IDF, but it isn’t for Hamas. They will spend the time resupplying, including seizing as much aid as they need from humanitarian convoys entering

What’s the truth about Gaza’s al-Shifa hospital?

Last week’s military operation in Gaza’s al-Shifa hospital was mired in controversy. According to the Israeli Defence Forces (IDF), the hospital was a significant target in Israel’s war against Hamas because they believed a command centre was located under the hospital complex. International spectators, including some of Israel’s closest allies, were concerned about the raid and told Israel to act with extreme caution to avoid casualties among hospital staff and patients.   International organisations – including the World Health Organisation (WHO), the United Nation Population Fund, UN officials, media outlets and Middle Eastern countries including Jordan and Turkey – condemned Israel’s operations in the hospital. The WHO described the scene as a ‘death zone’, but without

Why climate activists love to hate Israel

Climate activists have been busy since 7 October. The demands for ‘action now’ on global warming continue, but affairs in the Middle East are proving to be a distraction for Just Stop Oil. Cries of ‘free Gaza’, ‘ceasefire now’, and even ‘from the river to the sea’ – a chant, purported to be a cry for peace and ‘solidarity’ with Palestinians, but used by those who want to wipe Israel off the map – have now joined, and at times drowned out, the usual green slogans. Just Stop Oil (JSO) activists took part in a sit-in protest at London’s Waterloo station on Saturday to demand a ceasefire, despite Hamas continuing to

Jake Wallis Simons

A potential hostage deal shows the weakness of Hamas

Details are sketchy and the deal is far from done, but all the signs are pointing towards a hostage agreement in which up to 50 Israelis are released by Hamas in return for a ceasefire of several days. Make no mistake: this indicates that both tactically and strategically, the war is moving decisively in Israel’s favour. This much seems obvious when the prospective, Qatar-brokered deal is held against the hostage playbook that has been followed by both sides over the years. By that old equation, one Israeli captive was worth up to a thousand Palestinians. That was seen most vividly during the Gilad Shalit prisoner exchange in 2011, when 1,027

Victory over Hamas will be hard to achieve

‘If you want peace, destroy Hamas. If you want security, destroy Hamas. If you want a future for Israel, the Palestinians, the Middle East, destroy Hamas,’ Israel’s prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu said this week. Given its formidable military capabilities and the considerable international support it receives, Israel holds the upper hand in the ongoing war. But if the Middle East has taught us anything, it is that the notion of ‘victory’ is an elusive endeavour.   The total defeat of Hamas will be a difficult, if not impossible, task for Israel. Following the devastating terror attack on 7 October, Israel has found itself ensnared in a brutal war. But as the

Will Lebanon be dragged into a war with Israel?

Southern Lebanon In the week following the 7/10 attacks by Hamas, a journalist in Beirut put the question all of Lebanon wanted to ask to the Prime Minister, Najib Mikati: do we have to be dragged into the war with Israel? It was more of a cri de coeur than a question, because the whole country knows the answer and knows that Lebanon has no choice. Hezbollah, the Shia Islamist party and militant group, unofficially controls many, if not most, of the levers of power in Lebanon and it does not answer to the people or the government here. Hezbollah’s leader, the reclusive cleric Hassan Nasrallah, holds no public office

Gaza and the terror of tank warfare

As Israel encircles Gaza City, the Israeli Defence Forces (IDF) is conducting what we in the British Army call Fibua, or Fighting In Built-Up Areas. Less ceremoniously, it’s known as Fish – fighting in someone’s house – or Fish and Chips – fighting in someone’s house and causing havoc in people’s streets. But the flippant name belies the danger – and terror – of these operations. My taste of Fibua came in 2004 during tank operations in Al Amarah in southern Iraq. While my experience might be a little out of date, the fundamentals of urban combat for tanks haven’t really changed. The tank is a formidable weapon. But when you’re

The pointless spectacle of the pro-Palestine march

Now that Sir Mark Rowley, the Metropolitan Police Commissioner, has defied calls to ban a pro-Palestinian march through London on Armistice Day, attention inevitably turns to what might happen on the day itself. Will there be violence? Could groups intent on causing mayhem splinter from the main protest? Will counter-protesters clash with pro-Palestinian demonstrators? How will the police maintain control of events on the ground and ensure the protest passes off peacefully?  Well down the list of questions and issues is Israel’s military campaign against Hamas in Gaza, ostensibly the reason for this weekend’s public protests. That is revealing in itself: the actual conflict is almost a side show in the

Julie Burchill

The cultural appropriation of the keffiyeh

I’ve never been sorry that I left education at 17, armed with nothing but my raw talent and splendid rack. The conformity and unworldliness which you need to have if you want to basically stay at school till you’re 21 are things I despise students for – and haven’t these character traits had a lovely outing during the current ugly outbreak of campus Jew-hatred? Jews have never been popular at universities; the phrase ‘too clever for their own good’ might have been invented for them, with a world population of 0.2 per cent taking a whopping 22 per cent of Nobel prizes. The mediocre spawn of the ruling class once

The Arab world still wants peace with Israel

As Israeli forces continue to pound Gaza in retaliation for Hamas’s atrocity, and TV images of dying civilian Palestinians flood the airwaves, some are worried that regional peace with Israel is dead. Such talk makes militants, from Tehran to Gaza, proud. They hope war will bring an end to Israel’s ‘normalisation’ and detente with Saudi Arabia, and halt the ground-breaking Abraham Accords. The reality, however, is more complex. It’s too soon to write off Arab-Israeli peace efforts – even amid the carnage of Gaza. Before 7 October, the buds of peace were quietly sprouting, because it was in the interests of both sides, Arab and Israeli, for this to happen.

The smell of flesh is everywhere: A dispatch from Gaza

When the bombs fell, I was at home. My family has been staying at the Jabalia refugee camp, in northern Gaza, since 12 October. On Tuesday, Israel targeted the camp. The explosions were about 70 metres away from my house. One bomb landed; there was a two-second pause; and then more bombs hit. I couldn’t move my eyes from looking at the ceiling because I was expecting a missile to fall on us. I ran into the street and saw the most horrible massacre and destruction my eyes have ever seen. I tried to help but the shock crippled me. Since Jabalia was first bombed, there has been a strange

How does releasing mice in McDonald’s help Palestinians?

It is hard to know what to make of the sheer mindless stupidity of some people who claim to support the cause of Palestinians in the Israel-Gaza conflict. Boxes of live rodents have now been released at a number of McDonald’s restaurants, apparently as part of pro-Palestinian protests. One incident took place on Monday in Birmingham. Video footage widely shared on social media shows a man wearing a Palestinian flag on his head, carrying a box filled with mice from the boot of his car and into the McDonald’s branch in the Star City leisure complex. He tips the mice — painted the colours of the Palestinian flag — on

What Palestinian ‘solidarity’ marchers in the West don’t understand about Hamas

The atrocities committed by Hamas on 7 October have been revealed in their terrible savagery. There are accounts of dead babies, their bodies riddled with bullets, entire families burnt alive in their homes, women and girls raped and killed. Bodies tortured and mutilated beyond recognition. Israelis thought that the world would finally recognise Hamas for what it truly is; an Islamist terror organisation seeking to destroy Israel. It did not.  Since the war started, there has been an explosion of anti-Israel and anti-Jewish hatred. Although Western leaders and large proportions of the public were shocked by Hamas’s atrocities and expressed support for Israel, the streets of London, Paris, Toronto and

Stephen Daisley

How Britain failed Israel

That the United Kingdom’s central institutions are rotten, crumbling, captured and perhaps beyond recovery is not news, but the Gaza intifada has crystallised the scale of institutional debasement. The brutalisation and murder of 1,400 Jews by Palestinian terrorists, and the open celebration of those actions by Jew-haters in this country, ought to have been met swiftly and resolutely. We do not do that sort of thing here. Instead, this demonic behaviour has granted us the most intimate and bracing glimpse at the decay inside the British state since the aftermath of 9/11. At a time when statesmanship is called for, we are forced to choose between Rishi Sunak, a waste

Katy Balls

Keir Starmer is losing grip on his Israel problem

Keir Starmer is losing grip on his party’s position on Israel. So far, over 25 Labour councillors have quit over Starmer’s comments on the conflict following the attack by Hamas on 7 October. The Labour leader angered his party when he suggested in an interview with LBC that Israel ‘has the right’ to withhold power and water from Gaza. Starmer has since tried to clarify his comments by meeting with Muslim Labour MPs and calling for a ‘humanitarian pause’ in Gaza to get aid in. However, many in his party want him to go further and call for a ceasefire in Gaza. Nearly a quarter of Labour MPs have publicly