On 7 October, the armed Palestinian resistance smashed through the Gaza border fence to carry out an unprecedented surprise assault on Israel, in which some 1,200 civilians and security forces were killed.
While Israel attributes its entire death toll to the resistance fighters, in particular Hamas and its military wing, the Al-Qassam Brigades, it has since been suggested that occupation forces may bear responsibility for a significant number of deaths.
This discrepancy blows a hole in the narrative pushed by Israeli and western media, which hyperbolically frames the Al-Aqsa Flood operation as the “deadliest single attack on Jews since the Holocaust.”
The Hannibal Directive
But would Israeli forces willingly kill their own – and why?
The key lies in understanding that the primary goal of the resistance operation was the capture of prisoners of war (POWs)— both soldiers and settlers — to be taken back to Gaza. These captives were intended as leverage to press Israel to meet Hamas’s demands, including ending the 17-year siege on Gaza and releasing thousands of Palestinians held without trial in Israeli prisons.
It is equally key to understand that Israel, doctrinally, will go to the most extreme lengths imaginable to prevent the taking of captives – including killing them. In an attempt to thwart Hamas from taking POWs, Israeli forces took drastic measures, including airstrikes on their own military base, firing tank rounds at civilian homes, and using overwhelming firepower to enforce the highly controversial Hannibal Directive.
This infamous military policy – which was altered but not removed in 2016 – allows commanders to sacrifice their own soldiers to prevent them from being captured, aiming to deny the enemy any leverage over the occupation state. A notable case was in 2006, when Hamas captured Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit on the Gaza border. After holding him captive for five agonizing years, Hamas was able to exchange Shalit for 1,027 Palestinians held prisoner in Israel.
‘Do you condemn Hamas?’
The issue of Palestinians targeting Israeli civilians is understandably a controversial talking point, especially in the west. However, Hamas justifies this by claiming all Israelis are settlers living on land stolen from Palestinians in 1948 during what is known as the nakba or “catastrophe.”
That year, Zionist militias employed rape and massacre as tools to effect the forcible “transfer” of some 750,000 Palestinians from the land needed to establish Israel. Future Israeli Prime Minister David Ben Gurion and other Zionist leaders understood that the majority of the indigenous population of British Mandate Palestine, the Christian and Muslim Arabs, needed to be “cleansed” from the land to create a state with a Jewish demographic majority.
Today, many Israelis — civilians and politicians alike — are loudly calling for their army to “complete the job,” as Israeli historian Benny Morris described it, by ethnically cleansing and annexing those parts of Palestine they failed to conquer in 1948, namely the entirety of occupied-West Bank, including East Jerusalem, and the Gaza Strip.
In his book, “Going to the Wars,” historian Max Hastings writes that Benjamin Netanyahu, Israel’s current prime minister, told him in the 1970s that, “In the next war, if we do it right, we’ll have the chance to get all the Arabs out … We can clear the West Bank, sort out Jerusalem.”
In contrast, the Palestinians, the indigenous population, have done their utmost to resist the Zionist colonial project and defend their lands, their homes, and their existence as a people. The expectation that they would resist the Zionist occupation is recognized by Israel’s first prime minister David Ben Gurion, himself an immigrant to Palestine from Poland:
“Let us not ignore the truth among ourselves … politically we are the aggressors and they defend themselves… The country is theirs, because they inhabit it, whereas we want to come here and settle down, and in their view we want to take away from them their country … Behind the terrorism [by the Arabs] is a movement, which though primitive is not devoid of idealism and self-sacrifice.”
A historical reckoning
Just as fiercely, the deeply ideological Zionists were prepared to do anything within their means to occupy Palestine and expunge its inhabitants. The historical record shows that this includes the willingness to sacrifice many of their own to advance their settler colonial project.
In 1938, as efforts were underway to evacuate Jewish children from Germany following Hitler’s Kristallnacht pogroms, Ben Gurion revealed that:
“If I knew that it was possible to save all the children of Germany by transporting them to England, and only half by transferring them to the Land of Israel, I would choose the latter, for before us lies not only the numbers of these children but the historical reckoning of the people of Israel.”
As detailed by Faris Yahya Glubb and Lenni Brenner, Zionism, and Nazism shared not only the goal of emptying Germany of Jews during this period but also the same fascist philosophical character, leading to collaboration between the two movements during this period.
Historian Avi-Ram Zoraf wrote that when faced with the choice between rescuing individual Jews and guaranteeing the sovereignty of the Israeli state, Zionism ignores the traditional Jewish commandment to redeem captives and instead demands the latter option.
Survival of the state
A critical examination of the events on 7 October reveals a pattern where, similar to the state’s earliest leaders, Israel’s current leadership prioritized the preservation of the occupation state’s sovereignty over the lives of POWs taken by Hamas.
During a cabinet meeting on that fateful day, influential figures like Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich urged the Israeli army to “hit Hamas brutally and not take the matter of the captives into significant consideration.”
After all, Hamas’ success in breaking out of its Gaza cage, despite the billions spent by Israel to build a high-tech border fence and surveillance system, threatened to shatter the myth of Israel’s regional military superiority.
Tel Aviv is now desperately trying to reestablish the deterrence it once enjoyed by unleashing a wildly disproportionate military response on a civilian population in the Gaza Strip — in part, to scare off other adversaries in Iran, Lebanon, Iraq, Syria, and Yemen.
In just five weeks, the occupation army has killed over 11,000 Palestinians, over 65 percent of these women and children. In its campaign of daily massacres, Israel has employed 2,000 lb. bombs to destroy entire neighborhoods, as well as hospitals, markets, UN schools, and even an ancient orthodox Christian church, all with desperate Palestinian civilians sheltering inside.
In response to horrific videos emerging from Gaza of Israel’s slaughter, journalist Sam Husseini observed, “Israel lied about Hamas beheading babies so it could get away with blowing heads off babies.”
The Dahiya Doctrine
This is par for the course for Tel Aviv. What Gaza is witnessing today is what Beirut experienced in Israel’s 2006 war. As Palestinian historian Rashid Khalidi explained, the Dahiya Doctrine was established to destroy entire urban populated areas from the air by Israeli forces – in this case, the entire southern suburb of Beirut, known as the Dahiya. Revealed publicly in 2008 by Major General Gadi Eizenkot, the deputy chief of staff of the Israeli military who commanded these forces during the 2006 war:
“What happened in the Dahiya quarter of Beirut in 2006 will happen in every village from which Israel is fired on … From our standpoint, these are not civilian villages, they are military bases … This is not a recommendation. This is a plan. And it has been approved.”
Unsurprisingly, Raz Segal, an associate professor of Holocaust and genocide studies at Stockton University, has called Israel’s current bombing campaign in Gaza “A textbook case of genocide.” Calling for the killing of all Gazans, not just members of Hamas, is now standard and accepted in Israeli public discourse.
Asked in an interview with Radio Kol Berama whether an atomic bomb should be dropped on the enclave, Israel’s Heritage Minister, Amichai Eliyahu, stated, “This is one of the possibilities … there is no such thing as uninvolved civilians in Gaza.”
Member of the Likud party and Knesset member Revital Gottlieb stated, “Flatten Gaza. Without mercy! This time, there is no room for mercy!”
“It’s an entire nation out there that is responsible. It’s not true this rhetoric about civilians not aware, not involved, it’s absolutely not true,” stated Israeli President Isaac Herzog.
“If, in order to finally eliminate the military capabilities of Hamas … we need a million bodies, then let there be a million bodies,” said journalist Roy Sharon.
“Erase Gaza, don’t leave a single person there,” stated Eyal Golan, a popular Israeli singer.
The Gaza annexation agenda
Tel Aviv is now actively using the Hamas-led resistance operation as a pretext to ethnically cleanse and annex Gaza, which has effectively been split in half by the invading occupation army. Israeli leaders wish to use the events of 7 October to carry out a second Nakba, just as Zionist leaders used the Holocaust to carry out the first.
This further explains why Israeli leaders such as Smotrich were willing to sacrifice hundreds of Israeli soldiers and settlers in the aftermath of Al-Aqsa Flood.
Since at least 2010, Israeli leaders have sought to forcibly displace Gaza’s 2.3 million people to Egypt’s Sinai, making them refugees once again, and then annex and recolonize Gaza.
They wish to rebuild the Gush Katif settlement bloc that was dismantled following Israel’s withdrawal from the Gaza Strip in 2005, as part of then Prime Minister Ariel Sharon’s “disengagement plan.”
Gush Katif, once home to 8,000 Jewish settlers, has been called a “lingering wound,” one still open and fresh for Israelis.
“It’s a trauma,” an Israeli named Hillel told i24NEWS in September last year. “The whole country was hurting.”
i24NEWS also noted that in July 2022, Religious Zionist candidate Arnon Segal wrote during his campaign announcement, “It is time to begin to plan a return to Gush Katif.”
In March of this year — well before Operation Al Aqsa Flood — Israeli Minister of National Missions Orit Strook told Channel 7 that Israelis would return to Gush Katif:
“Sadly, a return to the Gaza Strip will involve many casualties, just as the departure from the Gaza Strip came with many casualties. But ultimately, it is part of the Land of Israel, and a day will come when we will return to it.”
As a result, Israel’s horrific bombing campaign in Gaza was quickly accompanied by Israeli demands that Palestinians in Gaza move to the south of the enclave and finally flee to Egypt.
On 17 October, Israel’s former US Ambassador Danny Ayalon stated, “The people of Gaza should evacuate and go to the vast expanses on the other side of Rafah at the Sinai border in Egypt … and Egypt will have to accept them.”
On 28 October, a document issued by Israel’s Ministry of Intelligence was leaked recommending the Israeli army occupy Gaza and effect the permanent transfer of its inhabitants to Sinai.
Days later, the Biden Administration submitted a supplemental funding request to Congress for Israel and Ukraine, which included funds to build refugee camps in Sinai, as outlined in the Ministry of Intelligence plan.
Israel, at its most dangerous
Israel was willing to kill many of its own citizens and soldiers on 7 October to confront the threat to the sovereignty of the state posed by Hamas. At the same time, the death of these Israelis, accompanied by propaganda claiming Hamas committed horrific atrocities such as the discredited claims of raping women and beheading Jewish babies, also now provides Israel the opportunity to realize its goal to ethnically cleanse and annex Gaza.
It is, therefore, no accident that the events of 7 October were quickly branded as “Israel’s 9/11.”
The terrorist attacks on 11 September 2001 provided pro-Israel elements in the US government the opportunity to launch a global “War on Terror,” which included plans to invade and occupy Afghanistan and Iraq, while killing millions and unlocking trillions of dollars in spending to benefit the US’ military-industrial complex.
It is too early to tell if Israel will be successful in realizing its goals in Gaza, or whether Hamas and its allies in the Axis of Resistance will be able to prevent it. As the slaughter of Gazans continues, a desperate Israel appears to be at both its weakest, and at its most dangerous, prepared to kill any and all that stand in its way.