Amid the tragic events unfolding in Gaza, the world watches with concern as the Hamas-Israel war takes a toll on both human lives and the stability of the region. The goal to terrorise Israel and Israel’s retribution to eradicate Hamas has led to immense destruction, leaving thousands dead in just four weeks, with a third of the casualties being children under 18. Terrorism for justice and vengeance as retribution can never bring about lasting peace.
The plight of hostages, including young women and children, and the dire humanitarian situation in Gaza demand urgent intervention to alleviate suffering. Narratives and counter-narratives will shape the information warfare stories, but what remains the stark reality is the loss of innocent lives and misery on both sides. This must stop, and a strategic direction of peace and tranquillity must guide the way forward. Sooner or later, acceptance of a compromise for a two-nation theory will be imperative.
Similar to the heavy cost that the US had to bear for creating Taliban and Al-Qaida, and Pakistan has to face the brunt for giving birth to and nurturing terrorism as a state policy, Israel bred Hamas to divide and rule Palestine. But the latter has become a Frankenstein monster that has boomeranged against its perpetrators. When politics and extremist ideologies are blended for petty gains, it inevitably boomerangs with geometric intensity once its utility is outlived. This reality has been globally acknowledged, even in democracies like India, which has sadly been a victim of terrorism and its ideology.
The Urgency of a Humanitarian Pause
The gravity of the situation is evident in the horrifying statistics of captivity under inhuman conditions by terrorists, innocent lives lost in Gaza retribution, with children bearing a disproportionate burden. Besides the tragic loss of innocent lives, Gaza faces an acute shortage of basic humanitarian resources such as food, medicine, water, and fuel. The situation is exacerbated by the displacement of nearly half of the population, intensifying the urgency of addressing these pressing issues. Similarly, anguish and pain, like cancer, are consuming those whose kin and kith in Israel have been taken as hostages and being refused release, with nightmares of the inhuman and evil acts of October 7th by terrorists still fresh.
A temporary humanitarian pause (different from a ceasefire) of hostilities is imperative to allow passage for the innocents to leave, bring in humanitarian emergency aid, find the missing in the rubble, bury the dead, and avert widespread inhuman conditions. While such a temporary humanitarian pause may inadvertently benefit Hamas, it is a necessary step to alleviate the suffering of the entire population in Gaza and also reciprocally create an opportunity to negotiate the release of hostages, particularly women and children if not all, in exchange for the halt in fighting. Furthermore, it could uplift the global image of Israel, which, with the continued retribution, has taken a beating and crossed thresholds of global human tolerance. Even its allies and those supporting its cause are increasingly under pressure on humanitarian grounds.
A temporary humanitarian pause (different from a ceasefire) of hostilities is imperative to allow passage for the innocents to leave, bring in humanitarian emergency aid, find the missing in the rubble, and bury the dead, and avert widespread inhuman conditions. It must however be complemented by the partial/full release of hostages by Hamas
A permanent ceasefire is desirable yet may not be in the domain of reality presently and thus would not be acceptable to Israel being a de-facto defeat. This compassionate approach is essential to demonstrate a commitment to humanity amid the chaos and needs a wider global effort to bring in some sensibility in this chaotic war of vengeance and hatred.
Need for a Politico-Military Strategic Direction
Tactical and operational battles in war may be won by the military, but the war may be lost at the strategic level due to the lack of politico-military direction as a desired end state. Such wars are perpetual conflicts of the 21st century, culminating in face-saving yet embarrassing end states and exits that frequently generate greater regional instability than existed at the time of entry. From a strategic perspective, in the realm of politico-military direction, if the end remains ambiguous or myopic, the ways and means prove elusive and ultimately wasted.
While Israel’s stated objectives were three – the decimation of Hamas military and political leadership, making the area secure from future threats to Israel, and the release of hostages, there is a pressing need for a clear politico-military desired end state and a favourable conflict termination profile. The absence of such a strategic direction risks exacerbating tensions and prolonging the Israeli-Palestinian conflict without creating peace, tranquillity, and stability in the region. Retribution as a solely military response addresses the effects, not the cause which remains the destructive radical ideology of hate and terror. Military actions can only create a favourable situation for a negotiated peace, which must never lose focus by the political hierarchy. Vengeance and retribution can never justify lasting peace.
It is crucial for leaders, including proxies and the international community, to work collaboratively towards conflict resolution that addresses the aspirations of Palestinians living in an open prison and also renders Hamas’s radical ideology irrelevant to the coexistence of Palestine and Israel in harmony.
The Hamas ideology is disruptive and terror-based, not promoting the cause of Palestine but casting an evil shadow on peace in the region, which was taking shape with the Abraham Accord and the Chinese-brokered possible détente between Saudi Arabia and Iran. In the interest of peace and development, Islamist fundamentalism and such ideologies must be shunned and distanced by the Arab World and PLO for their future. Hamas, and more importantly its ideology, must be eradicated by a hammer-and-glove strategy while mainstreaming the fence-sitters. Once a desired military conflict termination profile of dismembering Hamas terror infrastructure and decimating its leadership to incapacitate their ability to revive is achieved, the way forward must be to diplomatically and politically address the region where the Palestinians live an honourable life of peace and development, while addressing the security concerns and animosity against Israel. In the larger perspective, peace and integration of the Middle East will pave the path for regional and global peace and development.
Targeting the Hamas Centre of Gravity (CoG)
Hamas operates as both an ideological Islamist movement and a designated terrorist group, actively engaging in armed resistance against Israel and asserting its vision of establishing an Islamic Palestinian state. The group’s ideological underpinnings are rooted in the belief that Palestine is inherently Islamic land, with a duty for followers of other religions to acknowledge Islamic sovereignty in the region.
In analysing Hamas’s Centre of Gravity (CoG), the challenge lies in determining whether it resides in its leadership, its people, or its ideological framework. While there may be multiple CoGs, including military, political, and ideological facets, it is crucial to acknowledge that the impact on the ideology can render the others irrelevant.
Historically, Israel’s strategy, often referred to as “mowing the lawn,” has focused on targeting Hamas’s leadership and infrastructure. However, this approach has failed to address the core ideological component of Hamas. Even significant losses in leadership did not deter the organisation permanently, as its ideology remained resilient and even gained momentum during periods of recuperation.
Historically, Israel’s strategy, often referred to as “mowing the lawn,” has focused on targeting Hamas’s leadership and infrastructure. However, this approach has failed to address the core ideological component of Hamas. Even in the past significant losses in HAMAS leadership did not deter the organisation permanently, as its ideology remained resilient and even gained momentum during periods of recuperation
If the CoG of Hamas is not solely its collective leadership or the support of its people, it is imperative to explore the ideological aspect concerning Israel. Demonizing Israel appears to be a unifying factor within Hamas, rooted in its Islamist ideology. This ideological element could serve as a potent force that unifies the organization and, if not defeated, may spread globally as a form of anti-Zionism.
Addressing the CoG requires a nuanced approach. While military strikes on CoGs and critical vulnerabilities, such as leadership and infrastructure, may reduce the relevance of ideology, the long-term challenge lies in countering Hamas’s narrative effectively. Hamas anticipates that Israel’s responses will inadvertently amplify its ideology, turning public sentiment toward militancy. Consequently, Israel must navigate a complex path, targeting Hamas’s infrastructure while minimising civilian casualties.
The overarching struggle extends beyond immediate military considerations, involving a multi-decade effort to combat the ingrained anti-Zionist ideology within Hamas. This necessitates a comprehensive approach combining both hard and soft power strategies over an extended period.
………….. To Be Continued
-The author is a PVSM, AVSM, VSM has had an illustrious career spanning nearly four decades. A distinguished Armoured Corps officer, he has served in various prestigious staff and command appointments including Commander Independent Armoured Brigade, ADG PP, GOC Armoured Division and GOC Strike 1. The officer retired as DG Mechanised Forces in December 2017 during which he was the architect to initiate process for reintroduction of Light Tank and Chairman on the study on C5ISR for Indian Army. Subsequently he was Consultant MoD/OFB from 2018 to 2020. The Officer is a reputed defence analyst, a motivational speaker and prolific writer on matters of military, defence technology and national security.The views expressed are personal and do not necessarily carry the views of Raksha Anirveda