Amid ongoing hostilities between Israeli and Hamas forces, after the latter launched the largest offensive in its history against the positions of the former, Israeli envoy to the United Nations Gilad Erdan has stated his country’s intention to “obliterate” the Palestinian political and military group. Comparing Hamas to Islamic State and Al Qaeda, Erdan stated that it was “a genocidal Islamist terror organization,” and that “the era of reasoning with these savages is over.” “Now is the time to obliterate Hamas terror infrastructure, to completely wipe it out, so that such horrors are never committed again,” he added, accusing the group of “blatant documented war crimes” during its recent operation. Hamas strikes are estimated to have caused over 2000 Israeli casualties since October 7, with over 100 Israelis reportedly taken hostage into the Gaza strip. The capture of military bases has meanwhile put large arsenals, including battle tanks, in the militant group’s hands. Footage from Hamas drone strikes has also shown that the group has for the first time made effective use of air power, including to destroy Israeli Merkava IV tanks and other armoured assets.
In response to Hamas’ offensives Israel launched Operation Iron Swords against the Gaza Strip, which has been ruled by Hamas since 2007. Over 400 sites in Gaza have been struck causing over 2300 casualties including over 300 deaths. Gaza resident Sanaa Kamal stated regarding the strikes that they were the largest in the history of conflict between the Palestinian enclave and Israel, observing: “We are completely shocked by the damage Israel has caused. There is literally no street in Gaza that has remained intact. Every street and every corner has been destroyed or damaged. Some of them had just been reconstructed and now they have turned into ruins again.” While the Israeli Air Force is reported to have been highly limited in its role countering Hamas’ offensives, it has been deployed to target the houses of top Hamas commanders and political leaders, and to bomb the exclave’s infrastructure, mosques, residential buildings, roads, banks and hospitals. Although such strikes, including attacking the families of enemy leaders, is considered a war crime, attacks on mosques has been justified on the basis that they have been used to store armaments. This tactic has been widely used by Hamas’ former affiliates in Syria and various Turkish backed terrorist groups, although whether it has indeed been the case in Gaza remains uncertain. A major Israeli ground offensive into Gaza has been widely speculated, although the outcome of Hamas’ current offensives, which are seen to have taken Israeli forces entirely by surprise, remains uncertain. The possible entry of Hamas’ strategic partner Hezbollah into the war has also been speculated, with the Lebanese militia having several hundred times the firepower and a significantly larger and better trained military body.