(iexclusivenews) – Israel launched a massive aerial assault on the Gaza Strip on Friday night, targeting 150 “underground targets” belonging to the militant group Hamas, which controls the coastal enclave.
The Israeli army said the strikes were in response to the October 7 cross-border attack that killed 1,400 people, mainly civilians, in Israel’s deadliest attack in its history.
The underground targets included “terror tunnels, underground combat spaces and additional underground infrastructure”, the army said in a statement.
It added that several Hamas terrorists were killed in the raids, including Asem Abu Rakaba, the head of Hamas’ air attacks unit.
The night of raids was one of the most intense since the war began three weeks ago. Correspondents in Gaza and southern Israel reported hearing loud explosions and seeing flashes of light throughout the night.
They said the shelling and air strikes continued on Saturday, but at a lower intensity.
The October 7 Attack
The October 7 attack that triggered the current war was a coordinated assault by Hamas militants who used drones, paragliders, rockets and mortars to target Israeli towns and military bases near the Gaza border.
Israel said it was caught off guard by the unprecedented attack, which overwhelmed its air defence systems and caused widespread panic and damage.
According to the Israeli military, Abu Rakaba was the mastermind behind the attack. He oversaw Hamas‘ drones, paragliders, aerial detection and aerial defence units.
“He directed the terrorists who infiltrated Israel on paragliders and was responsible for the drone attacks on IDF (Israel Defence Forces) posts,” the military said in a statement.
The Human Cost
The October 7 attack was the deadliest single incident in Israel’s history, surpassing the toll of the 1973 Yom Kippur War.
The attack killed 1,400 people, mainly civilians, and injured more than 5,000 others. It also sparked widespread anger and grief among Israelis, who demanded a strong response from their government.
The Israeli raids on Gaza have also exacted a heavy human toll. According to the health ministry in Gaza, more than 7,300 people have been killed in the Israeli strikes since October 7, also mostly civilians.
The raids have also destroyed thousands of homes, schools, hospitals and other infrastructure, leaving many Gazans homeless and without basic services.
The war has also displaced more than half a million people in Gaza, according to the United Nations.
Many of them have sought shelter in UN-run schools or other public buildings, where they face overcrowding and poor sanitation.
The UN has warned of a humanitarian crisis in Gaza and called for an immediate ceasefire.
The Diplomatic Efforts
Despite the mounting casualties and suffering on both sides, there has been little progress in diplomatic efforts to end the war.
Several countries and international organizations have tried to mediate between Israel and Hamas, but so far without success.
The main obstacle to a ceasefire is the demand by Hamas for an end to the Israeli blockade of Gaza, which has been in place since 2007.
The blockade restricts the movement of goods and people into and out of Gaza, and has crippled its economy and development.
Hamas says it will not stop fighting until the blockade is lifted.
Israel says it will not lift the blockade unless Hamas disarms and renounces violence. Israel accuses
Hamas of using Gaza as a base for launching attacks against it and smuggling weapons from Iran and other allies. Israel says it has the right to defend itself from Hamas’ aggression.
The United States, Israel’s main ally, has backed its right to self-defence but has also urged it to avoid civilian casualties.
The US has also said it supports Egypt’s efforts to broker a ceasefire between Israel and Hamas. Egypt shares a border with Gaza and has close ties with both sides.
Other countries that have been involved in trying to end the war include Qatar, Turkey, France, Germany and Russia.
The UN Security Council has also held several meetings on the crisis but has failed to agree on a resolution calling for a ceasefire.
The Future Prospects
The war between Israel and Hamas is not new. It is the fourth major conflict between them since 2008.
Each time, they have fought until they reached a stalemate or a temporary truce, only to resume hostilities after a period of calm.
Many analysts say that unless there is a fundamental change in the political situation or a comprehensive peace deal between Israel and the Palestinians, there is little hope for a lasting solution to the conflict.
Some experts say that both sides need to recognize each other’s legitimate rights and grievances, and engage in dialogue and negotiations.
They say that only a two-state solution, based on the 1967 borders and with mutual recognition and security guarantees, can end the cycle of violence and bring peace and stability to the region.
Others argue that such a solution is unrealistic or undesirable, and that alternative options should be explored.
They include a one-state solution, where Israelis and Palestinians live together in a single democratic state; a confederation.
Where they share some institutions but retain their own sovereignty; or a regional framework, where they cooperate with other Arab states on common issues.
Whatever the outcome, the war between Israel and Hamas has shown once again the human cost of the unresolved conflict and the urgent need for a political solution.
As long as the root causes of the conflict remain unaddressed, the risk of another war remains high.
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