Its clear from current events that Hamas can give Israel a bloody nose; it can fire thousands of missiles and send in fighters to kill lots of people. That is more than many expected them capable of, given their situation. But despite this it seems very unlikely that Hamas can force a capitulation on anything important: Israel out-guns and outnumbers them, and the political response in Israel will be to enforce an even harder line rather than seek a negotiated settlement.

Given this, what is Hamas' game plan? How do they expect this action to improve their situation?

I've read this question, but I'm interested in the current mass attack rather than Hamas' position on violent resistance in general.

  • 3
    I suggest you reword the title and body of the question to ask about Hamas' stated motivation and goals. At present, it falls fouls of the "Questions asking for the internal motivations of people.." close reason. Commented Oct 7, 2023 at 21:39
  • 51
    This is a massively important current event. Closing it on the claim that "motivations can't be guessed" is unwarranted: plenty of Hamas PR statements can be expected (just remember who they are coming from). Specialized analysts will also provide coverage of likely goals and aims. Commented Oct 7, 2023 at 23:12
  • 2
    For those who can follow regular spoken French (or its subtitles), this video - channel is named "Conflicts on maps" - details on a map precisely what was attacked where. Pretty impressive resource for the Ukraine war, so might be worth a look. Commented Oct 9, 2023 at 0:25
  • 1
    The way the answers to this question are being moderated is being discussed on meta.
    – Philipp
    Commented Oct 10, 2023 at 8:00
  • 1
    The answers from Giter and Fizz (currently the top two) together seem to me to best answer the question. On balance I've decided to accept the one from Fizz because it covers more ground and describes a more concrete relationship between actions and goals, whereas the wider geopolitical goals described by Giter seem more aspirational. Thanks to everyone for the well-sourced and thought-through answers. Commented Oct 10, 2023 at 10:08

11 Answers 11


According to Hamas spokespersons and military leaders, the recent escalation is meant to be a message to Arab countries, either to make them reconsider normalizing relations with Israel or to unite them against Israel.

Ghazi Hamad is a Hamas spokesperson and former deputy foreign minister for the Hamas government in Gaza. Around 5:09 of this video posted today by Al Jazeera, he explains the purpose of this specific operation to a reporter:

Hamad: ... and I hope that that that some countries especially uh Arab countries who normalize with Israel should understand that it is a brutal country is a brutal state which is built on the skulls of the Palestinians on the blood of the Palestinian, they stop normalization with Israel, I think it is shame for anyone who come and make normalization of Israel-

Reporter: So are you saying, sir, this operation is a message to Arab countries who have been normalizing relations with Israel?

Hamad: Yes, yes, I think it is a shame for them it is a shame and it is a big shame and I ask all Arabic countries all Arabic countries to disconnect and to cut relationship with Israel because I think it is not, it is not a human, it is not, it is, sorry, it is not a state which believe in peace or existence or believe in good, to be a good neighbor...

And in another video from Al-Jazeera today that translates a message from Hamas military commander Mohammed Deif, describing the messaging purpose of the operation:

The time has come to draw the line, for the enemy to understand their time is up and they can't keep going without consequences. We are announcing an operation called Al-Aqsa Flood. In the first part of it 5,000 rockets have been fired. It is the time to unite all the Arab and Islamic powers to overthrow the Israeli occupation.

  • 20
    I have to admit I don't understand how "hey we just killed several hundred people" could encourage other countries to be sympathetic to them, quite the contrary. Of course they could be counting on "Israel is going to be killing us by the thousands in revenge", but that feels more like suicide-by-cop than a valid strategy.
    – jcaron
    Commented Oct 10, 2023 at 11:51
  • 13
    @jcaron I think they're making the (not that unfounded) assumption that their "target audience" in the Arab countries would consider those killings as morally good, and that they're making a point of "hey, why aren't you doing the same thing as well, stop pretending that you're at peace with Israel and come join us", trying to shame the neighboring countries in re-starting the elimination of Israel.
    – Peteris
    Commented Oct 10, 2023 at 12:38
  • 3
    Who would be their “target audiences”? The population? It’s not like any of the influent Arab countries are democracies.
    – jcaron
    Commented Oct 10, 2023 at 12:43
  • 1
    @jcaron Look up "The Arab street". All these illegitimate regimes are terrified of "the street". So yes, popular opinion, and popular emotion, matter. Commented Nov 4, 2023 at 14:33
  • 1
    @jacron More generally, assuming that this plan was put together by political geniuses acting rationally is probably unfounded. While it was premeditated for a long time, "the big screwup" theory, possibly a big screwup encouraged by Iranian contacts who don't have their best interests at heart, has a lot to be said for it.
    – ohwilleke
    Commented Nov 10, 2023 at 5:09

And if go beyond "grand strategy" and you're also willing to believe their tactical claims, according to Al-Jazeera:

A senior Hamas leader has said that the group had captured enough Israeli soldiers during an unprecedented attack against Israel to make Israeli authorities free all Palestinian prisoners in its jails.

This, I might add, is no different from how analysts framed the 2008 escalation, in terms of additional/secondary goals:

Hamas hoped to achieve an “image of victory” by carrying out acts with more than military significance, such as kidnapping IDF soldiers, destroying tanks, or downing airplanes and helicopters [...]

Back to 2023:

enter image description here

BTW, regarding prisoner swaps, the strategy did bear fruit for Hamas in the past, with Israel releasing significant number of Palestinians, as well as leading figures, in exchange for a much smaller number of Israelis, as this piece from last year related:

Two of Israel’s main goals in engaging with Hamas are recovering the bodies of two soldiers from the 2014 war and negotiating the release of two civilians captured during last year’s conflict. In return, Hamas wants Israel to free multiple prisoners, similar to the 2011 swap in which Egypt brokered the release of 1,027 jailed Palestinians in exchange for the Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit (the mechanics of that swap were coordinated by German intelligence officials). Among those released were high-profile Hamas figures such as Yahya al-Sinwar, who has served as the organization’s leader in Gaza since 2017.

I'm not sure if this is a change in Hamas procedures per se, or just success at a greater scale, but reportedly they managed to capture a substantial number of Israeli civilians this time:

enter image description here

According to one Hamas claim the number was [at least] 53, in this "Al Aqsa Flood".

There's probably also the competition factor between Hamas and PIJ (Palestinian Islamic Jihad), which unlike Hamas has maintained a more sustained cycle of attacks with more direct Iranian support, according to some observers, such as an Egyptian ambassador. That's also not exactly new (as this 2007 piece put it):

Losing the battle of the ‘media Jihad’ to the smaller, less popular Islamic Jihad is therefore a tragic failure in the eyes of the Hamas communication committee. In the October meeting of Hamas propagandists, Fathi Hamad lamented Islamic Jihad’s ability to project itself as an equal to Hamas despite being smaller, lacking a developed social welfare wing and commanding less support on the street.


While 13.5 percent of Gaza’s population preferred PIJ in April 2014, 30.8 percent of the same population supported the movement in September 2014 after Israel’s “Protective Edge” bombing campaign. This places PIJ in a similar position to that of Hamas in the mid-1990s, during which period Hamas’s political violence earned it political support and undermined Fatah as disillusionment with the peace process grew.

Also both groups appear to launch their rockets in what one might call saturation attacks lately, in response to improved efficiency of Israeli defense anti-air, as that Egyptian ambassador relates:

The Iron Dome had an 86% interception rate in 2012, 89% in 2014, 94% in 2021, and 97% in the last operation. However, Israel did not expect these armed groups — who have been under siege in Gaza since 2007 — to launch more than 4,369 rockets in 11 days in May 2021, or 1,100 by PIJ in fewer than a mere three days. The range of rockets increased from two to three kilometers in 2001 to 160 kilometers in 2014. Ineffective as these rockets are, they still terrorize Israeli communities and resulted in Israel closing Ben Gurion Airport in May 2021 and diverting flights in 2022.

That approach also probably has a bigger media impact than the trickle of rockets from before.

Regarding the Saudi angle (which is working by the way--they have already called for Israel to "exercise restraint" in their retaliatory strikes) one of the more subtle points is that in August the Saudis have offered the Palestinian Authority (Abbas) funds in exchange for normalizing relations with Israel. So Hamas wasn't just worried about the Saudi's own relations with Israel improving, but them encouraging Palestinians to do the same with financial incentives. More explicitly, the Saudis apparently offered funds in return for Abbas exercising stricter control over the groups that attacked Israelis from the West Bank.

BTW, the Saudi call for restraint is quite in contrast with Israeli statements on this; Netanyahu reportedly professed "mighty vengeance" and an Israeli army spokesman said Hamas cannot be allowed to continue to govern Gaza or even "live" after this attack. In contrast, Hamas' leader, expressed his belief/hope that the "morning of defeat and humiliation" inflicted on Israeli forces and settlers will cause all Palestinians (incl. those in the West Bank) to take up arms against Israel.

One of the Hamas (nominally former) leaders was interviewed on Saudi TV, where he makes comparisons with the Soviet losses in WW2, Vietnamese and even Afghan losses against both the USSR and USA. He also says that Egypt has not been doing enough. So, reading a bit between the lines, causing Irsael to retaliate in a way that would produce a large number of Palestinian casualties was meant to inflame/revive support in the neighboring countries, ideally (from Hamas' perspective) drawing them into another war with Israel.


A substantial number of experts do not consider a two-state solution of the conflict viable any longer. Public support is "at its lowest ever".

A peaceful one-state solution appears even more far-fetched for historical, social, political and demographic reasons.

Therefore, the foreseeable future is a future of an ongoing, unresolvable conflict. Consequently, both parties have now resorted to managing this unresolvable conflict with the means at their disposal. For Hamas, the means include what they perceive as armed resistance, including acts of terror, even if it is not conducive to any solution — because none is possible anyway.

Addition Nov. 8th, 2023

In an interview with the Spiegel magazine (German, paywall), the Jewish historian Omer Bartov, one of the signers of the Elephant in the Room petition, presents an interesting theory. Spiegel asks him which goal Israel's government pursues with the ongoing massive attack on Gaza (which he condemns). He says that the Israeli government wants to present a two state solution as nonviable. Because, in this narrative, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict cannot be solved, it can only be "managed" [quotes originally in the article].

This is literally my assessment above. Bartov says that Netanyahu, in his efforts to prevent a two-state solution, has actually for years strengthened Hamas. With my original assessment above I would have, in Bartov's view, bought into a false narrative propagated by the Israeli government.

Part of Israel's efforts to manage the ongoing conflict is the marginalization of the Palestinians by working around them and building relationships with Arab nations in spite of this unresolved situation. Hamas' attack was, Bartov assumes, an attempt to undercut such Israeli efforts. This theory has been brought by other answers here.

  • This answer doesn't cover any of the recent incidents which caused this event to occur, nor any real justification for the Hamas attack (i.e. high-level strategy). The answer politics.stackexchange.com/a/81628/36479 clarifies this more than this answer. Commented Oct 9, 2023 at 7:08
  • 1
    @AhmedTawfik I understand your exasperation about the ongoing harassment of the Palestinians from the Israeli side (as I would understand Israeli complaints, btw), both unofficial and official. But that has been ongoing for years now (including deaths). The New York Times has a chart listing deaths on both sides here nytimes.com/interactive/2023/10/07/world/middleeast/…, and similar charts are on Wikipedia and in the Economist. Bottom line is, the conflict has been simmering for decades, and nothing really extraordinary has happened recently at all. Commented Oct 9, 2023 at 8:25

The probable political goals of Hamas through these recent terrorist acts against Israeli civilians are:

  1. To exploit perceived political divide in Israeli society.
  2. To ward of political criticism of being weak against Israel's polity.
  3. To derail the recent US - Saudi - Israel initiative.

To understand this, Hamas' actions has to be seen in the context of Israeli domestic and international politics. Israel is today ruled by its most right-wing government, whose main domestic agenda has been to:

  1. Fully capture the structures of power in Israel so that the government (and thus the Prime Minister) becomes the most powerful political institution in Israel.

  2. Expand Israel's territory without any regards to human rights of Palestinians.

Benjamin Netanyahu's attempt to subdue all the democratic institutions in Israel has divided Israel politically. There has been a huge public outcry, debates and protests against this move. Even thousands of military reservists, on whom the Israeli Defence Forces depend on, threatened to resign and protested against this blatant power grab by Netanyahu. Israel's civil society is deeply divided over this issue, and Hamas may have concluded that such internal political divisions has weakened Israel and this vulnerability could be exploited. They could even be seeking to widen these divisions.

Since 2019, Israel has had five elections but the results, reflecting the deeply polarised country, have not yielded a stable government. Divisions have centred on the persona and political fortunes of the 73-year-old Benjamin Netanyahu—Prime Minister for over 15 years, from 1996 to 1999 and then from 2009 to 2021 (with short periods as leader of the opposition)—Israel’s longest-serving Prime Minister.

Forceful displacement of native citizens and replacing the population with the occupying nation's citizens is considered as genocide by the United Nations. But this is a favoured policy of Netanyahu that he even advocates abroad.

“Israel is a nation now shaped more by the right wing—and perhaps its most extreme elements—than at any point in its history,” said Miller. Religious Zionism is made up of three extremist parties that Miller said, “collectively embody a racist, Jewish supremacist, anti-Arab, and homophobic view”.

The result has been the total breakdown of talks between Israel and Palestine under Netanyahu's leadership:

Firstly, the Palestine-Israel relations have steadily deteriorated in recent years. Israel has been carrying out military raids in the occupied West Bank almost on a daily basis, besides tightening the screws of the occupation. At least 200 Palestinians and some 30 Israelis have been killed so far this year. In April, Israeli police raided Jerusalem’s Al Aqsa Mosque compound, Islam’s third holiest place of worship, triggering rocket attacks from Gaza, which were followed by Israeli air strikes. In May, Israel and the Palestine Islamic Jihad, which is based in Gaza, fought a short battle, and in July, Israel carried out a major raid in the West Bank town of Jenin, which has emerged as a hotbed of militancy in the West Bank.

When diplomacy is replaced by violence, by both sides, it isn't surprising that more violence is inevitable.

Currently, there is no peace process. Violence is perverse. And anger has been building up among Palestinians against both the Israeli occupiers as well as the Palestinian Authority, the provisional administration of the West Bank that’s led by President Mohammad Abbas’s Fatah.

Palestinians undoubtedly feel a lot of anger and hatred against the Israelis due to the disproportionate violence and apartheid like system that are a result of Netanyahu's policies. But many Palestinians also blame Hamas for their suffering, the political incompetence in not protecting them from the conflict and for not taking any practical political actions to improve their situation. Hamas thus is betting that this attack on Israel can blunt some of these criticisms and strengthen its political base.

With Israel also successfully establishing, or even repairing, diplomatic relationship with some Arab States, Hamas has been facing a lot of political ire from its own angry constituents and is worried that it might become politically irrelevant.

Lastly, it is unlikely to be a coincidence that the Hamas attack came when Israel and Saudi Arabia are in an advanced stage of normalisation talks ... If Saudi Arabia, the custodian of the two holiest mosques of Islam and arguably the most influential Arab country, normalises ties with Israel (a deal which is being pursued actively by the Biden administration), it would not only reset West Asian geopolitical dynamics but also put Hamas at a further disadvantageous position.

The US Biden administration has promised to supply Saudi Arabia with more arms and, even a nuclear deal, if it normalises its relationship with Israel. Obviously Iran, that backs Islamic Jihad and Hamas, and China and Russia wouldn't like this to happen as it weakens their geopolitical positions. They may be backing Hamas, through Iran, too.


  1. Political quagmire in Israel as Netanyahu abandons past pragmatism
  2. Palestinians hold rare online events critical of Hamas
  3. America, Israel and Saudi are “at the cusp of a deal”
  4. Why did Hamas launch a surprise attack on Israel? | Analysis
  • 2
    Well, Hamas was never part of those talks, IIRC. Commented Oct 9, 2023 at 7:45
  • 3
    @Fizz The US, Qatar and Egypt all hold back channel talks with Hamas on behalf of Israel. (You can search online to find references to these). Moreover, even when talks happen with other parties, Hamas claims some credit with the Palestinians for it, pointing out that it is its militant arm that "brought Israel to the table".
    – sfxedit
    Commented Oct 10, 2023 at 4:37
  • Most of the answer is more about the situation and possibly what could have led to the attack, but it only tangentially answers the questions, which is about what the strategy is, i.e. what Hamas (and/or Palestinians in general, but I don't quite think this is much a preoccupation of Hamas) could get from it.
    – jcaron
    Commented Oct 10, 2023 at 12:01
  • @jcaron The three main points are that 1) Hamas seeks to take advantage of the political divisions in Israel. 2) Due to Netanyahu's human rights violation in Gaza, where roughly 10 palestinians are killed for 1 Israeli today, Hamas has been facing a lot of political anger for being "weak". This attack is meant to blunt that criticism and also prove that they are still politically relevant. 3) Derail the Saudi - Israel diplomacy. I had to provide the background to explain each of this.
    – sfxedit
    Commented Nov 6, 2023 at 17:09

One possible aspect of the strategy - there are a number of good answers on other motivations - is that Hamas' leadership is banking on Israeli forces killing a truly unjustifiable amount of Palestinian Gaza civilians as part of its response and in operations to recover hostages.

Doing so would trigger outrage in Arab countries. But a really disproportionate and intentional amount of Palestinian civilian deaths could also affect Western, especially European, tolerance towards Israeli treatment of Palestinians.

Economist: The lessons from Hamas’s assault on Israel

But Israel’s response comes with grave risks. Sending idf ground troops into Gaza could draw them into bloody urban fighting—and endanger the hostages, too. The longer the fighting drags on, the greater the chance that violence spreads to the West Bank or Lebanon. The death of many civilians in Gaza, especially if seen as wanton, would harm Israel’s standing in the world as well as being profoundly wrong in its own terms.

The level of killing of Israeli civilians does seem intentionally calculated to drive Israel towards a totally unrestrained response. This operation was too well-planned and too well-executed for that many deaths to have just been collateral, or by undisciplined, bloodthirsty, troops. If it was just about capturing hostages, or even showing Arab countries Palestinians were still fighting, they could have been a lot more restrained.

This is, of course, not something Hamas would communicate.

p.s. A policy of deliberately killing adversary civilians, to provoke revenge killings of one's own civilians, has at least one precedent, a massacre at the start of the Algerian war of independence.


Martin Indyk (2023-10-07 interview with Foreign Affairs):

The Arab world is coming to terms with Israel. Saudi Arabia is talking about normalizing relations with Israel. As part of that potential deal, the United States is pressing Israel to make concessions to the Palestinian Authority—Hamas’s enemy. So this was an opportunity for Hamas and its Iranian backers to disrupt the whole process, which I think in retrospect was deeply threatening to both of them. I don’t think that Hamas follows dictation from Iran, but I do think they act in coordination, and they had a common interest in disrupting the progress that was underway and that was gaining a lot of support among Arab populations. The idea was to embarrass those Arab leaders who have made peace with Israel, or who might do so, and to prove that Hamas and Iran are the ones who are able to inflict military defeat on Israel.

There are talks going on regarding a peace deal between Israel and Saudi Arabia, and conversations about U.S. security guarantees for Saudi Arabia. In all likelihood, a primary motivation for Hamas and Iran was a desire to disrupt that deal, because it threatened to isolate them. And this was a very good way to destroy its prospects, at least in the near term. Once the Palestinian issue returns to front and center, and Arabs around the Middle East are watching American weapons in Israeli hands killing large numbers of Palestinians, that will ignite a very strong reaction. And leaders such as [Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince] Mohammad bin Salman will be very reluctant to stand up to that kind of opposition. Doing so would require him to stand up and tell his people, “This is not the way. My way will get the Palestinians much more than the way of Hamas, which only brings misery.” That kind of courage is, I think, too much to expect of any Arab leader in this kind of crisis.

Had Hamas not acted, it is likely that in the coming months, Saudi Arabia (and possibly others) would've normalized relations with Israel with underwhelming concessions to the Palestinians. With this war, Hamas hopes to extract greater concessions, both for Palestinians and itself.

Hamas's war may also lead to Israel's current right-wing (and many say far-right) government being replaced by a more moderate government that is more willing to compromise.

The New York Times (2023-11-08):

Hamas leaders say they waged their Oct. 7 attack on Israel because they believed the Palestinian cause was slipping away, and that only violence could revive it. ...

in the bloody arithmetic of Hamas’s leaders, the carnage is not the regrettable outcome of a big miscalculation. Quite the opposite, they say: It is the necessary cost of a great accomplishment — the shattering of the status quo and the opening of a new, more volatile chapter in their fight against Israel.

It was necessary to “change the entire equation and not just have a clash,” Khalil al-Hayya, a member of Hamas’s top leadership body, told The New York Times in Doha, Qatar. “We succeeded in putting the Palestinian issue back on the table, and now no one in the region is experiencing calm.” ...

the group’s leaders have praised the operation, with some hoping it will set off a sustained conflict that ends any pretense of coexistence among Israel, Gaza and the countries around them.

“I hope that the state of war with Israel will become permanent on all the borders, and that the Arab world will stand with us,” Taher El-Nounou, a Hamas media adviser, told The Times. ...

for Hamas, the attack stemmed from a growing sense that the Palestinian cause was being pushed aside, and that only drastic action could revive it. ...

But the frustration was building. Hamas leaders in Gaza were flooded with images of Israeli settlers attacking Palestinians in the West Bank, Jews openly praying at a contested site customarily reserved for Muslims, and the Israeli police storming the Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem, a touchstone for Palestinian claims to the holy city. The prospect of Israel’s normalizing ties with Saudi Arabia, long a deep-pocketed patron of the Palestinian cause, appeared closer than ever. ...

“What could change the equation was a great act, and without a doubt, it was known that the reaction to this great act would be big,” Mr. al-Hayya said. ...

Hamas leaders have praised the attack, saying it was necessary to reinvigorate the armed struggle against Israel.

“Hamas’s goal is not to run Gaza and to bring it water and electricity and such,” said Mr. al-Hayya, the politburo member. “Hamas, the Qassam and the resistance woke the world up from its deep sleep and showed that this issue must remain on the table.”

“This battle was not because we wanted fuel or laborers,” he added. “It did not seek to improve the situation in Gaza. This battle is to completely overthrow the situation.”


Hamas is a terrorist organisation, and its targeting of civilians in Israel proper (as opposed to those in settlements in occupied or annexed territories) serves a purpose intrinsic to terrorism: it instils fear in far larger numbers of people than those who have been directly impacted by the terrorism. Israel was founded on the promise to be a safe haven for Jewish people after millennia of pogroms and persecution, culminating in the Holocaust. Fulfilling this promise in Israel/Palestine is vehemently and violently opposed by Hamas and its Islamist allies.

Hamas wants to send the message that Jews are not safe in Israel. If Israel fails to be a safe haven for Jews, it becomes less attractive for Jews to immigrate there, and some might emigrate. This threatens the raison-d'être of Israel as such. Although most people will remain, any demographic shift in favour of the non-Jewish population in Israel and Palestine helps the anti-Zionist movement long-term.

Terrorism has a disproportionate economic impact as well. Tourists might stay away, and businesses might prefer a different location for their regional offices.

The message sent by Hamas: You are not safe in Israel. Your IDF and your Mossad cannot protect you. People would be forgiven to believe that, at least in part of Israel, that message is at least partly true. They're not going to beat the IDF in military combat, but they might well harm the idea behind Israel as such.

  • The message about safe heaven would make sense half a century ago, and it is not impossible that some of the Palestinian extremists and their backers are still stuck in post-ww2 mentality. The situation has however changed: Israel has been a dangerous place for decades, but many Jews still prefer to go there. What is more important - there are several generations born and raised in Israel, who regard Israel as their only country.
    – Morisco
    Commented Oct 11, 2023 at 4:52
  • @RogerVadim I am not convinced. Jewish history is thousands of years long. WW II is just an instant ago on that timescale.
    – gerrit
    Commented Oct 11, 2023 at 6:42
  • The culture and national history may suggest to Jews that they are better together, but in terms of real danger in the last 50 years Israel has been probably the most dangerous place for Jews. I would like however to stress again that most of Israelis are not immigrants anymore - but born in Israel. Also, Political Zionism is not just about safe heaven - it is about a nation-state, on European model, as codified by the UN charter.
    – Morisco
    Commented Oct 11, 2023 at 6:49
  • @Roger V. It is safe haven not safe heaven.
    – ohwilleke
    Commented Nov 10, 2023 at 5:12
  • 1
    @ohwilleke thanks.
    – Morisco
    Commented Nov 10, 2023 at 5:37

Hamas believes that Israel has become decadent. It sees Israelis as "people who want a good life". It believes that if it can impose sufficient chaos within Israel, those people will leave and this will weaken Israel sufficiently to make it vulnerable to further attack.

The Head of the IRGC said as much recently, in an August 2022 interview posted on Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei’s website,

In what arena [will the fighting take place]? In the arena where society, politics, and militarism completely overlap. The moment ground operations begin, great waves of emigrating [Israeli] civilians and soldiers will intermingle, and the balance of the Zionists’ military command and control system will be thrown off. Do not look at the current situation [in August 2022], which is not under war conditions and in which this regime’s airplanes fly as usual, transportation is stable, power stations and refineries operate, administrative order prevails, and the regime is able to manage its environment calmly and with no pressure. Under conditions of war, all this order will fall apart, because [Israel’s] territory is small and densely populated. And who [lives in Israel]? People who came to this territory for prosperity and a comfortable life. In such a scenario [of war], the Zionist regime will face waves of out-of-control fires and the movement of jihadis whom nothing can stop. Then you will see what will happen.

That is why they are moving to a new strategy of ground invasion - to sow panic and drive emigration. Hence the spectacle of parading civilians for the cameras.



Hamas is a political and military organization, whose leaders enjoy high social and economic status, which they want to preserve for as long as possible - just like leaders of any political party.

In the case of Hamas such preservation includes the following elements:

  • boosting their popularity among their own people by posing as protectors against the Israeli aggression - real or imaginary
  • boosting their popularity among larger antisemitic crowds, posing as fighter with Zionism
  • getting funding and weapons from the states/organizations interested in putting extra pressure on the west via the Arab-Israeli conflict
  • getting humanitarian aid from international organizations and western states, as well as using the western sympathy to prevent Israel from responding forcefully and destroying Hamas completely.

In the last couple of years these goals were seriously endangered by the shift of attention to Ukraine, and Israel's growing normalization with the Arab world. Hamas is trying to put themselves back in the saddle... at the cost of many human lives and perpetuating the suffering of the Palestinian people.

Regarding the importance of attracting western attention vis-à-vis Ukraine - Zelenskyy heads to Davos to regain the spotlight for Ukraine:

The Israel-Hamas war and U.S. presidential campaign are consuming most of the attention in the lead-up to the annual World Economic Forum here in the Swiss mountains. Russia’s war on Ukraine — so recently the crisis driving global conversations — isn’t grabbing as many headlines, and Western financial and military aid for Kyiv is increasingly uncertain as the war sputters into its third year.


U.S. attention, and to some extent its resources, have been further stretched by the Israel-Hamas war. That conflict is leading to skirmishes throughout the Middle East that could affect the global energy supply and trade routes.

  • I don't think the Ukraine bit is that relevant... for now. It may be if Russia follows Iran into Hamas support and Israel sells weapons to Ukraine... But for now it isn't. However, upvoted for identifying that Hamas doesn't need to "win" for Palestine, it can largely benefit by remaining the pre-eminent "resistance broker" in Gaza. Triggering a war and more repression is likely quite good at achieving this. Economist covered up and coming challengers in West Bank. Commented Oct 8, 2023 at 8:00
  • 2
    @ItalianPhilosophers4Monica Ukraine clearly displaced Palestinians as the #1 humanitarian cause. And I think that fight Public Relations war is a lot more significant than what happens in the field.
    – Morisco
    Commented Oct 8, 2023 at 15:53
  • 8
    I don't think Palestine has been a major concern in the media, for a long while. There is some concern when rockets fly, but everyone shrugs as it is just something that happens. To a large extent, terrorist behavior by folk like Hamas does make the West wary of pushing Israel's govt overmuch. Ukraine rocketed up, but it's pretty unrelated otherwise. I would also drop the claim that Western humanitarian aid goes to Hamas - the alternative is largely to let Gaza residents starve. Something you think is a good idea? Commented Oct 8, 2023 at 16:06
  • 4
    @ItalianPhilosophers4Monica I don't know how it is covered in the US, but in European media every time that Israel goes to Gaza used to produce the imagery and coverage similar to that of Russia in Ukraine. Regarding the western aid - see my comment above: I am not passing a value judgement here, just stating that any aid to Palestinians is controlled by Hamas, and Hamas takes credit for any increase in it.
    – Morisco
    Commented Oct 8, 2023 at 17:08
  • 6
    @ItalianPhilosophers4Monica helping Palestinians vs. cutting aid to terrorists is a modern version of the trolley problem in philosophy.
    – Morisco
    Commented Oct 8, 2023 at 17:13

History is full of people who have resisted oppression against impossible odds. Take for example, the Jewish revolts against the Romans 2,000 years ago, the Warsaw Ghetto uprising in 1943, or the many rebellions against the British empire. They were all doomed to fail, yet people rebelled. In the private sphere a woman may violently resist rape. It may be futile because the man is much stronger than her and he may hurt her more for resisting, yet she resists.

Palestinians are not different. Youth throwing stones at Israeli soldiers won't end the occupation, yet they persist:

In 2013, I had asked a Palestinian living in Burj al-Barajneh in Beirut why it was “a thing” for boys and men to pick up rocks and throw them at soldiers who massively outgunned them.

He explained that throwing stones was a defining act of Palestinian identity. The whole point, he said, was not to use the stones to defeat Israeli soldiers armed with rifles. It was a symbol of brazen defiance in the face of hopeless and inevitable defeat that epitomized how many Palestinians feel about their conflict with Israel.

Why Palestinians throw stones: A reporter's notebook

The Palestinian academic Refaat Alareer who was recently killed by Israel said "I only have my pen, I'll throw it at the occupation soldiers if they invade, even if it's the last thing I do." What good does throwing pens do?

Besides, Hamas attacks on Israel do have achievable goals and are not purely symbolic. Namely prisoner exchanges. In 2011 one Israeli soldier, Gilad Shalit, was exchanged for 1027 Palestinian prisoners. In 1985 three Israeli soldiers were exchanged for 1150 Palestinians in the so called "Jibril Agreement".

  • Was the prisoner exchange goal effectively reached this time around? Was it worth it?
    – TKoL
    Commented Dec 29, 2023 at 10:46
  • Hamas still holds a large number of Israelis prisoner and looks to exchange them for Palestinian prisoners. "Was it worth it?" asks for my subjective opinion and thus is off-topic for this site. Commented Dec 29, 2023 at 11:20

Hamas had planned for an operation with far more modest results than they actually obtained. We can read here:

He said even Hamas was shocked by the extent of the operation, saying it had expected Israel to prevent or limit the attack. “We were surprised by this great collapse,” Barakeh said. “We were planning to make some gains and take prisoners to exchange them. This army was a paper tiger.”

So, this means that Hamas carried out many parallel operations expecting most of them fail. Hamas then counted on a few success due to the IDF being overwhelmed by the simultaneous attacks, which would then be enough to take a few hostages to be exchanged for Palestinian prisoners.

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