The IDF’s takeover of al-Shifa hospital is a sign of the speed at which the ground offensive has thus far progressed—although many challenges await, and the hostages have not yet been freed. But Israel’s relative success raises an obvious question: what did Hamas expect to happen, and what did it hope to achieve in the October 7 attacks? Now that some of the terrorist group’s plans and documents have been seized, a better sense is emerging. Yossi Kuperwasser explains:
Hamas likely believed that had Israel subscribed to a small-scale [retaliation], it could build on the success of October 7 and effect a change that would result in a new “equation” between the organization and the Jewish state. Meaning, the release of the imprisoned terrorists, lifting the blockade, and stopping the normalization process between Israel and Saudi Arabia.
Hamas assessed that Israel’s weakness and its problematic relations with the United States, coupled with its inherent reluctance to pay the high price involved in a broad military operation to remove Hamas from Gaza, would ultimately prevent it from completely defeating Hamas, just like in previous flare-ups. In previous rounds, whenever the fighting ended, both sides licked their wounds, but Hamas would then quickly recover and posed a threat to the Gaza area and Israel as a whole.
All actions by Hamas, Iran and its proxies (Hizballah, the Houthis, and Shiite militias in Iraq), Qatar, and Turkey should be seen in the context of the attempt to persuade President Joe Biden to pressure Israel to stop the fighting and eventually adopt an alternative approach. This effort motivates them to create the impression that there is a severe humanitarian crisis in Gaza. It is what made Hamas play a cynical game with the hostages, and this is also what has prompted the Shiite militias in Iraq to step up their actions.