Can Israel Really Crush Hamas Once and for All? Let’s Hear What the Doubters Say

Samantha Parker By Samantha Parker Jun14,2024
Six months after Hamas’ horrific 7 October attacks, and Israel’s devastating retaliation since then, victory against the militant group appears elusive.
Israel is intent on crushing Hamas, which killed 1,170 people and took more than 250 Israeli and foreign hostages when fighters breached fences separating Gaza and Israel and attacked more than 20 civilian locations.
Its subsequent bombardment has killed at least 33,545 people in Gaza, according to the health ministry in Gaza, and injured more than 76,000.
Israel has repeatedly pledged to continue its military operation in Gaza until it achieves its goal of eliminating Hamas and securing the release of hostages still held by the group.
But since the most recent conflict started, and with growing international concern about civilian casualties, experts are sceptical that this can be achieved.
It’s believed about 129 hostages remain in Gaza, including 34 the Israeli army says are dead.

At the top of Israel’s list of targets is Hamas’ Gaza leader Yahya Sinwar, thought to be the mastermind of the 7 October attacks, and Mohamed al-Deif, leader of the military wing of the organisation.

Yahya Sinwar, a middle-aged man with short grey hair, holds a young boy on his lap. Sitting next to him is another top Hamas leader, Ismail Haniyeh, who also has short grey hair and is wearing a suit.

Hamas leader in Gaza, Yahya Sinwar (left), holds his son Ibrahim in 2017. Next to him is senior political leader of Hamas Ismail Haniyeh, who is based in Qatar. Source: AAP

They have both managed to evade authorities and are thought to be hiding deep in .

The hunt for these two key leaders is one of the reasons Israel wants to launch an attack on , a plan that has alarmed world leaders as this is where some 1.5 million Palestinians have taken refuge since the war began.
Israel says four battalions continue to operate in Rafah, the last stronghold of Hamas in southern Gaza.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has said Israel is “one step away from victory” but others are not so sure.

Could Israel achieve ‘total victory’?

In aiming for “total victory over Hamas”, Australian National University Middle East specialist Ian Parmeter said Netanyahu had set a very high bar.
“Certainly after six months, they have not done that, Hamas keeps popping up,” Parmeter, formerly Australia’s ambassador to Lebanon, told SBS News.

Parmeter said there were reports Hamas had between 300 and 500 kilometres of tunnels underneath Gaza and this would likely take a couple of years to destroy.

A person holding a rifle clad in black clothing, a black mask and a green headband with Arabic writing on it.

A Palestinian militant from the Izzedine al-Qassam Brigades, a military wing of Hamas. Source: AP / Adel Hana/AP

Netanyahu has vowed to “eliminate” all Hamas battalions, but Hamas is more than just its governing or military capabilities, Parmeter said.

“I don’t think that Hamas in its entirety can be destroyed,” he said.
“Hamas is an ideology, it’s not just a group of people. Many people have tried to eliminate ideologies before and it never worked.
He added: “If it survives, Israel has by definition lost the war, because it hasn’t achieved its objective.”
Dr Eyal Mayroz, a senior lecturer of peace and conflict studies at the University of Sydney, also does not believe Israel can eliminate Hamas in a short amount of time.
“I think they will in the long term and that will take years, they will try to pick out, one by one, all the senior and maybe even mid-level leadership of Hamas, anyone who took part in 7 October attack — they will not give up on that,” he said.

But he said it was not clear whether targeting hardliners within Hamas would help the organisation become more moderate so that it could eventually be included in the Palestine Liberation Organisation, which is internationally recognised as the official representative of the Palestinian people.

If (Hamas) survives, Israel has by definition lost the war, because it hasn’t achieved its objective

Ian Parmeter, Australian National University

Could the current war come to an end anytime soon?

The war between Hamas — a Palestinian political and military group — and Israel is the latest escalation in a long-standing regional conflict.
Hamas has governed the Gaza Strip since the most recent elections in 2006.
Its stated aim is to establish a Palestinian state and stop the Israeli occupation of Gaza and the West Bank, illegal under international law.
International pressure on Israel to end the war in Gaza has intensified, particularly after the , including .
But even before the deaths, images of destroyed buildings, and orphaned, injured and starving children were driving calls for a ceasefire.
“The denial of basic needs — food, fuel, sanitation, shelter, security and health care — is inhumane and intolerable,” World Health Organization chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus wrote on X, formerly Twitter, on 8 April.
Nearly all of Gaza’s 2.3 million population has been displaced since Israel started its bombardment, which has led to . The coastal enclave also suffers widespread hunger.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks into a microphone. And Israeli flag is hangs limply behind him

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu faces international pressure over civilian casualties in Gaza. Source: AAP

United States President Joe Biden told Netanyahu on Thursday he wants a ceasefire, hostage release deal and ramped-up aid deliveries.

Parmeter said the Australian government’s decision to raise the possibility of would also place pressure on Israel to end the war.
“It indicates that governments that have been very friendly to Israel over many years are thinking of doing things which Israelis don’t like, and that’s one of the consequences of continuing,” he said.
“That may enter into Israeli thinking.”

But he is doubtful the war will end quickly under Netanyahu, and said that might not happen unless there is a change of government.

There are also other complex factors in play, according to Parmeter.
If Netanyahu stopped the war, he believes his coalition government could collapse and there would be elections.
Parmeter said Netanyahu would almost certainly lose the election because of his low opinion rating, partly because many Israelis blame him for security lapses that led to the 7 October attack.
Netanyahu would also be keen to avoid blame in any post-war inquiry into the attack, Parmeter said, which wouldn’t be held until the war ends. Achieving the elimination of Hamas and recovering the hostages would help shield him from this criticism.

Within Israel, there is also pressure for a ceasefire so that hostages can be released. But Parmeter said if they were freed, it’s likely Netanyahu and most of Israel would be in favour of starting the war up again.

Aerial image of smoke rising from al-Shifa hospital and surroundings in Gaza City.

Hundreds of patients and staff have been forced to evacuate al-Shifa, Gaza City’s largest hospital, many leaving on foot amid gunfire and explosions. Credit: AAP

Eyal Mayroz said Israel did appear to be scaling down its activities.

“I don’t think Israel is going back to … widescale bombardment and aerial attacks that killed so many,” he said.
But more targeted violence could continue and Israel could still attack Rafah.

Israel pulled its forces out of the city of Khan Yunis, in the southern Gaza Strip last weekend in a partial withdrawal but officials said they were doing so “to prepare for future missions, including … in Rafah”.

I don’t think Israel is going back to … widescale bombardment and aerial attacks that killed so many

Dr Eyal Mayroz, University of Sydney

Mayroz said that even more centrist leaders like Israeli war cabinet member Benny Gantz, who is projected to be the next prime minister, believed an invasion of Rafah was required to eliminate Hamas.

“What we don’t know is to what extent Israel is trying to put pressure on Hamas to agree to a ceasefire or hostage swap based on that threat to Rafah … because Israel has lost some of its leverage over Hamas,” Mayroz said.

A basic map of Israel and the Gaza Strip

A map of Gaza showing the location of Rafah and Khan Younis. Source: SBS News

Israel ‘aiming for a victory image’

Mayroz believes Israel has effectively already lost the war because it has not successfully retrieved all Israeli hostages held by Hamas via a , and because it has not yet eliminated Hamas.
He said the Israeli government is “desperately trying to get that image of victory”.
“The only thing they had left was to get to (Hamas leader) Yahya Sinwar or thereabouts to say, ‘Oh, we won the war’ because we killed the leadership.”

He said: “They are aiming for some kind of a victory image that will allow them to justify the very painful hostage swap (for) a lot of very high-level prisoners that Hamas is trying to release.

Peace talks are at an ‘impasse’

Truce talks this week have so far not managed to reach an agreement.

The US, Egypt, and Qatar put together a framework for a Gaza deal that would include a six-week halt to fighting and the exchange of about 40 hostages for hundreds of Palestinian prisoners.
It would also see increased humanitarian aid deliveries to Gaza and many displaced people returning to what is left of their homes.
The proposals ultimately aim to secure the release of all 129 hostages believed to be alive in Gaza, along with the eventual withdrawal of all Israeli troops.

But now “negotiations are at an impasse”, said Hasni Abidi of the Geneva-based Centre for Studies and Research for the Arab and Mediterranean World.

Israeli soldiers stand next to their tanks.

Israeli soldiers perform maintenance work on their tanks after withdrawing from Khan Yunis, in the southern Gaza Strip, on 8 April. Source: AAP, EPA / Atef Safadi

However, no side has yet given up.

“Hamas is studying the offer… It has not responded yet,” a Hamas spokesman in Doha, Hossam Badran, told the AFP news agency.
Israel accused Hamas of “walking away” from the offer.
“There is a very reasonable offer on the table and Hamas keeps walking away,” government spokesperson David Mencer told reporters, adding that international pressure on Israel was “helping Hamas”.
Hamas wants a permanent ceasefire in Gaza, which at this stage is unacceptable to Netanyahu.
SBS News approached the Israeli ambassador to Australia for comment but did not receive a response.

With additional reporting by AFP.

Samantha Parker

By Samantha Parker

Samantha is a seasoned journalist with a passion for uncovering the truth behind the headlines. With years of experience in investigative reporting, she has covered a wide range of topics including politics, crime, and entertainment. Her in-depth analysis and commitment to factual accuracy make her a respected voice in the field of journalism.

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2 thoughts on “Can Israel Really Crush Hamas Once and for All? Let’s Hear What the Doubters Say”
  1. Do you think Israel will be able to completely eliminate Hamas and ensure the release of the remaining hostages amidst the growing international concern over civilian casualties?

    1. Israel’s determination to crush Hamas remains unwavering, despite mounting global worries over civilian casualties. With key leaders still at large, achieving this goal will require decisive action and unwavering commitment.

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