Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ), militias in the Gaza Strip, launched a multi-prong attack on Israel on Oct. 7, 2023. The land, sea and air assault included rocket attacks on southern and central Israel and the brutal murder of civilians in their homes in towns and villages near Gaza. At least 1,200 Israelis died and more than 130 people, including women and children, were reportedly taken hostage.
The militant groups cited Israel’s occupation of the Gaza Strip and the West Bank since the 1967 Arab-Israeli War as the primary reason for the unprecedented attack. “Enough is enough, the cycle of intifadas and revolutions in the battle to liberate our Palestinian land and our prisoners languishing in occupation prisons must be completed,” Ismail Haniyeh, the political chief of Hamas, said in a televised speech on October 7. He also urged Arab countries to not normalize relations with Israel. The United States had reportedly been close to brokering a peace agreement between Saudi Arabia and Israel. On October 8, the secretary general of Islamic Jihad, Ziad al Nakhalah, called on Israel to “admit defeat” to prevent more casualties and kidnappings.
Since the 1980s, the Islamic Republic of Iran has supported Hamas and Islamic Jihad for geostrategic and ideological reasons. President Ebrahim Raisi applauded the attack, despite the brutality, in calls with Haniyeh and al Nakhalah on October 8. The following are statements from Hamas and Islamic Jihad on the attack and Israel’s response.
“We are on the verge of a great victory and a clear conquest on the Gaza front.”
“Enough is enough, the cycle of intifadas and revolutions in the battle to liberate our Palestinian land and our prisoners languishing in occupation prisons must be completed.”
“Operation al Aqsa Flood started in Gaza and will expand to the West Bank and Jerusalem.”
“We say to all countries, including our Arab brothers, that this entity (Israel), which cannot protect itself in the face of resistors, cannot provide you with any protection.”
“All the normalisation agreements that you signed with that entity cannot resolve this [Palestinian] conflict.”
Mohammed Deif, commander-in-chief of the Izz ad Din al Qassam Brigades, in a statement on October 7, 2023
“The Zionist colonial occupation occupied our Palestinian homeland and displaced our people, destroyed our towns and villages, committed hundreds of massacres against our people, killing children, women and elderly people and demolishing homes with their inhabitants inside in violation of all international norms, laws and human rights conventions.
“We have previously warned the Israeli occupation against continuing their crimes and appealed to world leaders to work on putting an end to the Israeli crimes against our Palestinian people and detainees, their holy sites and homeland and to put pressure on the Israeli occupation to abide by international law and resolutions.
“Neither did the Israeli occupation leaders heed our demands, nor did the world leaders act in this regard.
“Instead, the Israeli occupation intensified its crimes, crossing all red lines, particularly in occupied Jerusalem and the Al-Aqsa Mosque – the Muslims’ first Qibla and third holiest site.
“The Israeli occupation forces have escalated their raids into the Al-Aqsa Mosque, desecrating the Muslim sacred sites and repeatedly attacking worshippers, particularly women, children and elderly people.
“Meanwhile, the Israeli occupation banned the Palestinian citizens from accessing the al Aqsa Mosque and allowed Israeli colonial settlers to defile the Muslim sacred site and conduct daily raids into the Muslim holy compound.
“During such raids, Israeli colonial settlers performed religious rituals and prayers and blew the horn at the al Aqsa Mosque. They have declared their intentions to build their purported temple on the ruins of al Aqsa Mosque.
“They also insulted our Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) inside the al Aqsa compound, tore up the Quran and brought dogs into the Muslim sacred site.
“Each day, the Israeli colonial settlers attempt to impose a new fait accompli on the ground, attack the Palestinian citizens of occupied Jerusalem and steal their homes and property.
“The Israeli occupation has desecrated the al Aqsa Mosque, from which the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) ascended to heaven on the al Isra wa al Mi’raj journey.
“Hundreds of Palestinian citizens have been killed and wounded so far this year in crimes committed by the Israeli occupation and colonial settlers.
“In the meantime, the Israeli occupation is holding thousands of Palestinian detainees in its prisons, where they are subjected to the most heinous forms of oppression, torture and humiliation.
“Hundreds of Palestinian detainees have been jailed for over 20 years; dozens more have suffered cancers and other diseases; several more have died as a result of medical negligence and deliberate slow-death policies.
“However, our calls for a humanitarian swap deal were met with rejection by the Israeli occupation.
“The Israeli occupation forces storm the towns and villages of the occupied West Bank on a daily basis, raiding and ransacking Palestinian homes and shooting and detaining Palestinian citizens.
“Hundreds of Palestinian citizens have been killed and wounded in crimes committed by the Israeli occupation.”
Politburo member Osama Hamdan
Interview on Oct. 11, 2023: “Hamas has just one 'no' – no to the existence of Israel. I believe that Israel is the heart of the problem in our region, and that once Israel is gone from this region, an opportunity to resolve all the problems in this region will be opened…I am not talking about throwing Israel into the sea. In the past few days, the Israelis wrote in their media: 'What is the point in having a country when all its citizens have passports of the countries they have come from?' Let them return to where they came from. We don't want to throw anyone into the sea. Let them return to where they came from. We will help them go there safely.”
Abu Ubaida, spokesman for the Izz ad Din al Qassam Brigades in a statement on Oct. 7, 2023
“We give good news to our prisoners and our people that the Qassam Brigades are in the grip of dozens of captured officers and soldiers, and they have been secured in safe places and resistance tunnels.”
Palestinian Islamic Jihad
“The captives, including soldiers and settlers, who are held in Gaza, number in the tens, and I can even say that they far exceed this number. The Islamic Jihad [alone] has more than 30 prisoners from the enemy at the moment.”
“The enemy's cabinet should surrender to this fact and [know that] the shortest way to prevent more of its forces from being taken captive or killed is to admit defeat.”
“It became obvious [through this operation] that the enemy can be defeated, and in fact, it is broken, and [this is why it] sought the United States' help from the early hours of the operation.”
The success of the attack “serves as a clear testament to the fact that their army is much weaker than many people in the world believe.”
“You (fighters) have gained the world's attention and hit the global headlines under the toughest circumstances, because you possess the will power and have humiliated an enemy that is armed to the teeth.”