Why Israel Must Finish Hamas

Delilah Hirshland, Feb 23, 2024

On October 7th, 2023, the world witnessed the largest terrorist attack in Israel’s history and the largest massacre of the Jews since the Holocaust. Attendees of music festivals were brutally murdered, hundreds of rockets were fired into southern Israel, more than 15 kibbutzim were ravished, and hundreds were kidnapped, all by Hamas, the organization that rules Gaza and is considered a terrorist organization by the U.S. Since this brazen terrorist attack, Israel has massively increased their bombing campaign against Hamas targets in Gaza. Prime Minister Netanyahu’s war cabinet has initiated a ground invasion of Gaza, an operation that could take years, even decades, due to Hamas’s deep roots in the territory. 


Founded in the 1980s, Hamas began as an extremist political group that was a branch of the Muslim Brotherhood. In the early 2000s, Hamas conducted a series of suicide bombings inside Israeli territory [1]. These bombings, now known as the Second Intifada, were conducted with the Palestine Liberation Organization and killed over 1,000 Israeli civilians. A year after the Second Intifada ended, Hamas defeated the opposing Fatah party in the first-ever election held in Gaza and became the ruling power of the Gaza Strip [2]. Since the 2006 election, Hamas has continually fired rockets into Israel’s territory [3]. But how does Hamas have seemingly endless funds and weapons to terrorize Israelis? Hamas receives funds, weapons, and international support from several dictatorships, namely Iran, Russia, and China. 


In the past two months, we have seen how innocent Gazan civilians have had to pay the price for Hamas’ terror. As this war enters its fifth month, civilian casualties in Gaza have exponentially increased, surpassing 17,000 [4]. This loss of life is tragic and Hamas bears the blame for it. For years, Hamas has continuously stolen aid, including water, food, and medicine that would be going to help the civilians of Gaza [5]. Additionally, Hamas’ rockets often misfire, exploding inside Gaza. Allowing Hamas to remain in power would ensure the continued abuse of Gazans.


In late November, a four-day “humanitarian pause” was negotiated between Israel and Hamas. Later extended by 48 hours, this pause was primarily to give time for Palestinians living in the north to flee to the south as well as to release Israeli hostages remaining in Gaza. While many praised this pause as a resounding success, the benefits were minimal. The pause freed only 17 out of the over 200 hostages remaining in Gaza [6]. For Palestinians, the pause was widely criticized as not being long enough for all citizens to evacuate. Ultimately, Hamas broke the pause twice while Palestinian citizens were still evacuating, putting their safety at risk [7]. 


Since October 7th, Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu has faced severe criticisms from Israelis on how he's handled the conflict, with nearly 80% of the population calling for his removal. Even past supporters of the government are calling for Netanyahu’s resignation, saying that what happened on October 7th, was a “colossal security failure” [8]. Though it is important to hold Israel's government to account, the main objective for Israel currently should be to completely uproot Hamas in Gaza. 


Since the Islamic Revolution of 1979, the Iranian regime has been instrumental in supplying financial and military support to terrorist groups that surround and attack Israel. The most notable being the Shia extremist group Hezbollah, based in southern Lebanon. Recently, Iran has also given increased support to other extremist Shiite groups in the Levant, mostly notably in Iraq and Syria. In Syria, Iran-funded Shitte groups were a key part of helping Syrian Dictator Bashar al-Assad hold on to power during the Syrian civil war. In Yemen, Iran has helped their close allies, the Houthis, seize power of the country and capital city Sanna, and also helped them launch several attacks on Saudi Arabian civilians. The Iranian leadership has hardly minced words regarding Israel. Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has repeatedly called for the “destruction of the Zionist Regime” [9]. Since the US withdrew from Iraq, Iran has been able to gain great influence in military strength, as well as political power in the country, due to the power vacuum caused by the American withdrawal. If Israel showcases a similar sign of retreat as President Obama did in Iraq, the Iranian government would be able to increase its already heavy influence in Gaza and across the Middle East. Reports indicate that the Iranian regime helped Hamas organize and carry out the attacks of October 7th, claiming that several leading forces in the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps have been working with Hamas leaders since August [10].  In the past couple of years, Iran has heavily bolstered their military support to Hamas, sending them weapons, training, and up to 100 million dollars a year. Iranian proxies have gained a new level of confidence in the region since the war began. A week after October 7th, the Houthis declared war on Israel, and Hezbollah continued to fire rockets into northern Israel. Israel now must remove Hamas from power to help reduce Iranian influence and stabilize the region.


Though Putin has tried to remain rhetorically neutral on Israel and Palestine, Russia’s relations with Hamas have grown increasingly close over the past 20 years. Reportedly, at least 15 Russian civilians died in the October 7th attack, but Vladimir Putin has never directly condemned Hamas. In 2006, shortly after Hamas’s historic victory over Fatah, Putin hosted then-Hamas leader, Khaled Meshaal at the Kremlin. At the meeting, Meshaal praised Putin, admiring his “courage” for standing up to the West and expressing hope that Russians and Palestinians can come together on key issues they both face. Weeks after the tragedy of October 7th, Meshaal once again praised Putin, even claiming that Sergey Lavrov, Russia’s foreign minister, told him that what happened on October 7th, would be “taught in military training” in Russia. Ever since Hamas’s founding, the Russian government has repeatedly refused to label Hamas as a terrorist organization, going against Western powers. The relationship between Hamas and Russia is another reason the group needs to be eliminated. 


Over the 21st century, an increasingly worrying sign for Israel has been Russia’s ever-growing relationship with Iran. During the Syrian Civil War, Vladimir Putin directly intervened to help Al-Assad remain in power, by defending him and his allies with the Russian Air Force. At the same time, Iran-backed Shiite groups on the ground aided the Assad regime’s attacks on civilian centers. This dual intervention, and lack of it by the Obama administration resulted in half of a million dead civilians and was the start of further cooperation between Russia and Iran [11]. In November, US intelligence reported that Russia’s biggest and most violent terrorist militia, the Wagner group, is to provide Hezbollah with air defense weapons [12]. Russia has given an increased level of support to Hamas, Hezbollah, and other Iran-backed groups, but what does Russia have to gain from all of this support? A distraction. A distraction in a different part of the world to keep Western powers occupied. A distraction for Russia to continue its ongoing genocide and occupation in Ukraine, as well as in Syria. Meshaal remarked that Russia benefited greatly from the attacks on October 7th and that he is grateful that he has the support of Russia in this war. He continued to say that as long as Israel exists, Hamas will not put down its weapons [13]. A complete ceasefire by Israel would give Hamas ample time to regroup, allowing Russia to supply Hamas with increased finances. Vladimir Putin’s regime benefits greatly from a ceasefire because a friendly ally would remain in power and the world would be less focused on Russia's occupation of Ukraine.


In addition to Russia and Iran, China is another power that would benefit greatly from a ceasefire. China has repeatedly presented itself as a peacemaker in the Middle East. Earlier this year, China mediated a deal between the Saudi Arabian government and the Iranian government, to restore diplomatic relations with one another. Now, China is a leading proponent of an immediate Israeli ceasefire. China has greatly increased its economic presence in Israel, as well as expanded ties with Israeli technology intelligence. From 2010 to 2021, China invested more than two billion U.S. dollars in Israel’s technology sector and has recently become Israel’s largest source of imports, replacing the United States. Though Netanyahu has made several trips to Beijing in attempts to strengthen ties with President Xi, the political will in China has always favored the Palestinians. For years, members of the ruling Chinese Communist Party have called for Israel to stop their “collective punishment” of Palestinians.


One aspect of modern-day Chinese-Israeli relations that cannot be ignored is the ever-growing relationship between Iran and China. In March of 2021, China and Iran signed a 25-year comprehensive cooperation agreement, a deal that would increase economic, military, and security cooperation between Beijing and Tehran. In addition to this, China has significantly increased the energy it receives from Iran, buying an average of one million barrels per day of Iranian oil [14]. The implications this has on the current war are worrying. If Hamas can remain in power, China will be able to have further sway in the region. This would be catastrophic, especially if China’s continuous violations of human rights, seen in Hong Kong and Tibet, were to become a part of their Middle East policy. Much like Russia, China greatly benefits from Hamas’s terror attacks by having a distracted world. As long as the West is distracted, China is empowered to continue its naval build-up in the South China Sea.


The war that Hamas started on October 7th is a battle that Israel will have to fight for decades. To completely uproot Hamas in an area where they are so established and embedded is an inconceivable challenge. If Israel puts down its weapons, the dangerous nations of the world will have unprecedented power. Iran would continue to help Hamas kill civilians, Russia would be emboldened in Ukraine, and China would gain unprecedented influence in the Middle East that would reshape U.S. and Israeli relations for decades. As long as Hamas exists, a ceasefire does not mean peace. A ceasefire guarantees decades of Israeli and Palestinian suffering. To achieve true peace, Israel must be able to finish the job and destroy Hamas. 


[1] Warrick, Joby, Nakashima, Ellen, Harris, Shane, Mekhennet, Souad. “Hamas received weapons and training from Iran, officials say.” Washington Post, October 9th, 2023.

[2] Czerny, Milan, Storyev, Dan. “Why Russia and Hamas are Growing Closer.” Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, October 25, 2023. https://carnegieendowment.org/politika/90841

[3] Cafiero, Giorgio. How Steady Are China-Israel Relations? Arab Center Washington DC. August 28th, 2023. https://arabcenterdc.org/resource/how-steady-are-china-israel-relations/

[4] Sawafta, Ali, Fick, Maggie. “How many Palestinians have died in Gaza? Death toll explained.” Reuters. December 9th, 2023. https://www.reuters.com/world/middle-east/how-many-palestinians-have-died-gaza-war-how-will-counting-continue-2023-12-06/

[5] Fabian, Emanuel. “IDF says 550 rockets fired from Gaza have fallen short in the Strip.” Times of Israel. October 21st, 2023. https://www.timesofisrael.com/liveblog_entry/idf-says-550-rockets-fired-from-gaza-have-fallen-short-in-the-strip/

[6] Barak, Ravid. “Israel and Hamas agree to hostage deal, four-day pause in fighting in Gaza.” Axios. November 21st, 2023. https://www.axios.com/2023/11/21/israel-hamas-hostage-ceasefire-deal-imminent

[7] Fabian, Emanuel. “​​​​Hamas broke temporary truce in Gaza minutes after It began, a senior IDF officer says.” Times of Israel. December 8th, 2023. https://www.timesofisrael.com/hamas-broke-temporary-truce-in-gaza-minutes-after-it-began-senior-idf-officer-says/

[8] Frayer, Lauren. “After Hamas attack, most Israelis want Netanyahu to resign, according to poll.” NPR. November 11th, 2023. https://www.npr.org/2023/11/11/1211767117/israel-netanyahu-growing-opposition-hamas-war-gaza

[9] Robinson, Kali. “How much influence does Iran have in Iraq?” Council on Foreign Relations, October 18th, 2022. https://www.cfr.org/in-brief/how-much-influence-does-iran-have-iraq

[10] Said, Summer, Lieber, Dov, Faucon, Benoit. “Hamas Fighters Trained in Iran Before Oct. 7 Attacks.” Wall Street Journal. October 25th, 2023. https://www.wsj.com/world/middle-east/hamas-fighters-trained-in-iran-before-oct-7-attacks-e2a8dbb

[11] Grajewski, Nicole. “The Evolution of Russian and Iranian Cooperation in Syria.” Center for Strategic and International Studies, November 17th, 2021.

[12] Gordon, Michael, Salama, Vivian. “Exclusive: U.S. Says It Has Intelligence Showing Russia’s Wagner Group May Send Air-Defense System to Hezbollah.” Wall Street Journal. November 4th, 2023. https://www.wsj.com/livecoverage/israel-hamas-war-gaza-strip-2023-11-02/card/u-s-says-it-has-intelligence-showing-russia-s-wagner-group-may-send-air-defense-system-to-hezbollah-4JXeI7WIAqHjqq2lvBmU

[13] Winer, Jonathan. “Essential questions about the Russia-Hamas link: The evidence and its implications.” Middle East Institute. November 28th, 2023. https://www.mei.edu/publications/essential-questions-about-russia-hamas-link-evidence-and-its-implications

[14] Vaisi, Ghazal. “The 25-year Iran-China agreement, endangering 2,500 years of heritage.” Middle East Institute. March 1st, 2022. https://www.mei.edu/publications/25-year-iran-china-agreement-endangering-2500-years-heritage.