Let’s not forget the innocents in Israel-Hamas war

Sunday October 15 2023

A plume of smoke rises in the sky of Gaza City during an Israeli airstrike on October 9, 2023. PHOTO | AFP


The ongoing Israeli-Hamas conflict will, no doubt, be the deadliest ever. There is little love lost between the two adversaries, but this time round, passions and hatred on both sides have reached fever pitch.

In interviews, Israeli generals and politicians spit out the name Hamas, invoking the same kind of dread as a snake’s hiss. On their part, Hamas have voided the hostages they captured of their humanity, and speak of them in nonchalant contempt. Such hatred and dehumanisation give the psychological green light for atrocities.

The current war has revealed certain things about the adversaries that could have ramifications for both in the future. First, the invasion of Israel by Hamas showed a level of tactical sophistication many thought not possible. They were no longer content with lobing rockets from safe locations deep inside Gaza; they used the rockets in a coordinated land, air and sea invasion of one of the most powerful countries in the world.

Second, the Israeli intelligence, arguably the most sophisticated and efficient in the world, failed to detect the invasion. Third, the Israeli Defence Force took some 12 hours to respond to the invasion. For an eternity, citizens called for help to no avail as they were being slaughtered.

The delayed, confused and uncoordinated response resembled our response to the attack on Garissa University by Al Shabaab in 2015, not like that of a country that has cultivated an image of fearsome invincibility over the years.

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Might this exposure of the dragon’s soft underbelly encourage enemies like Iran and Hezbollah in the future? In the immediate period, will these failures end the career of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who has always sold himself to the Israeli people as the one who can guarantee their security?

The brutality of the invasion irreparably tore Hamas” cloak of “resistance movement.” The orgy of slaughter of toddlers and the elderly has robbed them of any remaining sympathy. In the eyes of many, Hamas is no longer an alternative to the Mahmoud Abbas-led Fatah, which rules the West Bank.

Hamas’ ruthlessness brought comparisons to Isis. This has given Israel an excuse to effect regime change in Gaza. By the slaughter, did Hamas unwittingly trigger the process of their own political and military demise?

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In the midst of war and discussions about what the revelations and failures will mean for the players in the short and long term, we might forget the peace process. The Oslo peace process remains the only path to lasting peace in the region. The alternative is this cycle of violence. The world must now refocus on the peace process and Mahmoud Abbas. But, for Abbas to be successful in bringing his constituency on board, Israel must give concessions. Enable Abbas to succeed.

As this war rages, both sides must not forget the humanity of innocent civilians. Both sides and their allies are readying for a bloody conflict. Who is readying for peace?

Tee Ngugi is a Nairobi-based political commentator.