There should be no equivocating regarding the nature of Hamas’ actions: these attacks were, without doubt, acts of terrorism against the laws of war and a crime against humanity.
Hamas fighters launched attacks against Israel through thousands of unguided rockets and militia fighters on Oct. 7. We have all seen images and read stories detailing the horrific deaths suffered by Israelis. It is clear that this attack was carried out with the explicit intention to kill as many civilians as possible and has rightly been condemned by the U.S. government along with many other foreign states.
The explanations for the attacks vary. Hamas speaks of the attacks as a just war against their oppressor. This must be wholeheartedly rejected. The deliberate raping, killing and butchering of innocents can never be condoned as just, or even as war. It is likely that Hamas was deeply concerned by the Abraham Accords, the normalizing of relations between Israel and Saudi Arabia and the resultant risk of being marginalized by more important regional concerns.
The attacks were designed to invoke rage and anger from Israel. It is rage that would lead Israel to respond with massive force, derailing the Saudi Arabian negotiations, splintering international support for Israel and potentially bringing Hezbollah into a war in Northern Israel. Iran lurks in the shadows and is very likely to have been involved in equipping and planning the attacks, as they were of a sophistication common to special forces operations and not Hamas.
Israel must now respond.
As I write this article, reports are emerging of babies with their throats cut, some beheaded. Stories of rape and desecration of the dead also increase.
It may have been possible to persuade Israel to be measured in their response, but the dozens of murdered babies likely have ensured a response of rage. Israel’s allies and enemies are positioning themselves for what is to come next.
We are likely to see Hezbollah or Hamas forces attack from Lebanon into the north of Israel. NATO member Turkey is highly critical of the increased U.S. force in the region. Iran will look to strengthen its positions in Syria and is likely to keep supporting Hamas and Hezbollah.
At the time of writing, 11 U.S. citizens have been killed by Hamas, and more are likely being held hostage, ensuring that US military power may well have to be used at some stage in this conflict. If Iran is shown to have been directly involved in Hamas’s attack, then a wider regional war is possible.
Even as the horrors of Hamas’s attacks are revealed, there are countries and organizations praising Hamas’s terrorism. Some commentators seek to blame Israel for the attacks. There is a long legacy of conflict between Israel and Hamas, and as much as this “context” should be understood, this cannot in any way justify the murder of civilians.
Dozens of dead babies will ensure the use of overwhelming force by Israel. Civilians in Gaza have – and will continue to – die. As has often happened in the past, the war will be judged by some in terms of how many Palestinians die versus Israelis, like a perverse score-card.
But this is not a game: This is the next chapter in a bloody manifestation of evil. The Jewish people are the most persecuted in history. Israel was created for their security, and we should not be in any doubt that they will act to secure themselves, nor should we deny them that right. However, there are millions of Palestinians who will suffer because of Hamas’s actions, and the U.S. should work hard to encourage Israel to enable civilians to leave Gaza.
For those of us watching from afar, we have probably experienced revulsion, anger and hatred. These are justifiable, human responses. Yet as Christians, we are called to love our enemies – to pray – even for Hamas terrorists.
As Christians, our attitude should be one of deep sorrow and fervent prayer, with a fear of God. We should pray for peace. We should pray against evil ideologies that promote genocide. We must mourn with those who mourn, whether Israeli or Palestinian. We pray, knowing we worship a God who is able to bring perfect justice and mercy, and he will have his way.
Nicholas Kerton-Johnson is professor of political science and international relations at Taylor University, where he is also chair of the History, Global & Political Studies Department. He earned his Ph.D. in politics from the University of Bristol and his master’s degree in war studies at King’s College in London. The opinions expressed herein represent those of the guest columnist and are not indicative of the University at large.