The Israel-Hamas War:
Can cooler heads prevail?

The ongoing conflict has taken many lives and the death toll on both sides will mount

By Irwin Rapoport

October 11, 2023

When I realized the scope of Hamas’s attack on Israel last Saturday (October 7), a full-scale air, sea, and land assault, shielded by a massive shower of rockets fired on parts of Israel adjacent to the Gaza Strip, I immediately thought of the Tet Offensive launched by the Viet Cong and the North Vietnamese Army in February 1968. The Yom Kippur War in 1973 also came to mind, when for many days the very survival of Israel was in doubt as Egyptian and Syrian forces attacked Israel in the Sinai, pouring through the Bar-Lev Line and the defences along the Golan Heights.

Israel and its citizens are still reeling in horror from the death toll of the offensive – more than 1,500 people, as well as the unknown fate of the dozens of Israel Defence Force and civilians captured and taken back to Gaza as hostages and human shields to limit Israel’s response to the surprise attack and to gain concessions.

Hamas has stated that it will execute a hostage for every Israeli air raid on Gaza, with the executions to be broadcast. Thus far, we do not know whether the Israeli government, led by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his Likud coalition, will sacrifice the hostages to launch a full-scale assault on Gaza to prevent Hamas from launching future attacks on Israel and deliver a death blow to the organization.

With approximately 2.3 million people living in Gaza – close to half being under 18 – many civilians are in harm’s way and caught in an ongoing struggle in which they have no say whatsoever. Hamas has not held elections in Gaza since it was first elected. Israelis are also experiencing rocket attacks as far as Jerusalem, with millions taking cover in shelters. Fortunately, Hamas has not fired any rockets with chemical and biological weapons, which is always a frightful possibility.

That Hamas initiated a deadly, powerful and well-executed attack is a given. At this point, we don’t have all the information to figure out how they planned and trained for the effective full-scale raid that caught Israel by surprise. However, we know that Hamas’s leadership launched the attack with the expectation that Israel would retaliate in kind and that many Gazans would be killed and wounded and thousands of homes destroyed or damaged.

Many civilians are in harm’s way and caught in an ongoing struggle in which they have no say whatsoever.

The Tet Offensive caught the American and South Vietnamese governments off guard as the country celebrated the New Year, and civilians and soldiers sustained serious casualties. The attack was a tactical failure but a strategic success. The Viet Cong and North Vietnamese Army suffered over 80,000 deaths, with many others captured and some of the best Viet Cong units and cadres wiped out.

However, the North Vietnamese leadership was willing to take significant losses to weaken the American resolve to defend South Vietnam, destabilize the South Vietnamese government, and strike fear into the citizens of South Vietnam, who still believed that the country could maintain its independence with American support. The attack did affect the national will to fight against the well-armed and driven North Vietnamese and guerrilla groups in the south, who quickly rebuilt their local units.

It is reasonable to conclude that the leadership of Hamas, like that of Ho Chi Min’s government, justifies the deaths on both sides as acceptable to achieve political goals. Using civilians as pawns to achieve political and military ends is horrific, vile, and inhumane.

In some ways, it is similar to World War I generals such as Sir Douglas Haig and Robert Georges Nivelle, who cared more about gains, sometimes just a few hundred feet, and less about the terrible losses in human lives that resulted from soldiers charging across no man’s land against an enemy armed with heavy machine guns that mowed down infantry as if cutting grass.

In response to the Hamas attack, Israel cut off the delivery of all essential supplies, such as food, water, fuel, and electricity, and declared a formal state of siege of the Gaza Strip. The civilians are subject to air and missile strikes and shelling from artillery, and should Israeli tanks and infantry launch a full-scale counter-attack, there will be intense urban fighting with many casualties on all sides. We’re talking tens of thousands if the situation gets out of hand.

‘In response to the Hamas attack, Israel declared a formal state of siege of the Gaza Strip.’

I was only four years old during the Tet Offensive and have no memories. Still, some readers may vividly recall the news reports on television and when CBS’s Walter Cronkite openly questioned the progress of the war in Vietnam, challenging the optimistic views put forward by President Lyndon Baines Johnson and his administration.

When the Yom Kippur War broke out, I was nine years old and can recall some concern for the survival of Israel, but not fully aware of the implications and the horrors of war and the immediate and long-term suffering that come with it. Sadly many children will now experience war firsthand and forever be fearful.

We are just at the beginning of this deadly chess game and no one knows how it will end, other than many lives being lost and far too many being wounded in body and mind. We can only hope that the fighting ends rapidly. I would not trade places with Israel Defence Force soldiers on the front lines or with civilians experiencing non-stop shelling.

Should a truce be secured in this war, as the state of Israel has officially declared a state of war between it and Hamas, the best we can hope for is an immediate end to the fighting and that the Israeli-Gaza conflict does not spread to neighbouring countries or the direct intervention of Iran via support for Hezbollah, which dominates southern Lebanon.

Should cooler heads not prevail, it is imaginable that a wave of terrorist attacks could occur in Europe and the United States to support Hamas, along with threats to carry out chemical and biological weapons attacks.

Finally, the Tet Offensive caused severe political and military damage to the United States and South Vietnam. We know that North Vietnam’s resolve to reunify the country never wavered, morale in South Vietnam was severely affected after the attack and, in the U.S., the anti-war movement gained momentum, leading President Johnson not to seek a second term.

‘Should a truce be secured in this war, as the state of Israel has officially declared a state of war between it and Hamas, the best we can hope for is an immediate end to the fighting’

Will the fallout from this attack on Israel lead to the resignation of Netanyahu and his government, and the people of the Gaza Strip throwing out the Hamas government, saying, “We’ve had enough”? These are certainly possibilities. The war will play out, but it could end more rapidly if other countries intervene diplomatically and through negotiations with Hamas to free the Israeli hostages in return for a promise by Israel to call off its counter-attack.

One can easily say that the ongoing conflict is a powder keg that could explode in our faces and result in regional and global impacts and blowbacks. It will be a destructive and nasty ride, another television war and a very bloody one.

Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of or its publishers.

Feature image: Gaza rockets by Mohammed Ibrahim – UnsplashBouton S'inscrire à l'infolettre –

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Irwin RapoportIrwin Rapoport is a freelance journalist with Bachelor’s degrees in History and Political Science from Concordia University.

There are 4 comments

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  1. Penny

    Thanks for a thoughtful read on this most horrific war. We are all still shell shocked, and hope for a timely solution.
    Extreme ideologies never beget peace.

  2. Jean Le Marquand

    Found article to be blatant in its dismissal of the years of suffering in Gaza and the West Bank due to Israeli occupation. And whilst civilians on both sides clearly are victims, Israeli is in clear violation of Human Rights Laws by denying essentials like food, water and electricity…clearly a War crime according to International Law. Let’s cross our fingers for a cease-fire soon to end this carnage.

  3. Anne Streeter

    Always look to the root of a problem for answers. You can’t take over a people’s land, continue to chip away at it, legitimize illegal settlements and expect the Palestinians to accept this for 75 years! No wonder there is blowback. They have nothing to lose!

    Where is international concern? We sit in safety on the sidelines and support one side or another with military hardware. Then we cross our fingers. Where are the diplomats and the Blue Berets. Where is the humanity? Incompetent leaders call the shots but it is always innocent civilians who pay the price!

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