Iran Is Behind the Horrific Israel Attacks

Cars are seen on fire following a rocket attack from the Gaza Strip in Ashkelon, southern Israel, on October 7.
AHMAD GHARABLI/AFP via Getty Images)

Iran Is Behind the Horrific Israel Attacks

Netanyahu: ‘We are at war. Not in an operation, but at war.’ Khamenei: ‘Today, [Israel] is coming to an end.’

Hamas, the Islamic terrorist group that rules the Gaza Strip as a de facto state, attacked Israel early Saturday morning. Hamas usually attacks Israel by indiscriminately lobbing rockets at major population centers. There are plenty of rockets in the latest attack. But this time, Hamas also launched a ground invasion. Dozens of Hamas fighters crossed the Gaza-Israel border—some secretively, some out in the open. These fighters, like Hamas’s rockets, have been attacking Israeli targets indiscriminately—soldiers, civilians, random passers-by. At the time of writing, over 600 Israelis across the country have died.

Statistics of the invasion are hard to verify at this point. But the Israel Defense Forces (idf) said on the first day of the invasion they were fighting Hamas in 22 different locations in Israel proper. Hamas hasn’t restricted itself to a mere ground invasion. It also performed an amphibious assault against the coastal Zikim base near Ashkelon. Hamas even performed an aerial invasion with paragliders.

Video footage shows Hamas fighters stationed on Israeli streets firing randomly at nearby vehicles. There are also widespread reports of kidnappings—of idf soldiers and civilians alike—with Hamas carting captives back to Gaza. It’s estimated roughly 100 Israelis are being held hostage, and that number will almost certainly climb.

The Israeli government is taking emergency measures. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu released the following statement:

Citizens of Israel: We are at war. Not in an operation, but at war. This morning, Hamas launched a murderous surprise attack against the State of Israel and its citizens. We have been in since the early morning hours. I convened the heads of the security establishment and ordered, first of all, to clear out the communities that have been infiltrated by the terrorists. This is currently being carried out. At the same time, I have ordered an extensive mobilization of reserves and that we return fire of a magnitude that the enemy has not known. The enemy will pay an unprecedented price. In the meantime, I call on the citizens of Israel to strictly adhere to the directives of the Army and Home Front Command. We are at war, and we will win it.

Netanyahu is in discussions with opposition leaders Yair Lapid and Benny Gantz to form an emergency unity government.

The regions struggling the most are the communities closest to Gaza. But all of Israel is feeling the effects of the war. Airlines are canceling flights from Tel Aviv’s Ben Gurion Airport en masse. Rocket barrages have hit metropolitan Tel Aviv. Israel’s Iron Dome missile defense system has also been activated over Jerusalem.

“Every time [my hotel’s staff] heard the [air raid] sirens, they went through the same motions of putting people back down,” a Western tourist in Jerusalem told the Trumpet. “There were a lot of explosions, but sounded far away. [We] heard shrapnel drop. It sounded like a bullet hitting the ground. Helicopters were on both sides going opposite directions.”

Another visitor in Jerusalem commented: “We walked outside between air raid sirens. So it was very quiet because of the Sabbath in Jerusalem. It was very eerie because I wasn’t used to a city being that quiet. When we got to our destination, I noticed in the ensuing air raids, people running from door to door trying to find shelter. I saw a family just leaning against a wall, bracing themselves. We heard several explosions, but they never seemed close enough to feel terribly threatening.”

At the moment, most of the fighting is restricted to the area around Gaza. But the war could escalate extremely quickly and unpredictably. Hezbollah, the jihadist group controlling large sections of Lebanon, shelled several Israeli positions near the Israel-Lebanon border.

Lebanon is in an extremely delicate situation politically. The country’s economy has collapsed and many Lebanese blame Hezbollah. Getting into an unnecessary war with Israel would make Hezbollah even less popular and could trigger a revolution against it. It is then unlikely that Hezbollah will enter the fray. However, Hamas and other terrorist groups have huge influence over parts of the West Bank and even among Jerusalem’s Arab community. The idf has a heavy presence in the West Bank and conducts anti-terrorism raids there regularly. But an eruption of violence in the West Bank would escalate the conflict from a border war to an existential crisis for Israel.

Even though the scale of the war may be bigger than previous fights, Israel and Hamas clash constantly. But it’s not just the size of the conflict that makes this round noteworthy: Several factors of the war beg further examination.

The first would be foreign sponsorship. Hamas—along with Hezbollah and Palestinian Islamic Jihad, another major Gazan terrorist group—are all proxies of Iran. And it’s Iran’s sponsoring of groups like Hamas—to the tune of tens of millions of dollars over the years—that have made them such formidable adversaries.

It’s hard to put an exact figure on how much money Iran supplies Hamas. But an “unnamed Arab source” told Israeli media in 2019 that Iran at the time agreed to supply Hamas with $30 million a month. In a 2022 interview with Al Jazeera, Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh touted $70 million worth of support from Iran for missile and defense systems development.

Gaza is an isolated pariah. Its two neighbors, Israel and Egypt, usually impose a heavy blockade that stops Gaza from having normal trade relationships with the rest of the world. It would have hardly any resources to develop its military if not for Iran’s clandestine sponsorship. Without Iran, Hamas would probably be nearly a security nonissue. It certainly wouldn’t have been able to acquire the arsenal it is using now. The Hamas-Israel war would be better considered the Iran-Israel war.

Iran has lauded Hamas’s fight. Yahya Rahim Safavi, an adviser to Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, said, “We will stand by the Palestinian fighters until the liberation of Palestine and Jerusalem.” Iran’s parliament gathered in the legislature to chant, “Death to Israel! Death to America!”

Evidence suggests Iran is giving help in more ways than mere words of support or even millions of dollars’ worth of funding. Iran most likely orchestrated the war. Iran has been rumored to coordinate Hamas’s military strategy in previous skirmishes, like the brief May 2021 war. Just four days before the invasion, Khamenei gave a speech where he said the following (emphasis added throughout):

Today, the situation of the Zionist regime is not a situation that encourages closeness to it. They [other governments] should not make this mistake. The usurper [Zionist] regime is coming to an end.

Today, the Palestinian movement is more alive than it has ever been during these 70 or 80 years. Today, the Palestinian youth and the Palestinian movement, the anti-occupation, anti-oppression, anti-Zionism movement, is more energetic, more alive, and more prepared than ever, and you can see this. And God willing, this movement will achieve its goals. The honorable Imam [Khomeini], may God be pleased with him, described, the usurper regime [Israel] as a cancer. This cancer will definitely be eradicated, God willing, at the hands of the Palestinian people and the resistance forces throughout the region.

Hamas spokesman Ghazi Hamad told bbc that Hamas “had direct backing for the attack from Iran.”

Also of note is the timing of the war. Israel is currently negotiating with Saudi Arabia for a normalization of relations. Some claim the violence was in response to Saudi Arabia’s overtures to Israel.

“The firm view of the Islamic Republic is that the governments that are gambling on normalizing relations with the Zionist regime will suffer losses,” Khamenei said in his speech. “Defeat awaits them. They are making a mistake. As the Europeans say, ‘They are betting on a losing horse.’” Hezbollah said in a statement that the war was a “decisive response to Israel’s continued occupation and a message to those seeking normalization with Israel.”

Even more significant is the day the invasion began: October 7. October 6 was, on the Gregorian calendar, the 50th anniversary of the Yom Kippur War. Fought from October 6–26, 1973, the Yom Kippur War could have snuffed out Israel. It began as a surprise joint-attack by Egypt and Syria. Both countries lost territory to Israel during the 1967 war, which they wanted back. Both wanted to recover their prestige lost in 1967. And both rejected Israel’s legitimacy as a sovereign country. Israel fought a two-front war at its northern and southern borders. Other Arab states, like Iraq, also entered the conflict.

Israel pushed the Arabs back in 20 days—but not without cost. The idf lists 2,691 military casualties. Israeli Prime Minister Golda Meir had received intelligence of an impending attack ahead of time but didn’t act on it; the public pressure against her after the war led to her resignation in 1974.

Egypt, meanwhile, regained its status as the leader of the Arab world and of the Middle Eastern resistance to Western “imperialism.” Even though Egypt technically lost, it put Israel on the backfoot, making Egypt “king” in the Middle East. “With [the successful start of the campaign],” Egyptian President Anwar Sadat wrote in his autobiography In Search of Identity, “the Egyptian Air Force recovered all it had lost in the 1956 War and the 1967 defeat, and paved the way for our armed forces subsequently to achieve that victory which restored the self-confidence of our armed forces, our people, and our Arab nation. It also restored the world’s confidence in us, and exploded forever the myth of an invincible Israel.”

Sadat later sacrificed his prestige by making peace with Israel in 1977, making him a pariah in the Arab world. He was assassinated in 1981, most likely instigated by the new Islamic Republic of Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini.

Since then, nobody has strongly and consistently held the mantle as “king” of the Islamic world. Egypt and Israel today are allies. Many other Arab states— including Jordan, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Sudan, Morocco and Saudi Arabia—have either made peace with Israel or are working to do so. Turkey sometimes squabbles with Israel but has never denied its right to exist. Somebody has to fill the void that Sadat abandoned in 1977.

What better way to claim the mantle than to launch a repeat of the Yom Kippur War? What better way than to start a war that unsettles Israel even more than in 1973? What better way than to show oneself as the only major Islamic power willing to lead the way in fighting Israel?

Regardless how this conflict ends or what the long-term effects will be, Iran has already accomplished all three of these. This makes this “Yom Kippur War 2.0” Iran’s coronation as king of the radical Islamic world.

You can be sure this king isn’t finished with his conquests—especially against Israel. The war with Gaza is but a small foretaste of the push Iran will exert to control the Holy Land. This war is Iran’s boldest move to this end in a long time. And we can expect Iran to grow bolder and more provocative in its pushes until it faces an existential crisis of its own.

To learn more, read The King of the South.

With reporting by Ezekiel Malone from Jerusalem.