What Does Hamas Want?
blood is currency
As I mentioned yesterday, on the 11th I went through what I thought some Courses of Action (COA) Israel might be given the initial Commander’s Intent (CI) and higher Direction and Guidance (D&G). I guess it is time to try to make a guess, for conversation sake if nothing else, about what exactly Hamas or Iran is trying to accomplish.
An important part of understanding what follows is that everything here is underwritten by Iran and enhanced by all the billions of dollars given to Gaza by Europe and the United States since the people of Gaza elected Hamas as their government over a decade and a half ago.
Unlike what I did on the 11th, I’m not going to base this off what is being said by the Hamas leadership, but what they have done.
The attacks of October 7th were less a military attack, unsurprisingly being that it was executed by Hamas, than a terrorist attack. Here are the top things to keep in mind as we try to understand what they want.
This isn’t about land: There was no attempt to take land, no. This was closer to a snatch and grab operation. We allowed “people are currency” to return to the calculus. From their actions and their own words, we know the Gazans intent was to kill as many as possible, preferably men. Take as many hostages, preferably women and children if within reach, as they can carry back to Gaza - and then kill the rest. Why do that? Simple; get attention, inject horror, foster intimidation, and because it could be done so easily in the relatively disarmed secular kibbutz surrounding Gaza.
This was not a strike of opportunity: this took place on the 50th Anniversary of the Yom Kippur War. That was intentional and given the detailed planning from air assault by paraglider, attacks from the sea, the infantry on foot, motorcycle and truck, to supporting fires from thousands of unguided rockets - the decision was made to attack on this date and then the planning milestones backed up from there. This decision was made years ago, and it was done with such professionalism that Israel and the USA was taken by surprise. Indeed, on the USA side, our National Security Advisor had about as much of a 180-degree lockoff from a proper assessment of the situation as can be. From Kabul to Gaza, generations of national security professionals will study NSA Sullivan’s serial incompetence, and leadership professionals will try to understand the complete lack of accountability from his boss.
This isn’t a negotiation: I think it is an error to think they took hostages like their fathers, grandfathers, and great-grandfathers did in order to make a political statement, get comrades out of jail, or raise their profile on the global stage to bring attention to their cause and humiliate their enemies, no, this seems different. They have spent most of the last two decades using aid money to build a three dimensional and unmapped battlespace that would make any ground battle on par with Stalingrad, Fallujah, or Azovstal. I asked the question yesterday if we should give them the war they want, and that is why they have taken hostages after displaying an almost unimageable degree of barbarity in rape, murder, and kidnapping more in line with the steppe raiders of the pre-history. They slaughtered more Jews in a day since the Nazi extermination camps of the 1940s. We now have a death toll almost double of what we first thought, a death toll that if you scaled to population would be as if 50,000 Americans were slaughtered in one day in the most personal, brutal, and face-to-face way your nightmares could produce. Hamas wants to give the Israelis no option but to come into their field of battle they’ve built just for this right under everyone’s useful idiot noses. That assumption is what the three COAs are based on.
Using the “Three COA” format, what do I see as the “Least Dangerous” (COA-A), “Most Likely” (COA-B), and “Most Dangerous” (COA-C) COA for Hamas?
Normal caveats apply here; this is only using open-source information; no plan survives first contact and will have to have rolling updates; I am a planning group of one and the results suffer all the dangers and blindspots that come with it, etc.
Here we go.
COA-A: Grandpa’s Game: Hamas has not been able to get its way with Israel over the last few years. Israel is making friends across the Arab world, Fatah in the West Bank is supine, Israel is divided and fractious, America is back to paying ransom, Europe is already drowning in waves of Muslim illegal immigration and will do anything to avoid more, and Israeli prisons are full of Hamas members. For decades, Israel and the West were humiliated by small scale kidnappings and hijacking. Missile attacks have been accepted as just part of the environment. Hamas has the right time, but needs to be shocking to get everyone’s attention. Kill and take hostages an order of magnitude more, but leverage the proven ways for profit, power, and by out example - bring supporting actions while raising Hamas’s reputation in the anti-Israel constellation.
The layered defense of Gaza will deter anything but limited Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) incursions.
Anti-Israeli International Organizations, media, and Non-Governmental Organizations - including student organizations on sympathetic leftist run universities, will frame Gaza as the victim.
USA administration will coerce Israel into delay and pull back on military response.
Europe will remain on the sidelines, if not indirectly continuing to support Gaza.
Muslim and especially Arab country support will be firm to supportive.
COA-B: Follow Me: Hezbollah especially, and to a lesser extent Fatah in the West Bank, share Hamas’s goals, but are deterred by the IDF from any significant miliary action. All are underwritten by Iran in addition to allied anti-Israel organizations in Syria and Yemen. There is an inertia to inaction that a properly executed operation out of Gaza will break. Including the Planning Assumptions from COA-A, additional ones for this COA:
Additional Planning Assumptions:
In order to maintain Operational Security, neither Hezbollah or Fatah are notified of the plans for October 6th.
Israeli focus of effort, attention, and force levels will demonstrate weaknesses in their ability to keep security at acceptable levels in the north and the West Bank, showing a clear opportunity for Hamas and Fatah. They will take it.
US military will remain on the sidelines besides providing material support to the IDF, yet internal political divisions will manifest itself further than in COA-A as conflict grows.
Europe will further distance itself from Israel as the conflict grows.
Turkey will increase in hostility towards Israel as conflict grows.
COA-C: Iran’s Shock Army: Hamas did not plan this or time this on its own. In order to maintain Operational Security, only a very few Iranian officials at the highest levels designed and approved this 50th Anniversary War. Iranian proxies are at varying degrees of readiness to join the conflict, but that is a risk worth taking to ensure surprise at the tactical, operational, and strategic levels.
Additional Planning Assumptions:
From Hezbollah and associated organizations in Syria and Lebanon, to Fatah in the West Bank, to the Houthi in Yemen, all will be briefed on what is expected of them once hostilities in Gaza are initiated on October 6th. Expect independent but small and uncoordinated attack on Israel in the days after October 6th until better command and control down to the unit level is achieved and aligned with the larger plan.
Phase I was the initial attacks from Gaza, roughly 24-hrs. Phase II will be the Israeli response and buildup to action into Gaza to punish and attempt to retrieve hostages. Phase II will run at least a month; perhaps longer as follow-on fronts prepare. Hamas will have to absorb the brunt of IDF attacks until Phase III initiates in force from the north.
Phase III will require overwhelming attacks from Hezbollah and Fatah on the West Bank against Israel proper. Additionally, Hamas forces kept in reserve will sortie in force from Gaza again in rough coordination.
Once Phase III shows success, expect one or more neighboring Arab nations to join in - especially if Jerusalem falls early, but this is not required.
USA will not commit ground forces, nor will it directly involve itself militarily, unless it is to secure Israeli nuclear stockpiles.
Europe will become a non-factor the further the conflict continues.
Israel’s nuclear weapons will not be used as the fighting will be in Israel proper.
Expect final Israeli enclaves around Tel Aviv, Haifa, or both at which point a cease fire may be unavoidable. Goal is something in line with Dunkirk (1940) on one end, Danzig/Gdansk in the middle, with Smyrna/Izmir (1922) on the other end.
Iranian regular armed forces do not become involved in any of the fighting.
Well, there are the three back-of-a-hookah-bar-napkin three COAs.
As in all things, I reserve the right to be wrong, and after reading this over - I think what is actually going on is somewhere between COA-A and COA-B.
We’ll see … but each minute, your COAs change as developments reveal themselves.