Fight against terrorism: Israel has no good options for dealing with Hamas’ hostage-taking in Gaza

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Hamas, the Gaza-based Palestinian terrorist group that mounted a lethal shock assault on Israel that has killed – eventually depend – at least 1,200 Israelis, has captured what are estimated to be 150 hostages. Introduced again to Gaza, these hostages embody youngsters, members of the navy and the aged. Most are civilians captured from the cities bordering Gaza. President Joe Biden revealed on Oct. 10 that some are Americans. Hamas has mentioned that each time Israel strikes a Gaza house “without warning,” a hostage shall be killed, and that execution could be recorded and the recording performed for the general public.

The Dialog requested James Forest, a University of Massachusetts Lowell expert on international security, to assist readers perceive the dynamics of this hostage disaster.

The taking of hostages appears to be like like a deliberate a part of this Hamas operation – why would Hamas do that?

Terrorist teams have historically taken hostages to gain leverage in negotiating for coverage concessions, monetary ransoms or the discharge of imprisoned comrades, and customarily to affect the choices and habits of the focused authorities.

On this occasion, Hamas has said that its aim is about forcing Israel to launch imprisoned Palestinians. Its threat to kill hostages in retaliation for unannounced attacks against Gaza is one other instance of tried coercion of Israeli leaders.

Hamas additionally has a vulnerability that many different terrorist teams haven’t had – particularly, a bodily territory of its personal that may be focused.

Holding hostages in unknown areas all through this territory is an try to forestall Israel from launching navy strikes that would inadvertently kill Israeli residents. And taking hostages may be meant to generate morale amongst Hamas supporters domestically and internationally by showcasing the group’s skills to frighten and hurt a extra highly effective adversary.

Just like the hostage-taking on the 1972 Munich Olympics by the Palestinian group Black September, one other possible goal right here is to attract worldwide consideration to the desperation of individuals residing in blockaded, impoverished Gaza.

Nevertheless, consideration doesn’t essentially result in sympathy. Taking innocents hostage, particularly youngsters and the aged, is condemned worldwide, and will probably be laborious to seek out sympathy for the perpetrators of such crimes even after they’re claiming to free their land from occupation. Additional, when residents of different international locations – such as the U.S. – are among the many hostages, Hamas will possible discover this to have been a counterproductive choice as a result of it may invite retaliation from a number of international locations.

Two different strategic concerns behind this act could be provocation and spoiling. Hamas is probably going drawing on basic technique through which the terrorists attempt to provoke the focused authorities into an excessively heavy-handed response. Hamas possible desires to enrage Israel to the purpose that Israel begins lashing out towards Palestinians with escalating brutality. This, in flip, would help the so-called spoiler technique, by disrupting present efforts to normalize relations between Israel and Arab nations.

Palestinians storm Israeli territory, east of the city of Khan Yunis, south of the Gaza Strip, October 7, 2023.
Palestinians storm Israeli territory, east of town of Khan Yunis, south of the Gaza Strip, October 7, 2023. (Credit score: Anas-Mohammed / Shutterstock)

What selections do the Israelis have for responding?

Democratic governments face many challenges in responding to terrorist teams taking their residents hostage. Israel cannot be seen to underreact, yet neither should it overreact.

Among the many totally different counterterrorism methods they might pursue, repression – together with collective punishment, an strategy incessantly utilized by Israel previously – would search to discourage Hamas from conducting additional terrorist assaults, and likewise to boost the extent of hardship amongst Palestinians in Gaza to a degree that they stand up towards Hamas. Examples of repression in response to terrorism embody prohibiting free speech or public gatherings, arresting political activists with out possible trigger, arbitrary searches and destruction of houses, and deportations.

A July 2020 United Nations report famous: “Whereas Israel’s justification for imposing the closure on Gaza was to include Hamas and guarantee Israel’s safety, the precise influence of the closure has been the destruction of Gaza’s economic system, inflicting immeasurable struggling to its two million inhabitants.” So far, repression has not produced the outcomes sought by Israel.

One other technique, referred to by students as “decapitation”, includes the capturing or killing of a terrorist group’s leaders.

Three vital challenges include this strategy, an important of which is finding the group’s leaders when they’re being sheltered inside a territory with so many tunnels – as Gaza has – and amongst Hamas supporters.

Second, if Israel is ready to seize Hamas’ leaders, there is probably not a lot political will on both facet of this battle to barter a prisoner-hostage swap, a minimum of not whereas the every day carnage fuels their need for vengeance. Third, if high commanders of Hamas are killed, there may be all the time an opportunity they may very well be changed with new leaders who are more brutal than the previous ones.

Lastly, an alternative choice obtainable to Israel is negotiation. In years previous, authorities leaders have arranged for the release of Israeli hostages, together with troopers, in return for the discharge of imprisoned Palestinians.

Nevertheless, negotiation nearly by no means takes place within the midst of an energetic navy confrontation. As an alternative, the historic sample suggests any potential negotiations would wait till a while after the weapons and rockets have gone quiet.

Hamas leaders consider a basic supply of their perceived legitimacy is predicated on their capability and willingness to violently confront Israel. So the underlying problem is that there isn’t a hope of negotiating an enduring peace with a bunch that doesn’t see peaceable coexistence as being in its finest curiosity.

How would a hostage on this state of affairs be handled? Do we all know primarily based on earlier hostage-taking?

It’s laborious to say for certain. I believe it would range in accordance with a mixture of contextual components, like who the hostage is and who’s holding them hostage.

It’s possible that Hamas leaders have given orders to their models that hostages are to not be harmed, and they’re to be moved round and held in numerous areas in hopes of deterring Israeli navy strikes.

Nevertheless, disciplined adherence to such commands shouldn’t be all the time the case amongst terrorist teams – particularly within the midst of an energetic navy confrontation. That mentioned, most violent teams acknowledge that if their hostages are killed, they may lose no matter bargaining chips they’d hoped to realize.

Is there a task for intermediaries? In that case, who may they be?

Discovering an middleman who’s trusted by all events shall be exceedingly tough, as belief is tough to return by on this area. And whether or not it’s a rustic with affect – just like the U.S. – or a world group, it’s possible that a possibility for intermediaries to assist organize the return of hostages will solely emerge after the energetic capturing, rocket assaults and air strikes have subsided.

How may the taking of those hostages have an effect on the conduct of the conflict, on each side?

Israeli forces are certainly being advised to attempt to keep away from actions that would hurt the hostages. All through this battle, assistance from U.S. and different intelligence companies will possible assist Israel find targets to assault and hostages to rescue. Some hostages may very well be discovered and reunited with their households.

Hamas will likely use the hostage drama to generate lasting media consideration. The group’s leaders might really feel {that a} constructing destroyed by a bomb will generate some photographs and headlines for maybe a number of days, however posting on-line photographs and movies every week of Israelis being held captive would garner the highlight for Hamas for much longer. In the end, each side should tread fastidiously.The Conversation

Article written by James Forest, Professor and Director of Safety Research, College of Criminology and Justice Research, UMass Lowell

This text is republished from The Conversation beneath a Artistic Commons license. Learn the original article.

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