NEW DELHI: For over three decades, Hamas, originating as an underground militant group, has relentlessly pursued a violent strategy against Israeli rule. Despite causing immense suffering to both sides of the conflict, it has steadily progressed in its mission. However, its recent audacious incursion into Israel, resulting in the deaths of over 1,200 people in Israel and dozens taken hostage in Gaza, marks its deadliest move yet. In response, Israel’s unprecedented retaliation poses a significant threat to Hamas’ 16-year rule over the Gaza Strip.
What was Hamas’s thinking behind this unprecedented attack on Israel?
The recent escalation marks uncharted territory for Hamas. Its latest attack, involving the capture of hostages, has intensified the conflict significantly. It remains unclear what Hamas’ endgame is, but its complete embrace of open-ended violence as a strategic choice has marked a drastic shift.
“I don’t think anyone really knows what the endgame is at the moment,” Tahani Mustafa, a Palestinian analyst at the Crisis Group, told AP.
Hamas officials claim they are prepared for any scenario, even a protracted war, suggesting that allies like Iran and Hezbollah in Lebanon will join the battle if Israel escalates the conflict further. The endgame remains uncertain, but given the meticulous planning behind the assault, experts believe Hamas has strategized for various scenarios.

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“It is unclear what Hamas’ endgame is beyond either fighting to the death or liberating Palestine,” Hugh Lovatt, a Mideast expert at the European Council on Foreign Relations, told AP. The latest attack marks a “complete strategic rupture,” he said.
‘Every Hamas member is a dead man’
Israel continued its relentless assault on Hamas targets in the Gaza Strip for the fifth consecutive day following the militants’ audacious attack, with the death toll soaring into the thousands. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu vowed the complete destruction of Hamas, declaring, “Every Hamas member is a dead man,” while drawing parallels with the Islamic State group and asserting, “We will crush them and destroy them as the world has destroyed Daesh.”
To address the crisis, Netanyahu temporarily set aside his political differences and formed an emergency government, including centrist former defense minister Benny Gantz.
Hamas “miscalculated” Israel’s response and now faces a far worse conflict than it had anticipated, Shaul Shay, an Israeli researcher and retired colonel who served in military intelligence, told AP.
“I hope and I believe that Israel will not stop until Hamas has been defeated in the Gaza Strip, and I don’t think that this was their expectation before the operation,” Shay said of Hamas.
Israel appears inclined towards a ground offensive in Gaza, potentially reoccupying the territory to uproot Hamas. Yet, even this move might drive Hamas back underground. Additionally, Hamas possesses a disturbing advantage, holding hostages as potential leverage in negotiations. The group may trade them for Palestinian prisoners held by Israel, a move that could be perceived as a triumph by Palestinians and agony by Israelis.
While Israel currently faces limited calls for restraint, the situation could change if the conflict persists. Ultimately, the two sides might return to the status quo: an internationally mediated truce, with Hamas ruling over a devastated and aid-dependent Gaza, and Israel reinforcing security along its frontier. For Hamas, such an outcome could still be viewed as a victory.
(With inputs from agencies)
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