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What We Know About the War Between Israel and Hamas (November 2, 2023)

Author: Matthew Mpoke Bigg

Bigg, Matthew Mpoke. “What We Know about the War between Israel and Hamas.” The New York Times, The New York Times, 2 Nov. 2023, Questions at the top are excerpted from: Network, The Learning. “The Israel-Hamas War: A Forum for Young People to React.” The New York Times, The New York Times, 10 Oct. 2023,

Read the “What We Know” explainer here, then–in comments–tell us what you think.

  • What is your reaction to Hamas’s attack on Israel and to Israel’s response? What emotions, feelings and thoughts are you experiencing?
  • What questions do you have about what is happening now and about its larger context? This is a complex and quickly moving news story. If you don’t think you have enough background to respond to any of our prompts please post some of the things you are wondering about.
  • How closely have you been following the news? Where are you getting your information? How do you know that what you are seeing and hearing is accurate? (For example, NPR’s “On the Media” offers a “breaking news consumer’s handbook” with tips like “focus on known, credible news outlets with reporters on the ground.” )
  • What kind of conversations have you had with friends and family members on this subject? Have you and the others in your life had similar reactions to the attacks or different ones? Why do you think that is?
  • Have you seen pictures, videos or social media posts documenting what life is like in Israel and Gaza right now? If so, what scenes or images have made an impression on you, and why?
  • What do you think might happen next? Why?
  • What do you know about how countries around the world are responding? What else, if anything, do you think the United States and other countries should do?

After Hamas’ surprise attack on Israel on Oct. 7, Israel has been besieging and bombarding the Gaza Strip, worsening a humanitarian crisis.

Three soldiers work to load a tank.

Israeli soldiers in Be’eri, Israel, this month. Be’eri was among the sites attacked by Hamas terrorists during their Oct. 7 assault. Credit: Sergey Ponomarev for The New York Times

Nov. 2, 2023

Follow our latest updates on the Israel-Hamas war.

On Oct. 7, Hamas terrorists staged a surprise attack on Israel, killing more than 1,400 people in their homes, at a music festival and on the streets. In retaliation, Israel’s government vowed to destroy Hamas, the armed Palestinian group that controls the Gaza Strip. Israel unleashed a devastating barrage of airstrikes against Gaza, where more than 8,000 people are now dead, according to the Hamas-run Gaza health ministry, and sent troops into the battered enclave. The fallout from the violence has shaken the region and the world.

Here’s what to know:

What happened during the Hamas attack?

A demonstration in support of the hostages.
A rally in support of those taken hostage. Hamas and other Palestinian groups are believed to be holding more than 200 people as hostages. Credit: Amit Elkayam for The New York Times

Early on Oct. 7, Hamas fired volleys of rockets that struck as far away as Tel Aviv and the outskirts of Jerusalem, cities normally protected by Israel’s Iron Dome missile defense system. The attackers then infiltrated border communities and army bases, as well as an outdoor music festival, massacring men, women and children. It took days for Israeli forces to regain control after the attack, which marked the single deadliest day in Israel’s history.

Compounding the sense of shock to Israel, a country with the region’s most advanced military, Hamas and other armed groups in Gaza also took at least 239 civilians and soldiers hostage. Four have since been released.

How has Israel responded?

In the immediate aftermath of Oct. 7, the Israeli authorities started airstrikes against Gaza and announced a “complete siege” of the territory that would deprive it of incoming supplies of food, water and fuel.

Israel also assembled tens of thousands of troops to invade Gaza, with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel vowing to “demolish” Hamas.

Several U.S. officials have said the Biden administration had advised Israel to delay a ground invasion, at least in part to buy time for hostage negotiations and to allow more humanitarian aid to reach Palestinians.

On Friday night, phone and internet service went down inside Gaza amid a massive aerial and artillery bombardment — and Israeli troops advanced into the northern part of the enclave. In the three days since, Israel has expanded its ground operations, though the extent of their activities inside Gaza remains unclear

What is the situation in Gaza?

People walking on and working in the rubble of Gaza.
People carrying a body that was pulled from the rubble of a building in Khan Younis, Gaza. Credit: Yousef Masoud for The New York Times

Israel, which says Hamas hides in civilian areas for protection, has launched thousands of airstrikes on Gaza, sometimes hundreds in a single day. These have caused widespread civilian casualties, devastated neighborhoods and worsened a humanitarian disaster in the enclave, which has been under a 16-year blockade.

Hundreds of thousands of people have fled their homes in search of safety. Israel has repeatedly warned civilians to move from the north to the south of the territory — though many Gazans say doing so is not an option and that no part of the enclave is safe.

The Palestinian death toll in Gaza is contested.

Gaza’s health ministry, which is run by Hamas, has said that more than 8,000 people have been killed, many of them children. That figure could not be verified independently, and President Biden has said he had “no confidence” in the Hamas casualty figures. He did not explain the assertion, but on Sunday reiterated support for Israel’s right to protect itself while underscoring “the need to do so in a manner consistent with international humanitarian law that prioritizes the protection of civilians.”

The United Nations has called for an urgent humanitarian cease-fire to allow aid into Gaza as the humanitarian crisis spirals. While some trucks carrying aid have been allowed to cross from Egypt, officials say far more is needed.

What have Palestinians said about the attack?

Muhammad Deif, the leader of the military wing of Hamas, said in a recorded message that the group launched its Oct. 7 attack so that “the enemy will understand that the time of their rampaging without accountability has ended.”

He cited Israel’s occupation of the West Bank, which it captured during the Arab-Israeli war of 1967, recent Israeli police raids on the Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem and the detention of thousands of Palestinians in Israeli jails. The Aqsa Mosque compound, known to Jews as the Temple Mount, is among the most deeply contested sites in the Holy Land.

Other Palestinians, while condemning the attack, say that the anger that has driven violence in Gaza for decades is rooted in part in displacement. About 80 percent of Gaza’s 2.1 million inhabitants are registered refugees — Palestinians forced out of present-day Israel in 1948, or their descendants.

More broadly, many Arabs say the American government is not only indifferent to the agony of Palestinians living under Israeli occupation or control, but complicit in it.

How have other leaders reacted?

President Biden and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel sit in chairs with the flags of both countries behind them
President Biden met with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel in Tel Aviv this month. Credit: Kenny Holston/The New York Times

Leaders of many nations have expressed horror at the attack on Israel and affirmed their support for the country and its right of self-defense. The United States has delivered weapons to Israel, and President Biden visited to show solidarity. Other visitors have included the leaders of Britain, France and Germany.

Arab nations, including Saudi Arabia, have called for de-escalation, and have avoided blaming Hamas. They have recently called for a cease-fire.

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey scrapped plans for a trip to Israel. He said that Hamas — which the United States, the European Union and other countries consider a terrorist organization — stood for liberation rather than terror, though added that he did not excuse acts against civilians. He also condemned what he called Israel’s brutality against Palestinians.

António Guterres, secretary general of the United Nations, has added his voice to growing calls for a humanitarian cease-fire. He told the United Nations Security Council that the grievances of the Palestinian people cannot justify Hamas’ attacks and those attacks “cannot justify the collective punishment of the Palestinian people.” His remarks drew sharp criticism from some Israeli officials.

Elsewhere, President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine equated the attack by Hamas with Russia’s invasion of his own country. President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia has offered a muted response to the attack on Israel.

Is a broader conflict coming?

The war in Gaza jeopardizes months of diplomacy by Mr. Biden and his top aides to push Saudi Arabia to normalize relations with Israel, two countries that have been adversaries.

It also has led to protests across the Middle East and beyond and stoked fears of a broader regional conflict.

President Biden and his aides have sought to prevent the war between Israel and Hamas from spilling over into a regional conflict with Iran and its proxies in Lebanon, Syria and Iraq. The Pentagon has rushed two aircraft carriers and dozens of extra warplanes to the region to make this point.

Since the Oct. 7 attacks, the Israeli army has engaged in almost daily clashes with Hezbollah, the Lebanese militant group allied with Hamas and backed by Iran. Israel’s military also has responded to fire from Syria.

And more than 100 Palestinians have been killed in the Israeli-occupied West Bank in confrontations with Israeli forces and escalating settler attacks, according to the Palestinian Health Ministry.

Matthew Mpoke Bigg is a correspondent covering international news. He previously worked as a reporter, editor and bureau chief for Reuters and did postings in Nairobi, Abidjan, Atlanta, Jakarta and Accra. More about Matthew Mpoke Bigg

DMU Timestamp: November 05, 2023 10:54