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ICDS chief: Israel's steps suggest it is prepared for a protracted conflict

Indrek Kannik appearing on
Indrek Kannik appearing on "Ringvaade." Source: ERR

Steps Israel has taken so far in response to attacks by terrorist organization Hamas indicate that the country is prepared to enter into a longer-term war, International Center for Defense and Security (ICDS) director Indrek Kannik says.

Appearing on ETV current affairs show "Ringvaade," Kannik noted that Saturday was chosen for the attack, which included a breakout from the Gaza Strip, precisely because as it was Shabbat, the country was largely at a standstill at the time.

"From Friday evening until Saturday evening, Israeli society is pretty quiet, while I assume that some border guards, soldiers and policemen had also gone to their homes to spend the weekend, so Hamas took advantage of that," Kannik said (it was also the holiday of Simchat Torah, and just a day after the 50th anniversary of the start of the Yom Kippur War – ed).

The ICDS chief noted that as things stand, there is no indication Hamas has any pact with a third party nation to intervene in the war, on its side and against Israel.

That said, Kannik saw it as very difficult to assess why Hamas undertook the offensive, which made use of high-tech equipment including drones.

He said: "My belief is that they have grasped that they have no real hope of wiping the state of Israel off the face of the earth."

"One theory is that the intention was to take enough hostages to in exchange obtain the freedom of certain of their leaders who are in Israeli hands. However, since this operation has been so brutal and so aggressive, with so many civilians killed, it is now virtually impossible for the Israeli government to make any kind of agreement with Hamas at this stage," he went on.

Kannik said that the first task facing Israel would be to liberate the territories occupied by Hamas following its breakout from Gaza.

This would be followed by a mass wave of airstrikes on the Gaza Strip, with the third phase likely to be a ground attack, to continue eliminating Hamas structures.

All of the recent developments make the proposed two-state solution, with a Palestinian state co-existing with the State of Israel, now off the table, Kannik added.

The role of Russia

As for any possible role Russia might be playing in the conflict, Kannik remained cautious, finding that Russia may not currently have the capacity to support the attacks even if it wanted to.

"Russia is capable of much mischief in the world, but that abiluty should not be overestimated. It is a hard sell for me to believe that Russia has been an active participant in the planning process in this case. Russia's hands currently too tied up with the war in Ukraine," said Kannik.

"It is clear that the primary supporter of Hamas in the world is Iran, also one of Russia's few allies. If Russia is somehow playing a part there, that would be rather more of one via Iran."

Kannik added that nonetheless Russia will certainly be enjoying this situation, as one its main enemy's (i.e the U.S.) key allies looks to be in trouble, and must seriously deal with protecting its security. "However if you look at the reaction in the Russian media and public space, you could say that there are two sides. While one side openly supports Hamas and mocks Israel, the other is much more cautious," Kannik said.

At the same time, according to Kannik, relations between Israel and Russia have in fact been relatively cordial in recent years. "In this sense, I would say that Israel should also look at those friends, whom they have trusted. As of now, they have not receive any support from Russia; the opposite, in fact."

A more protracted conflict

Israel has declared martial law and aims to mobilize 300,000 military personnel within two days. 

Kannik noted that while in the last few decades, the armed conflicts between Israel and Hamas have lasted in the range of 10-14 days, in this case a longer struggle is likely.

"I believe that Israel's current steps demonstrate that they are ready to engage in a longer-term conflict, and to carry out a more thorough 'cleansing' in Gaza, in order to ensure a longer-lasting peace, while they have also taken into account that they will suffer losses on their side as well," the expert said.

As to host Marko Reikop's question as to what extent this conflict detracts attention away from the situation in Ukraine, Kannik said: "If the conflict lasts anything from a few weeks to a few months, I would not be highly concerned about that. I think that during this period, Ukraine will be able to hold out, while the U.S. will also be able to provide support to both sides. If the issue should end up being dragged out, then it will surely have an effect, however, and I think that the attention of the Western world [on Ukraine] would start to decline."

Considering Israel's military capabilities, Hamas is unlikely on its own to be able to prolong this conflict for any lengthy period of time, Kannik added.

However, Israel's "mopping-up" operation may prove to be problematic, he said. "We can imagine how difficult it would be in a place the size of Muhu, but where there are two million people living, to mop all this up, to find the actual people who are in fact a part of the Hamas leadership. This may take time," he went on.

Finally, Kannik said Israeli intelligence this time had proven sorely lacking.

"Most likely, they felt over-confident, and they observed the official situation but did not believe that Hamas would dare to start any real war with them," Kannik said.

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Editor: Andrew Whyte, Aleksander Krjukov.

Source: 'Ringvaade,' interviewer Marko Reikop.

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