Clarification: The Israeli offensive renews: Hamas’ initial attacks and Israel’s blockade

Updated May 6, 2024

Content warning: This article contains descriptions of sexual assault and violence. It also contains remarks from Israeli government officials demeaning the Palestinian people.

In an April 12, 2024 article, The Hilltop Monitor implied that acts of sexual violence committed by Hamas towards Israelis on Oct. 7 were called into question. There is substantial evidence, including from a United Nations report, that such acts did occur. It is crucial in journalism to believe victims of sexual violence and assault. The story should have reflected that different government officials and media outlets disagree on reports of weaponized rape.

A corrected version of the story is below:

This is the third article published in The Hilltop Monitor about the Israel-Hamas conflict. See also Alee Dickey’s October 2023 opinion piece on the initial Hamas attacks and the first article in my series on the origins and objectives of the conflict from Feb. 9, 2024.

Conflict Renews

“On the morning of Oct. 7,” Dickey’s article begins, “around 2,200 rockets raced toward southern and central Israel. The rockets targeted sites like the Nova Music Festival where attendees were forcibly taken as hostages; later, at least 260 bodies were discovered.” Since the publication of Dickey’s article, more facts have come to light about the initial attacks from Hamas.

According to Reuters, the initial attacks were multifaceted. Hamas rockets were merely the first strike of several. Two hours later, Hamas militants broke down barriers separating Gaza from southern Israel. The attacks caught several Israeli military bases off-guard in what can only be described as a severe intelligence failure; neither Israeli nor Western intelligence agencies foresaw these attacks.

The results were horrific. Witnesses at the Nova festival, a significant target of Hamas attacks, described rape, mutilation, and murder against civilians.

May Golan, Israel’s Women Empowerment Minister, told the BBC that she “spoke with at least three girls who are now hospitali[zed] for a very hard psychiatric situation because of the rapes they watched. They pretended to be dead and they watched it, and heard everything. And they can’t deal with it.”

It was reported that Hamas had ordered its militants to systematically rape Israeli women and girls. A December 2023 New York Times investigation found that “the attacks against [Israeli] women were not isolated events but part of a broader pattern of gender-based violence on Oct. 7.” 

Sexual violence did occur on Oct. 7; however, whether such violence was systematic on the part of Hamas is disputed. Independent investigations from the Intercept and Al Jazeera found significant problems with the New York Times investigation’s claims. The Intercept also reports that an episode of The Daily, a podcast created by the New York Times, covering the paper’s investigations failed to pass a fact check, and was not published as a result; Times representatives have denied this claim.

In the days that followed, Hamas claimed direct responsibility for the attacks. In an interview with NPR, senior Hamas official Ali Barakeh stated that the attacks were in response to “Israeli crimes against the Palestinian people in Jerusalem and the West Bank,” asserting that the attacks were retaliatory. The Hamas official did not specify in this interview what crimes he had been referring to, but Israel has committed many crimes in this region.

The Israeli military could not effectively respond to these attacks; military forces were disorganized, so a defensive response was not possible on Oct. 7. A separate New York Times investigation found that the Israeli army “was undermanned, out of position and so poorly organized that soldiers communicated in impromptu WhatsApp groups and relied on social media posts for targeting information.” 

Yaakov Amidror, a retired Israeli general, told that same New York Times investigation that there was no Israeli plan to address a Hamas attack, saying that “the army does not prepare itself for things it thinks are impossible.”

Israel’s subsequent retaliation, on the other hand, was anything but poorly organized.


Almost immediately after Oct. 7, Israel heightened its trade blockade of the Gaza Strip, an area to Israel’s south. Blockades are nothing new for Gaza, as Gaza has been under blockade since 2007. However, the pre-attack blockade still permitted essential services through. Now, the Israeli government denied those essential services access to Gaza. 

Two days after the Oct. 7 invasion, Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant announced a total blockade of Gaza. The enhanced blockade represented “a complete siege … no electricity, no water, no food, no fuel.” Gallant added, “We are fighting human animals, and we act accordingly.”

About a week and a half later, on Oct. 21, Israel lifted parts of the blockade, allowing minimal amounts of humanitarian aid to enter Gaza via the Rafah border crossing in Egypt. Even so, Israel’s invasion has been devastating to Gaza’s economy and well-being. Over 30,000 Palestinians have lost their lives, and more Palestinians are being killed by Israel every day. As of the time of writing, this number nears 33,000 people.

According to Human Rights Watch and the United Nations, Palestinian welfare is rapidly diminishing. As of December 2023, 1.9 million people in Gaza are internally displaced. The term “internally displaced person,” according to the UN Commission for Human Rights, refers to any person who is forced to leave their home or residence as a direct result of armed conflict. Such people are often referred to as “refugees.” For reference, the population of Gaza is 2.2 million people: meaning that 85% of Gaza’s population is (or has been) displaced.

This devastation has led Doctors Without Borders’s International Secretary General, Christopher Lockyear, to tell the United Nations Security Council, “[Palestinians are suffering] repeated displacement, constant fear and witnessing family members literally dismembered before their eyes.” Young children, even as young as five, have told Doctors Without Borders that they would “prefer to die [instead of remaining in Gaza].”

Some claim that this blatant disregard for civilian life violates the laws of war. Despite Israel’s loosening of the blockade, around half a million Palestinians in Gaza are starving. Regardless of whether Israel has loosened the blockade, intentional starvation of civilians is forbidden under international law. Israel has been accused of genocidal actions at the International Court of Justice as well.

Conclusions & Series Map

An important takeaway from the above descriptions of the Israel-Hamas conflict is that this war is going to be complicated. Both Hamas and the Israeli government have disrespected the laws of war and each other. We should expect, then, for histories to be clouded, for tensions to be high, conditions for civilians to be brutal, and for overall mistrust and obscuring of a way out. In my next article, I’ll discuss war crimes committed by all sides of this conflict. Later articles will cover what I believe to be the solution.

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