Today Is Israel's 9/11: A Grisly Invasion That Started a War

Hamas militants with the body of an Israeli soldier. (Photo by Ali Mahmud via AP)

Within two or three days, the media narrative will change, as it does every time, and the grisly invasion that started the war quickly will be minimized into a half sentence of euphemistic dishonesty in press accounts ("an incursion by Gaza-based militants") so that the focus can turn to prosecuting Israel1. This is part of why everyone needs to know about the images—the ones you won’t see if you turn on MSNBC or the BBC today. Because so much of the media and Western foreign policy officialdom do not want to embarrass the Palestinians by showing the sadistic brutality of Hamas. They do not want to undermine the coming effort to pressure Israel to stop fighting1.Today is Israel's 9/11. It feels strange to say this about a country where terrorist attacks have been a regular feature of national life, and I’m conscious of the tendency to over-Americanize events in the Middle East, but it really is the right analogy1. Just as in pre-9/11 America, Israel has been consumed by domestic controversies while assuming the world beyond was, if not stable, at least predictable. Just as in the U.S., Israel has been caught completely by surprise. And, just as in America on 9/11, Israeli families are searching desperately for any news about their missing loved ones. But these are only the small similarities. The horror is highly cinematic1.

The Attack

  • Hamas militants infiltrated Israel by land, air, and sea, and attacked nearby communities1.
  • They slaughtered the elderly, gunned down civilians in their homes, kidnapped mothers with babies in their arms, mutilated the bodies of men and women, and paraded their victims through the streets of Gaza in a show of celebration1.
  • This is almost certainly the highest civilian casualty from a single attack in Israel's history, just as 9/11 was for the U.S.1.
An Israeli woman captured by members of Hamas is driven to the Gaza Strip. (Photo by Hatem Ali via AP)

The Response

  • Israel declared "a state of alert for war" and called up reserves after the attack12345.
  • The Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) said that it had launched a counterattack against Hamas targets in the Gaza Strip12345.
  • US President Joe Biden addressed the attack by Palestinian militants, saying, "The United States stands with Israel"2.

The Historical Context

  • The attack comes almost 50 years to the day after the country was taken by surprise in the 1973 Yom Kippur War, and at a time when the nation is grappling with internal conflicts over how to move forward as a democracy1.

The Future

  • It remains to be seen how the attack will impact the ongoing conflict between Israel and Hamas12345.
Horrifying photos show Israelis being abducted and taken to Gaza as hostages. How many of them, dead and alive, are there? (Photo by Hatem Ali via AP)


The attack by Hamas militants on Israel is a significant development that highlights the ongoing tensions in the region. It remains to be seen how the issue will be resolved in the future, but it is a reminder of the challenges facing efforts to achieve lasting peace in the region.