New evidence and intelligence suggest that Hamas militants who attacked settlements across southern Israel last month were prepared to travel further into the country, hoping to touch off an even larger war than that which has already followed the group's surprise assault on Oct. 7.
Hamas planned to "strike a blow of historic proportions," hoping to compel "an overwhelming Israeli response" that would embroil not only the densely packed Gaza Strip, but the occupied West Bank, and ultimately the broader Middle East, according to The Washington Post. Some militants who breached the fence into Israel "carried enough food, ammunition and equipment to last several days" and had instructions "to continue deeper into Israel if the first wave of attacks succeeded, potentially striking larger Israeli cities," the Post reported, citing more than a dozen security and intelligence experts who reviewed evidence from the attacks, including reports that one unit carried maps with plans to "continue the assault up to the border of the West Bank."
The looming threat that the ongoing war — which has already claimed the lives of some 1,200 Israelis, and more than 10,000 Palestinians — could spiral into a region-wide conflict has prompted a "frantic effort" by American officials and their allies to contain the violence. Had Hamas militants been able to breach the West Bank, for instance, "it would have been a huge propaganda win — a symbolic blow not only against Israel, but also against the Palestinian Authority" that controls the territory, one official told the Post.
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The ultimate goal has been to launch a "new wave of violent Palestinian resistance in the region" as well as nix "efforts at normalizing relations between Israel and Arab states," the Post reported, quoting one official who claimed Hamas has been "very clear-eyed as to what would happen to Gaza on the day after."
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