Israel Forms Unity Government to Avenge Hamas Atrocities

Amid warnings of war crimes, no mercy is forthcoming.

The News:

CNN (“Israel forms emergency government and steps up Gaza offensive as brutality of Hamas attacks laid bare“):

Israel has formed an emergency government and war management cabinet, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and National Unity Party leader Benny Gantz jointly announced Wednesday, in the wake of Hamas’ surprise attacks on border communities that killed at least 1,200 people and injured thousands more.

Gantz, a former defense minister, will join Netanyahu and current defense minister Yoav Gallant in a “war management cabinet.”

The government will not pass any laws or make any decisions that do not concern the conduct of the war, the announcement said.

Israel has stepped up its offensive in Gaza following Hamas’ October 7 onslaught, when armed militants poured over the heavily-fortified border into Israel, raiding homes, rampaging through farms and communities and taking as many as 150 hostages back to Gaza.

Since Israel began airstrikes on the Palestinian enclave Saturday at least 1,055 people have been killed in Gaza, including hundreds of children, women, and entire families, according to the Palestinian health ministry. It said a further 5,184 have been injured.

Israel has ordered a “complete siege” on the enclave, including halting supplies of electricity, food, water and fuel. On Wednesday, Gaza’s only power station stopped working after running out of fuel, the head of the Gaza power authority Galal Ismail told CNN.


Days after Hamas launched its large-scale surprise assault on Israel, horrifying details are still emerging.

In Kfar Aza, a kibbutz in southern Israel, the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) told CNN that militants carried out a “massacre” in which women, children, toddlers and elderly were “brutally butchered in an ISIS way of action.”

Less than 20 kilometers (12 miles) away, the farming community Be’eri was among the worst-hit, with more than 100 bodies recovered and eyewitnesses describing assailants going door to door, breaking into homes and executing civilians.

In retaliation for the atrocities, Israeli jets have been pounding Gaza – the densely-inhabited coastal strip that Hamas controls – with hundreds of airstrikes, reducing homes and neighborhoods to rubble and trapping residents, with many cut off from food and electricity.

The IDF has also bolstered troops and tanks along the border as speculation of a possible Israeli ground incursion into Gaza grows. An IDF spokesperson said Wednesday that it has massed 300,000 reservists near the border.

Israel’s Defense Minister Yoav Gallant said he has “released all restraints” for the IDF in their fight against Hamas, saying the response will permanently change Gaza.

“They will regret this moment – Gaza will never return to what it was,” Gallant said.

NYT (“Israel Agrees to Unity Government as War With Hamas Intensifies“):

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel formed an emergency government on Wednesday, adding two opposition lawmakers — both former army chiefs — to his cabinet. Analysts said the infusion of military expertise would give the government greater legitimacy to make tough wartime decisions, including whether to invade Gaza, or even south Lebanon.

The arrangement came as the devastation of the Hamas incursion over the weekend was becoming clear: bodies in the streets, people shot dead at a bus stop, bullet holes in residential walls. Israel said the death toll in the attack had risen to 1,200, with an estimated 150 people believed to be held hostage in Gaza.


Israel has also intensified its retaliation against Hamas, launching more missiles on Wednesday at the Gaza Strip, the sealed-off coastal territory controlled by the militant group, where fears of a humanitarian disaster were growing. New airstrikes hit rescue crews trying to reach people buried under the rubble of earlier attacks. The authorities in Gaza, which is under blockade by Israel and Egypt, said that its sole power plant had run out of fuel, forcing hospitals to rely on backup generators with limited fuel supplies.


Gazans say that Israel has hit structures that are normally safe, such as schools, hospitals and mosques. Israel has given broad warnings for people to leave certain neighborhoods or towns but has acknowledged that they are not as extensive or specific as they have been in the past.

NYT (“Early Intelligence Shows Hamas Attack Surprised Iranian Leaders, U.S. Says“):

The United States has collected multiple pieces of intelligence that show that key Iranian leaders were surprised by the Hamas attack in Israel, information that has fueled U.S. doubts that Iran played a direct role in planning the assault, according to several American officials.

These key Iranian officials did not know the attack was coming, according to the intelligence. The United States, Israel and key regional allies have not found evidence that Iran directly helped plan the attack, according to the U.S. officials and another official in the Middle East.

All emphases mine – jhj

My two cents:

While everyone from Turkey’s Recep Erdogan (really!) to Vermont’s Bernie Sanders is condemning Israeli overreach and urging respect for international humanitarian law, it’s clear the unity government has no appetite for restraint. It was clear from the outset that there was going to be a reckoning, and the new details of massacres of women and children are doubtless adding fuel to that fire.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. Beth says:

    Israel has ordered a “complete siege” on the enclave, including halting supplies of electricity, food, water and fuel.

    1. This suggests to me that the target is no longer “Hamas”, but everyone. I thought we weren’t supposed to do collective punishment.

    2. So, this time next week for the cholera outbreak?

  2. inhumans99 says:

    Okay, Israel responds to an unholy massacre with an unholy amount of death and destruction raining down on what has to be a lot of innocent victims caught up in the admittedly shockingly nasty and unjustifiable violence Hamas perpetuated against thousands of pretty much innocent folks on the Israeli side of the coin, and then what?

    I am sure I am about the jillionth person to ask that question in the past couple of days.

    Is the plan to reduce Gaza to one big pile of ruble, forcing everyone (and I mean everyone who lived there) to squeeze into bordering countries and then treat the Gaza strip as a no mans land?

    Even assuming Israel can pull that off, the other countries are going to probably force Israel to help them resettle the refugees out of Gaza. This of course means that Israel will turn to the U.S. for lots of money.

    Just a soul crushingly sad-situation unfolding a world away from where I live in California.

  3. drj says:


    44% of the people in the Gaza Strip are 14 or under.

  4. Beth says:


    A lot of them are about to die. I guess they’re all Hamas. I mean, the cholera won’t care and neither do the Israelis.

  5. Beth says:


    Even assuming Israel can pull that off, the other countries are going to probably force Israel to help them resettle the refugees out of Gaza.

    Until I see something that suggests otherwise, I’m just going to assume that the Egyptians would rather machine gun people at the border crossing than accept refugees. And who’s going to take them? Absolutely no one.

  6. anjin-san says:

    Since Netanyahu proved to be an utter failure at keeping Israel secure, he is moving on to a new persona as the vengeance guy.

  7. gVOR10 says:

    @anjin-san: Just as W did.

  8. Joe says:

    Perhaps off topic and too flippant for this thread, but Israel can form a unity government and Congressional Republicans cant’s even form a unity caucus.

  9. steve says:

    There were people in Israel who opposed Netanyahu and how his governments treated Palestinians. The brutality of the Hamas killings means those people will now support the reprisals. That gives him cover for a more harsh response. To be clear, a harsh response is appropriate but if they reach the point where international opinion thinks it is excessive this lets him carry on if he wants. It’s good politics. Like him or not he has good political skills.


  10. Gustopher says:

    Israel Forms Unity Government to Avenge Hamas Atrocities With Their Own Atrocities

    Le sigh. And the Biden administration is sending aid to help the atrocities along.

    Once this current killing spree settles down, perhaps the Israeli government will realize that containing a third of the population in large open air prisons doesn’t keep everyone else safe indefinitely, and that they don’t want to repeat this in a few years.

    I’m not particularly hopeful.

    The system cannot fail, it can only be failed, etc. Netanyahu may not survive politically (he failed to keep Israel safe from a very foreseeable*, ever present threat), but that’s no reason to believe the next PM won’t be all on board.

    *: the details and timing were not easily foreseeable, but this was clearly inevitable.

  11. Slugger says:

    Is anyone surprised by the Israeli reaction? Isn’t a merciless and cruel retaliation exactly what anyone would have predicted in response to the current Hamas attack?That’s what has happened in the past, the recent past. Operation Cast Lead was only fifteen years ago, and both Hamas and the Israeli government have not altered in any meaningful way since then.
    I think every war is a crime against humanity. Every war in the last hundred years has seen large scale slaughters of non-combatants. Who benefits from these horrors? Hamas has to know that there would be a reaction. They must have calculated that their position, Hamas’ position not the position of ordinary Gaza inhabitants, will be improved when the bell sounds at the end of this round. I guess that the Israeli war planners have made similar analyses.
    This is a pawn exchange. The pawns are real people who really suffer. I’m nauseated by this but have no way to change anything.

  12. DK says:


    And the Biden administration is sending aid to help the atrocities along.

    This must be for political optics, because what happened to the $300+ billion already sent by US taxpayers? How much went to Netanyahu’s crackerjack “fund” and “bolster” Hamas project? So smart.

    Our aid should be focused on Ukraine, a country targeted by genocidal warmongering — but that unlike Netanyahu’s coalition does not tell Israel’s allies to pound sand, violating international law instead. But apparently Congress cannot walk and chew gum simultaneously, thanks to the useful idiots of Trump’s Putin-puppet caucus.

    Mission accomplished for the Putin-Ayatollah-Hamas axis of hate.

  13. DK says:


    Hamas has to know that there would be a reaction.

    They don’t care. Evil has no logic. Hamas does not care about anything except butchering Jews, and Netanyahu does not care about anything but saving his own sorry ass.

  14. Kevin says:

    I think this essay at Lawfare is very good. And the very first question to answer is what was Hamas’ strategic goal with the attack? Because Israel’s first priority, aside from the safety of their citizenry, should be to make sure that they don’t allow Hamas to achieve its strategic goal with the attack.

    And the next important question is what is Israel’s strategic goal, now? Not destroying Hamas, which is a given, but what comes next? What do they do so that this doesn’t happen again?

    Ultimately, this isn’t a problem that can be solved via the military. One way or the other, Israel has to figure out how to coexist with its neighbors. I certainly don’t have an answer, but what they’ve done so far hasn’t worked. Mowing the grass didn’t keep them safe. Propping up a violent theocratic death cult so that they could say that their neighbors, or however you want to define the Palestinians, didn’t want to live in peace didn’t keep them safe. They may want to hand the problem off to someone else, and that hasn’t worked. So what will?

  15. dazedandconfused says:


    I suspect Israel has resolved to end the game this time, it’s a mating attack, not a pawn exchange.

    They have tried to occupy Gaza before but with the civilians in place it was a nightmare. The goal may now be to chase all the civilians into the fields so anything that moves in the rubble can be bombed or shot without hesitation. The objective is likely to utterly eliminate Hamas, which means occupation.

  16. SenyorDave says:

    @DK: This must be for political optics, because what happened to the $300+ billion already sent by US taxpayers?
    What happened to the money? Settlements cost a lot of money. There are more than 500,000 settlers. Assume that each costs the Israeli government $100,000 in today’s money. That’s $50 billion right there.

  17. gVOR10 says:

    We’ve been destroying ISIS for twenty years. The Taliban are now the government of Afghanistan. There may in a few months be no overt organization known as Hamas, but Israel will create more militants than they kill. And they know it.

  18. Michael Reynolds says:

    Amidst the liberal breast-beating, I’ll just add that we Jews have not profited from being easy-going. We do much better hitting back.

    The ‘what then’ is then, not now. No one knows the then. No one ever has known the future. If the question is, what’s a good outcome? The answer is that there is no good outcome. It’s a very American thing to believe there must be a solution with a good outcome. Rather ahistorical.

    One good thing is that a deeply divided Israel may now be united. Not what Hamas intended, speaking of ‘what then.’

  19. DK says:

    @Michael Reynolds: The US was united after 9/11. How long did that last? Look at us now — bin Laden would be thrilled.

    Israel is united for now. Hamas’s one and only intention is murdering Jews, and there’s a million options between “easy going” and “war crimes.”

    As to American optimism being ahistorical, my people die not get from slavery and lynching into the presidency and vice-presidency (and soon-to-be speakership) via fatalism. History shows singing “We Shall Overcome” is much more effective than singing “Abandon All Hope Ye Who Enter Here.”

  20. Kathy says:

    @Michael Reynolds:

    I wonder.

    Up to the Yom Kippur war, Israel was the small, plucky country surrounded by enemies intent on wiping it off the map. It was also able to punch above its weight, so much that it took the Sinai, the West Bank, the Golan Heights, and Gaza back in 1967 in only six days of fighting. And it was the only democracy in the region.

    Of all those, only the last remains. And even then, there’s been noticeable backsliding through all the long years of Bibi. Not least the treatment of the occupied lands in Gaza and the West Bank.

    IMO, the PLO shares about as much of the blame. In 2000 Clinton was very insistent on getting a peace settlement no matter what. At the Camp David summit, Israel’s proposal was unacceptable to Arafat. But the latter presented no counter-proposal.

    And there was the whole “right of return” mess. Essentially this means letting all Palestinians who fled or were driven off lands now part of Israel, as well as their descendants, to return to those areas and settle there. To Israel this looks like “since we can’t wipe you out militarily, we’ll try it demographically.”

    It’s a mess because Israel has a Law of Return, which pretty much allows any Jew anywhere in the world to obtain Israeli citizenship. So it looks like a double standard on many counts.

  21. DrDaveT says:

    @Michael Reynolds:

    Amidst the liberal breast-beating, I’ll just add that we Jews have not profited from being easy-going. We do much better hitting back.

    “Hitting back” has two parts: hitting, and back. The target of the hitting matters. Nobody is objecting to Israel hitting Hamas as hard as they can. It’s all of the other hitting that is problematic.

  22. dazedandconfused says:


    Israel can not allow them to be citizens because they feel it would end their status as a Jewish state, which is the root of the problem. When the Muslims took the Levant it took several generations, but very large numbers of the existing Christians, Hebrews and whatnot eventually converted to shed dhimmi status. Converting to Islam is dirt simple, just say the right words.

    For the Palestinians now that’s not an option. The Jewish religion in Israel has strict barriers to membership. Israel stipulates that not just anybody can be Jewish.

  23. JohnSF says:

    There is a bit of Israeli political geography at work here.
    The kibbutzim along the Gaza border are, for historical reasons, largely socialist, and one of the last remaining strongholds of the Israeli peace movement. IIRC the music festival that was massacred was known a gathering for the young left.
    Those kibbutzim have just been destroyed.
    Just one item among many:
    Vivian Silver, an activist from Kibbutz Be’eri who was helping sick Gazans get transport to Israeli hospitals, is missing and either dead or a hostage.

    Much of the core of Isreali peace movement have been slaughtered by Hamas; many of those left are mourning family and friends.
    Apparently the opposition leaderships two demands to joining a coalition were:
    – the lunatic right gets sidelined (Ben-Gvir, Smotrich)
    – Hamas is to be utterly wiped out, at all costs

    There was little constituency left for peace in Israel after the terror campaign of the 2000’s; followed by the decision to leave Gaza leading to periodic rocket shoots.
    There will now be almost none.

    Another point: the Hamas leadership figure Khaled Meshaal speaking in Doha, Qatar, called for regional and global action against Israel.
    Is Qatar is wise, they might consider getting the Hamas leadership located there to shut up.
    Because there is an ominous silence from other parties about the Qatar connection.

  24. charontwo says:


    Thanks for the link.

    BTW, also on Twitter: