WORLD INTHAVAARAM, 2023–41

Kumar Govindan
13 min readOct 14, 2023

About: the world this week, 8 October to 14 October 2023; Unfathomable terror unleashed on Israel; Afghanistan’s Earthquake; Nobel Prizes; Asian Games close and Cricket World Cup begins.

Everywhere

Israel Under Attack

Last Saturday, 7th October it was the Jewish Sabbah in Israel and also a holy festival day-the Sukkot. Families usually gather to spend time together, at home or in a synagogue, and friends just meet over for a chat. This year, excited music-lovers were looking forward to the Supernova Music Festival, held in the desert, in Southern Israel to coincide with the Sukkot. It was billed as ‘a journey of unity and love’ with ‘mind-blowing and breath-taking content’ in a place of stunning beauty. Thousands of young people signed up for the party but were not told of the exact location until a few hours before. It was Kibbutz Re’im, about 5 kilometres (km) from the Israel-Gaza border.

But out of the dawn sky, a hail of rockets signalled the start of an attack that, as it unfolded, was unprecedented in its scale and coordination. Shortly thereafter a steady stream of rockets began to rain on Israel. For years, Israel has fortified the border between itself and the small Palestinian enclave of Gaza, which is controlled by Hamas-the Islamist militant organisation. But within hours, its impenetrability was exposed as flawed.

As the rockets rained, about 5000 of them, Hamas- designated as a terrorist group by the United States (US), United Kingdom (UK), European Union, among others — was gathering terrorists where they had planned to penetrate the heavily fortified Gaza-Israel barrier. And within hours, the barrier had been breached again and again in several coordinated, direct assaults on barrier crossing points. And Hamas tried to bypass the barrier completely, including by flying over it on paragliders in the air, and also by boat in the sea.

Hamas terrorists swept out of Gaza in all directions into Israel, assaulted 27 different locations, apparently with orders to kill on sight. The furthest Hamas penetrated was to the town of Ofakim, which lies about 22 km east of Gaza.

Hamas posted the first images from the ground, taken at Kerem Shalom — the most southern of Gaza’s crossings: Terrorists overrunning a check point and the bloodied bodies of two Israeli soldiers on the ground; at least five motorbikes, each carrying two Terrorists armed with rifles, passing through a hole which had been cut in the wire fence section of the barrier; Israeli soldiers being pulled-out of a destroyed tank; one very disturbing video of a woman, whose lifeless and undressed body, face-down — later identified as German citizen Shani Louk- dumped on the back of a pick-up truck and human savages sprawled around her; another of a blood-soaked woman being dragged and pushed into a car.

At the music festival near Re’im, gunmen were firing at will at the large group of young people who had gathered to party and dance. The terrorists had a van loaded with weapons and spent hours searching the area for other Israelis. Hostages were taken from the festival and other locations and transported back into Gaza. Israel says more than 150 Israelis have been abducted and are being kept as hostages. Within just a few hours of the attack, hundreds of Israelis were dead. And it happened in a way no one thought was even possible.

Help was beginning to arrive to the stricken southern region of Israel within a few hours, but Hamas was in effective control of a large swathe of territory.

The speed and deadliness of the surprise attack stunned Israel. Questions over how it was able to happen will be asked for years.

It is completely unprecedented that a terrorist organisation would have the capacity or the wherewithal to mount coordinated, simultaneous assaults from the air, sea, and land. In addition, Hamas possessing the ability to keep its preparations unknown from a country like Israel that has among the most sophisticated intelligence services in the world strongly suggests that it had external state support, advice, and guidance in the planning and execution of the attack on Israel. Iran, accordingly, will be strongly suspected of being behind this.

Israel acknowledged it was ‘surprised’, but quickly got into the act of defending itself and began ferociously attacking the Gaza Strip. It declared it was at War with Hamas and called up an unprecedented 300,000 reservists. And vowed a deadly retaliation under ‘Operation Iron Swords’. Hamas in turn threatened to execute an Israeli captive for every Israeli bombing of a civilian house without warning.

Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu promised a military operation that will be both massive and decisive, with the intention of permanently destroying and disabling Hamas’ ability to attack Israel again.

By the end of the week, after Israel regained control of areas invaded by Hamas, the horrors of Hamas’ attack on border communities and Kibbutz Beeri began emerging. And they are beyond human comprehension.

Children were found butchered, decapitated in a kibbutz, people were mercilessly burnt alive in cars, or hounded into bomb shelters and just blasted with grenades thrown-in. Our eyes see but our hearts refuse to believe that human beings can be capable of such savage cruelty — an inconceivable slaughter of hundreds of civilians in their own homes and at the scene of a party, the abduction of civilians, children, and the elderly, and sadistic psychological abuse of families.

Israel said, and at least 1300 civilians and soldiers were killed during the heinous terrorist attack. A further 3000 people were injured. This was the most harrowing murder of jews since the Holocaust — genocide of 6 million jews during World War-II by Hitler’s Nazi’s.

Then began the strike-back on Hamas in the Gaza Strip, with Israel vowing to eliminate every Hamas terrorist. Israel pounded the Gaza with precision air-strikes taking down known Hamas hideouts, buildings and facilities. Israel cut-off water, power, and fuel supplies to Gaza, and its only power plant ran out of fuel plunging Gaza City into darkness. Israel has amassed its troops on the border with Gaza and is preparing for, possibly the deadliest assault on a terrorist group. And this Friday it issued a warning to civilians of Gaza City to evacuate — within 24 hours- to the southern part of the Gaza, south of Wadi Gaza, beyond the Gaza river so that civilians are not trapped in the War. That’s about 1.1 million people to move out.

Gaza has a population of about 2.3 million living in five areas called: North Gaza, Gaza City, Deir el-Balah, Khan Younis, and Rafah. The Gaza Strip is an area of 365 sq.km — about 41km long and 10km wide. There are actually two layers of Gaza, one- on the surface is the civilian community and two- below the surface in a maze of tunnels, forbidden to civilians where live the Hamas from where they carry our their nefarious activities and launch attacks on Israel. Hamas has deliberately embedded itself in every aspect of civilian life in homes with the tunnels running below mosques, schools, and markets, making them vulnerable military targets. They use civilians as shield and pawns in their fight against Israel — as a standard practice.

The US was quick to announce support sending arms and ammunition — especially refills for for Israel’s famous Iron Dome, which destroys incoming Hamas Rockets. The USS Gerald Ford Carrier Strike Group, which is the largest warship in the world was despatched to the Mediterranean Sea. The UK is also sending two Royal Navy ships and surveillance aircraft to the eastern Mediterranean in plans to bolster security. Support for Israel poured in from many countries, including India, unequivocally condemning the ravenous killing by Hamas as an inadmissible act of terror. Even Afghanistan’s ‘deadly and unforgiving’ Taliban has condemned the terrorist act of Hamas.

Hamas too got its share of ‘uncivilised’ support, around the world-more on that next week.

What and who are Hamas, how did they come to be? But first, a bit about Islam to understand the fundamentals.

After the death of Prophet Muhammad, the founder of Islam, in the year 632, a group of Muslims, who would come to be known as Sunnis, believed that Muhammad’s successor as Caliph of the Islamic community should be Abu Bakr, whereas a second group of Muslims, who would come to be known as the Shias, believed that his successor should be Ali.

Abu Bakr is the father-in-law of the Prophet through his daughter Aisha. He is known as the first Caliph — Al-Siddiq — of the Rashidun (rightly guided, perfect) Caliphate (an institution), which is the successor state to the Prophet’s domains. Ali ibn Abi Talib, the son-in-law of the Prophet, was the last Caliph of the Caliphate. He was also a senior companion of the Prophet and considered to be the first Imam, the rightful political and religious successor to Muhammed. The Rashidun Caliphate was successively ruled by Abu Bakr, Umar, Uthman, and Ali — the last.

The vast majority of Muslims in various counties are Sunni Muslims with the Shia’s being about 10% of the Muslim community. Typical Shia majority countries are Azerbaijan, Iraq, and Bharain. All others are predominantly Sunni.

The Quran is the central religious text of Islam. Muslims believed it represents the words of God revealed by archangel Gabriel to Muhammad. Angel is a supernatural spiritual being who serves God. Archangels are the second level angels in the hierarchy of Angels. Gabriel is an archangel with the power to announced God’s will to men. That’s the religious background.

Now, about Hamas.

Hamas, officially the Islamic Resistance Movement was founded in 1987 by Palestinian politician, Ahmed Yassin. Its name is an acronym for Harakat al-Muqawama al-Islamiya and is primarily a Sunni Islamist political and militant organization. It emerged out of the Mujama al-Islamiya (also founded by Yassin), which had been established in Gaza in 1973 as a religious charity involved with the Egypt-based Muslim Brotherhood. This was shortly after the first intifada — uprising, rebellion- against Israel. Yassin also created the Islamic University of Gaza, which is considered a hotbed of radicalism. This has since been destroyed and raised to the ground in the Israeli air-strikes, early this week.

The Hamas Covenant or Hamas Charter was originally issued in August 1988 and outlines the founding identity, stand, and aims of Hamas. A new charter was issued by Hamas leader Khaled Mashal in May 2017.

The original Charter identified Hamas as the Muslim Brotherhood in Palestine and declares its members to be Muslims who ‘fear God and raise the banner of Jihad in the face of the oppressors’. The charter states, among other extremist things, the following: ‘our struggle against the Jews is very great and very serious’ and calls for the eventual creation of an Islamic state in Palestine in place of Israel and the Palestinian Territories, and the obliteration or dissolution of Israel; there is no solution for the Palestinian question except through Jihad; Initiatives, proposals and international conferences are all a waste of time and vain endeavours; Hamas is humanistic, and tolerant of other religions as long as they ‘stop disputing the sovereignty of Islam in this region’. The Charter adds that, ‘renouncing any part of Palestine means renouncing part of the religion of Islam’. The original charter was criticised for its violent language against all Jews, and an incitement to genocide.

Mahmoud Zahar, co-founder of Hamas, said in 2006 that Hamas “will not change a single word in its covenant.” In 2010, he reaffirmed a major commitment of the covenant saying, “Our ultimate plan is to have Palestine in its entirety. I say this loud and clear so that nobody will accuse me of employing political tactics. We will not recognise the Israeli enemy.” In summary, Hamas rejects Israel’s right to exist.

Hamas became increasingly involved in the Israeli–Palestinian conflict by the late 1990s; it opposed the Israel–Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO), Letters of Mutual Recognition as well as the Oslo Accords, which saw Hamas’ secular rival Fatah renounce ‘the use of terrorism and other acts of violence’ and recognise Israel in pursuit of a two-state solution. Hamas continued to advocate Palestinian armed resistance to end what it calls ‘Israeli occupation’. Hamas won the 2006 Palestinian legislative election, gaining a majority in the Palestinian Legislative Council, and subsequently took control of Gaza Strip from Fatah in 2007.

Since 2007, Hamas has fought several wars with Israel. The Hamas government has pushed through changes that gave greater influence to Islamic law in the Gaza Strip. It has a social service wing, Dawah, and a military wing, the Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades. It has spent its entire time and money in building an arsenal to fight Israel.

Many Western countries and their allies have designated Hamas as a terrorist organisation, citing their usage of human shields; methods of hostage-taking of civilians; and history of violence against non-combatants, including massacres of civilian populations, suicide bombings, and indiscriminate rocket attacks on Israeli population centres. However, a 2018 attempt to condemn Hamas for ‘acts of terror’ at the United Nations failed.

Hamas is currently governing the Gaza Strip of the Palestinian territories. While it is headquartered in Gaza City, it also has a presence in the West Bank (the larger of the two Palestinian territories), in which Fatah exercises control. It is widely considered to be the ‘dominant political force’ within the Palestinian territories. Its main political rivals are Palestinian Islamic Jihad and Fatah.

On 7 October 2023, Hamas launched a major armed campaign dubbed ‘Operation al-Aqsa Flood’ against Israel, which resulted in the present barbaric terrorist outrage on Israel.

Going back into history.

The region of Palestine or the land of Israel was among the earliest civilisations in the world. During the Iron Age, 1200 BCE to 600 BCE, two related Kingdoms ruled much of Palestine-the Kingdom of Israel and the Kingdom of Judah. A third called the Philistines occupied its southern coast. For a deeper understanding and the genesis of Israel-Palestine Conflict read:

The inhumane, merciless killings of Jews by Hamas and Islamic Jihad terrorists is akin to the mobile killing units of the Nazi Einsatzgruppen, which also went into villages to exterminate Jews during the Holocaust, and the ‘pogroms’ waged against Jews in the Russian Empire. Israel appears to be in no mood to be magnanimous about the murderers of innocents, including children and the elderly. And has vowed to finish the War on its terms. Israel have even right to defend itself living in close proximity to Hamas whose sole objective is Israel’s destruction.

Afghanistan’s Earthquake

Last Saturday was deadly in other ways.

A 6.3 magnitude earthquake struck on Saturday 40 km west of the oasis City of Herat — the third largest in Afghanistan, and the capital of the western Herat Province.

More than 2,000 people have died as the nation reels from another quake at a time of deep economic crisis. The number killed is about 2400 people, with more 1300 hurt and 1,320 houses completely or partially destroyed. The toll could rise further.

The initial quake was also felt in neighbouring provinces of Badghis and Farah and was followed by multiple aftershocks.

Afghanistan has suffered significant damage from a series of recent earthquakes amid an ongoing dire economic and hunger crises, killing and displacing tens of thousands. The country has long been one of Asia’s poorest and has been ravaged by conflict for decades. But its ability to respond to natural disasters has been further hampered since the Taliban seized power in 2021 following the chaotic US withdrawal, an event that saw many international aid groups pull out.

It also led to Washington and its allies freezing about USD seven billion of the country’s foreign reserves and cutting off international funding. The situation has crippled an economy already heavily dependent on aid.

Noble Prizes

Last week the winners of Nobel Prize in Medicine, Physics, Chemistry, and Peace were announced.

This week, the Nobel Prize in Literature 2023 was awarded to Norwegian author Jon Fosse, ‘for his innovative plays and prose, which give voice to the unsayable’. His immense oeuvre written in the language Norwegian Nynorsk and spanning a variety of genres consists of a wealth of plays, novels, poetry collections, essays, children’s books and translations. While he is today one of the most widely performed playwrights in the world, he has also become increasingly recognised for his prose.

The Sveriges Riksbank Prize in Economic Sciences in Memory of Alfred Nobel 2023 was awarded to America’s Claudia Goldin ‘for having advanced our understanding of women’s labour market outcomes’.

Claudia Goldin, provided the first comprehensive account of women’s earnings and labour market participation through the centuries, presenting new and often surprising facts. Women’s choices have often been, and remain, limited by marriage and responsibility for the home and family is at the heart of her analyses and explanatory models. She uncovered key drivers of gender differences in the labour market.

Over the past century, the proportion of women in paid work has tripled in many high-income countries. This is one of the biggest societal and economic changes in the labour market in modern times, but significant gender differences remain. It was first in the 1980s that a researcher adopted a comprehensive approach to explaining the source of these differences.

Sports

Asian Games

The Asian Games came to a close this Sunday and India finished fourth in the overall medals tally with its best ever performance of 107 medals Gold-28; Silver-38; Bronze-41. Indian athletes were honoured and warmly received all over the country in various moments of celebrations.

China won 383 medals, Japan-188, and South Korea -190. Uzbekistan finished fifth, after India, with 71 medals.

ICC Cricket World Cup 2023

The 13th edition of the Men’s Cricket World Cup, a quadrennial One Day International (ODI) cricket tournament contested by national teams and organised by the International Cricket Council (ICC) is underway in India. It is the first men’s Cricket World Cup, which India is hosting solely. The tournament started on 5th October and is scheduled to conclude on 19th November. England are the defending champions.

Ten national teams are participating: Afghanistan, Australia, Bangladesh, England, New Zealand, Pakistan, South Africa, Netherlands, Sri Lanka, and Zimbabwe. West Indies missing out on qualification for the first time in its history.

The tournament is taking place in ten different stadiums, in ten cities across India. The first and second semi-finals will be held at Wankhede Stadium in Mumbai and Eden Gardens in Kolkata respectively, while the final will take place at the Narendra Modi Stadium, Ahmedabad.

More good and bad stories coming-up in the weeks ahead. Heal with World Inthavaaram.

--

--

Kumar Govindan

Once an Engineer, now a Make-in-India Entrepreneur; Wordsmith; Blogger; maybe a Farmer!