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Hamas’s atrocities and Israel’s retaliation will change both sides for ever (The Economist)

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ImagenThe first hours were chaos. Residents of southern Israel, near the border with Gaza, woke to the sound of incoming rockets and mortars. They rushed to shelters—a grim routine in this part of the country, but a routine nonetheless. Then, a few minutes later, they heard gunfire drawing steadily closer and shouting in Arabic. That was not routine at all.

Nor were the unimaginable scenes outside their homes, snippets of which began to trickle out on social media: Palestinian militants on the bed of a pickup truck, driving through an Israeli town firing at passers-by; a pile of bodies at a bus stop, another at an army post. The morning dragged on, and no help arrived. Frantic Israelis called television-news shows from their safe rooms and asked, in hushed tones, where their army was.

Then, no less shocking, came the reports of abductions. A mother said her two sons, one of them just 12 years old, had been kidnapped and dragged across the border. A video showed an elderly woman, her stiff smile belying her shock, paraded through the streets of Gaza on a golf cart, an armed man seated behind her.

The death toll went up and up and up. Almost a week later, authorities were still counting bodies. In Be’eri, a small kibbutz of around 1,000 people, militants went door-to-door and slaughtered some 10% of the population. An even greater number may have been killed in Kfar Azza, eight kilometres to the north.

For Israelis October 7th was a day without precedent. More than 1,300 people were killed, in a country of just 10m. The death toll exceeds the number of Israelis killed in all violence between Israelis and Palestinians over the prior 20 years. Another 3,300 people were wounded. Israelis had thought Hamas, the Palestinian Islamist group that controls Gaza, was a manageable threat. Now it has carried out the deadliest terror attack in their country’s history. The mightiest army in the Middle East lost control of its own towns, and needed days to regain it. Authorities have recovered the bodies of at least 1,500 Palestinian militants—more than a battalion’s worth of gunmen who managed to flood across the supposedly well-defended boundary.

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