An Israeli soldier exhausted from the fighting on the Gaza border. © AFP-JACK GUE

The ’Israeli Deterrence‘ Theory Between ’Yom Kippur‘ and ’Al-Aqsa Flood’


Sun, 29-10-2023 12:20 AM, Aden Time

The Israeli “deterrence theory” is considered one of the main fulcrums of Israel's security policy, through which it seeks to achieve its goals and preserve its existence and interests, whether by using defensive or offensive tools. This theory has witnessed a qualitative development following the ’Al-Aqsa Flood‘ operation launched by the Palestinian resistance factions.

Dr. Eman Zahran (South24)

The establishment of the “deterrence Theory” began after the Second World War. Deterrence is seen as part of the security doctrine for states. It aims to at least maintain the current strategic situation and to avoid turning it into a hostile environment which would require activating the military power. The maximum aim of this theory is to impose political will on rivals without entering into war. 

This explains the great extent to which the Israeli security system clings to the “deterrence” doctrine as a main component to achieve Israel’s goals or preserve its existence and interests, whether by using defensive or offensive tools. This is based upon the Israeli deployment of the concept of “deterrence” via two paths. The first is achieving deterrence by prohibition, while the second path is reaching it by using punishment. Each path has certain tasks which are determined in light of the circumstances and the capabilities of the rival. [1]

Accordingly, Hamas’ sudden attack on Israel on October 7, dubbed ’Al-Aqsa Flood’, imposed a qualitative development, which is different from previous attacks as it brings back memories of the October 1973 War (Yom Kippur)1.

Points of similarities and differences 

Several political analyses have drawn similarities between the ’Al-Aqsa Flood’ and the Liberation War (October 1973) in view of some common features. However, there are also differences between the two events. The following political and military contexts bring out the two aspects:

1- The similarities [2]: 

- The time context: The ’Al-Aqsa Flood’ operation coincided with the Jewish festivals of ’Sukkot‘ and ’Simchat Torah, during which the Israeli military barracks are usually quiet. This is similar to the strategy adopted during the October 1973 War which coincided with the Day of Atonement (Yom Kippur), an important day in the Jewish faith.

- The operational tactic: ’Al-Aqsa Flood’ saw Hamas rely on the strategy of launching preemptive attacks. This included the adoption of the “dual operational attack" tactic, involving rocket fire and the infiltration of Hamas commandos into Israeli territory. This is similar to the operational tactics adopted during the ’Yom Kippur‘ War, which depended on the surprise element by both the Egyptian and Syrian fronts.

- Advance planning: The nature of the Al-Aqsa Flood attack reveals advance planning at two levels. The first is at the ’aerial‘ level by launching missiles and bombs intensively against targeted locations. The second is the ’ground‘ level attack, by organizing planned storming operations against Israeli settlements. They used the offensive tactics since the ’Holy Revenge‘ operation in 19962 till the Al-Aqsa Flood‘. This is consistent with the operational pattern adopted in the October 1973 War which relied on advance planning and intensified training during the War of Attrition between March 8, 1969 and August 8, 19703

The unity of the squares4: This theory was tested by Hamas through calling all factions of the Palestinian resistance groups for public mobilization to participate in the ’Al-Aqsa Flood‘. This is similar to the October 1973 War's strategy when both the Egyptian and Syrian armies moved to penetrate Israeli defenses unexpectedly. They delivered a psychological blow to Israel which made it lose strategic balance. 

2- The points of differences:

- Political and security conditions: The political and security dimensions between the two events are different. The October 1973 War was a regular and classical one between the armies of two states. On the other hand, the ’Al-Aqsa Flood‘ and the retaliatory Israeli ’Iron Swords operation is a conflict between a state army and resistance groups along with armed militias whose operational style relies on blitzkriegs and ‘hit-and-run’ tactics. 

- Status of the region: The October 1973 War unified the Arab countries into realizing the importance of supporting the Egyptian cause, and Arab countries decided to back the war on both the Egyptian and Syrian fronts. ’The Israeli entity‘ was seen as an "occupier" and the number one enemy of Arabs. For example, after the October War broke out, Saudi King Faisal met with Arab oil ministers and decided to reduce the total Arab production by 5% every month unless Israel withdrew to the pre-June 1967 borders5. Moreover, some Arab states announced a full ban on oil exports to the countries that supported Israel. In the current scene, there is uncertainty related to the Arab support for the Palestinian resistance factions. This is mostly due to the regional merger arrangements as well as the ’Abraham Accords‘ for normalization between some Arab states and Israel. 

- Military reinforcements: During the October War, the last classical one in the Middle East, the military reinforcements were different as they relied upon conventional weapons in addition to following the combat doctrine. Besides, the military strengths could be compared, according to the number of equipment and weapons owned by the warring parties (Egypt and Israel) However, in the current context, the fighting power of the Palestinian resistance factions cannot be assessed. They largely depend on homemade weapons. In addition, they receive support from other non-state actors such as Hezbollah, which depends on Iranian weapons which are known to have suffered many setbacks due to the lack of upgrades as a result of the Western sanctions on Tehran.

Thus, there are some points of convergence between the two events, related to the timing as well as the adoption of surprise tactics. However, the points of difference are more pertinent. A country and an army can’t be compared with a resistance faction operating in a fragmented strip like Gaza, at both the political and security levels. However, one can’t ignore the partial success achieved by the ’Al-Aqsa Flood‘ in exposing the ’Israeli deterrence‘ Theory in a way that stirs a question about the aftermath of the attack.

The developments of the operational scene

The political, security, and humanitarian conditions in Gaza have been aggravated by the growing pace of the Israeli ‘Iron Swords’ operation as an attempt to restore the ’Israeli deterrence‘ theory. There are also different assumptions regarding the Israeli ground assault scenarios in a way that may lead to a genocide or forced displacement. This leads to positing of the following points:

- Liquidating the Palestinian cause: Through its attacks on Gaza, the Israeli army seeks to liquidate the Palestinian cause and force the people to choose between death under Israeli bombing or displacement outside their territories towards Egyptian ’Sinai‘ as part of a “domiciliation scenario" or ‘Greater Gaza’ plan. This has been rejected by both Egypt and the Palestinians. This is also criminalized under international rules and customs. Both the Fourth Geneva Convention of 1949 and the Additional Protocol I of 1977 prohibit the “individual or mass forcible transfers from their territories during conflicts”. Additionally, the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court prohibits the forced displacement of people as a war crime. [3]

- Geopolitical re-engineering: This hypothesis is built on one of the geopolitical theories related to the “shatterbelt concept" 6 by Philip L. Kelly [4] and Colin Gray [5] in their writings about the escalation of regional conflict from a geopolitical perspective. As part of the “power balance” game, conflicts constitute a fertile field to lure foreign forces to intervene based on the “vital expansion” and “influence sharing” theories. The Palestinian-Israeli conflict and the development of the ’Al-Aqsa Flood-Iron Swords‘ operations serve as a window to restore international competition in the region. This is clear in the American and European pro-Israeli moves. On the other hand, Russia, China, and some Western countries have made moves in the UN Security Council to reject the repeated attacks launched by the Israeli army. This is part of redrawing the political options for all international parties based on new regional determinants and features being reshaped within the so-called “map of shatterbelts”. The latter created areas of influence and strategic footholds for the forces opposing Washington and its strategic ally Tel Aviv. This has enabled them to encircle those forces through the “shatterbelt” of hotbeds of conflicts in the Middle East, in Syria, Lebanon, and Iraq. [6] 

- The duality of the Western position: This is directly related to the Western media discourse which has established the “duality of standards”. This can be illustrated through making a comparison between the Western media’s coverage of the Ukrainian crisis and its passive approach regarding the buildup of the ’Iron Swords‘ and the Israeli attack, which are part of Israel’s ‘collective punishment’ policies. For example, many Western countries including the United States imposed sanctions against Russia and opened their borders for Ukrainian refugees during the war. The International Criminal Court opened an investigation into possible war crimes in Ukraine. But the Western political and media stance towards the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is totally different, including regarding the operational developments of the ’Iron Swords‘ and the intensified Israeli attack against civilians in Gaza which has reached the level of revenge and genocide and violates all international and humanitarian charters.

- The status of the normalization agreements: A deadlock will likely hit the path of normalization between some Arab states and Israel in spite of American pressure. The Arab countries, whether those that signed the normalization accords or those that are likely to do so, are no longer able to find excuses for their move in light of the escalation of events in Gaza. Thus, taking forward the expansion of the so-called “peace camp” through the ’Abraham Accords‘ may be reconsidered in light of the following two factors: The first is the Arab people’s anger at the “collective punishment” and “systematic genocide" being meted out to the people of Gaza. This may cause the Arab rulers to freeze any ongoing or likely normalization talks. The second is the exposition of the American stance of totally supporting the Israeli side disregardful of any political or humanitarian standards. However, in the case of Ukraine, the US Democratic government and President Biden had adopted a completely different stance.

What next?

The humanitarian conditions in Gaza have reached a critical point that requires quick intervention to reduce the escalation and contain the situation as well as promote negotiation for de-escalation. This is shown in the variable regional and international reactions given in the following points:

Cleary Waldo & others, International Reactions to the Hamas Attack on Israel, 2023/10/11 - The Washington Institute

- The Arab stance: The Arab nations’ stance varied from statements for containing the current escalation and restraining the “open war” scenarios as well as on the possible repercussions if the conflict enlarges. This is related to two points: the first is the expansion of the operational scope to include other parties, foremost being the Hezbollah in Lebanon, the armed militias in Syria and the Houthis in Yemen. All these groups are arms of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard. The second is related to the ’Iron Swords’ Israeli ground invasion which will have an adverse impact at the political, security, and humanitarian levels. The most prominent consequence would happen if the conflict moves outside Gaza. This is what the Arab countries have become aware of through the following moves:

Cairo: Since the very beginning of the ’Al-Aqsa Flood' and the subsequent ’Iron Swords‘, Egypt has moved to contain the conflict through a number of paths: The first is through the official denunciation statements in which it warned against the serious repercussions of the ongoing escalation and urged international parties to intervene to arrive at a truce. [7] This was followed by official Egyptian statements that opposed cancelling the Palestinian cause at the expense of Egyptian national security. Egypt also opposed a plan for the forced displacement of Gaza’s people to settle them in Sinai. [8] The second is a regional path taken by matching its bilateral moves with that of other Arab leaders to enhance the importance of "Arab nationalism” in addition to strengthening consultations on the Palestinian cause and engaging in talks with all regional leaders to reduce escalation and resist plans to re-settle Palestinians in Sinai. The third path is providing the Gaza people with direct humanitarian support through the Egyptian “Red Crescent” and delivering tons of medical aid via the Rafah Crossing in consecutive batches. The fourth path is coordinating with external parties to secure the access of humanitarian aid to Gaza amid the intensification of Israeli strikes on the Palestinian strip. The fifth is the Egyptian internationalization of the Palestinian cause and moving the political and security coordination from a regional to an international level. Amid this backdrop, Egypt held the ’Cairo Peace Summit‘ on October 21, with the participation of heavy-weight Arab states and some other countries in addition to the UN Secretary-General to discuss how to de-escalate the Hamas-Israeli war, deliver humanitarian aid to Gaza via the Rafah Crossing and work out a roadmap for a ceasefire, as well as hold negotiations leading to a two-state solution. Although the Cairo Summit ended without issuing a final statement due to differing European and Arab stances, it proved very critical in ending the deadlock in the political process for the Palestinian cause. 

2- Regional roles: They are divided along some paths. The first is at the political level by way of releasing denunciation statements, as well as attempts to forge consultations aimed at reducing the escalation and oblige Israel to sign a “humanitarian truce”. There were hopes that such a truce would be reached during the Jordan Summit on October 18, with the participation of Egyptian, Palestinian, and the United States leaders. However, it was canceled amid accusations against Israel of bombing the Baptist Hospital in Gaza the previous day. In a related move, the UAE coordinated with Russia to hold an emergency session in the UNSC on October 17 to call for a ceasefire to allow aid to enter Gaza. [9] However, the P5 countries of US, UK and France voted against the resolution, which moreover died without the minimum of nine votes required for it to be adopted. Jordanian King Abdullah II, who cancelled the four-way summit in Amman that would have seen US President Joe Biden in attendance, has called on Israel to immediately end its military assault on Gaza.

At the popular level: Several massive demonstrations were held in all Arab countries to denounce the Israeli attacks, besides in many other countries too, including the West. Amid the Israel-Palestine crisis, Iran has been using its influence in some security-troubled countries to launch attacks against American and Israeli interests. The US bases in Syria and Iraq were repeatedly targeted by missiles and drones which killed an American and injured others, according to the Pentagon. [10] Additionally, the U.S. Navy guided-missile destroyer ’USS Carney‘ intercepted several land attack cruise missiles and drones. The Pentagon [11] said that they were launched by the Houthi militia over the Red Sea and had potentially targeted Israel. This is in addition to the military moves by armed militias in Syria and Lebanon on the borders with Israel.

The international moves: There have been a variety of stances adopted by the international players. This is evident by looking at the official media and political discourse for the current events, as follows:

1- The United States: Washington has adopted a shameful humanitarian approach as it has given Israel its absolute backing, thereby giving it the green light to act according to “the scorched earth” policy to commit genocide against the Palestinian people. This is in addition to the destruction of infrastructure, houses, mosques, and medical facilities in Gaza. This came at two levels: The first is at the political and diplomatic level through official statements supporting the Israeli operation as well as Biden’s visit to Israel and his declaration of full support. The second is at the military level by reinforcing the deployment of American forces in the Middle East. For example, the United States deployed the Navy aircraft carriers ’Gerald R. Ford and ’USS Eisenhower‘ along with some American warships to the eastern Mediterranean region. This was to reinforce the American support for Israel and help it to restore the prestige of the “Israeli deterrence”. The second goal is to boost the “regional deterrence” amid the growing hypothesis of a possible “open war” with the participation of other parties such as Iran, Hezbollah, and the armed militias in Syria. 

2- Europe: The duality of European nations in tackling the ongoing conflict in Gaza has created divisions among the bloc regarding the parties they should support. Major European countries including France, Germany, Italy, and Britain announced - in a joint statement - their consistent and unified support for Israel. [12] They ignored any humanitarian considerations, in contrast to their stand during the Ukrainian crisis. On the other hand, a few European states such as Norway condemned as “unacceptable” the siege of Gaza by the Israeli army. Some others, including Switzerland [13] underscored the need to respect international humanitarian law. Such a division has been reflected on the European streets. Several European countries have witnessed pro-Palestine demonstrations to denounce the Israeli attacks. The protesters also challenged the crackdown and ban imposed by European states such as Germany and France against any pro-Palestinian events. On the other hand, some European communities expressed solidarity with Israel after the bloody Hamas attack on October 7.

3- Russia: Since the very beginning of the current conflict, Moscow has rejected the Israeli escalation within the Palestinian territories. On October 17, Russia submitted a draft resolution for an immediate "humanitarian ceasefire" in Gaza. However, it failed to gain the minimum nine required votes in the UNSC. [14] Statements by Russian President Vladimir Putin and Russian officials stressed that Moscow supports the “two state solution” and that the Palestinian people have the right to establish their own independent homeland. On the humanitarian level, Moscow has supplied Gaza with a lot of humanitarian aid. In a statement, the Russian Ministry of Emergency Situations said that its planes moved humanitarian aid shipments to Gaza via the Al-Arish Airport in Egypt. [15]

4- China: The Chinese moves match that of Russia regarding the need for mitigating the situation in the Palestinian territories. On the sidelines of the Third Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation, hosted by Beijing on October 17-18, the Chinese President said: “We appreciate the important role played by Egypt in de-escalating the situation in Gaza. The top priority is to cease fire and stop war at an early date”, adding that China supports the establishment of an independent Palestinian state. [16] The Chinese stance is built on a number of axes. The first is related to concerns regarding the ongoing escalation and the impact of the security turmoil on its own development projects in the Middle East. The second is calling on the two sides for self-restraint. In a statement, the Chinese Foreign Ministry said "the recurrence of the conflict shows once again that the protracted standstill of the peace process cannot go on”, and called for implementing the two-state solution. It also urged the international community to “act with greater urgency” to facilitate the early resumption of peace talks between Palestine and Israel, “and find a way to bring about enduring peace”, adding that Beijing would work with the international community towards that end. [17] It is worth mentioning that the Chinese stance is very different from that adopted by heavy-weight countries in East Asia, especially Japan and South Korea. Both of them condemned Hamas but "they urged all the parties concerned to exercise maximum restraint in order to avoid further damage and casualties”. [18]

Accordingly, it seems that the developments in Gaza have gone beyond the critical level in a way that paves the way for an “open war” scenario. This makes it difficult to predict what the conflict might lead to in the future. Despite all regional moves, especially by Cairo, to contain the conflict and arrive at a humanitarian truce, the absolute American and European support for Israel could lead to an out-of-control security situation and move the conflict abroad. This would threaten the stability and the security of the Middle East as a whole. Thus, the main question would be: Can the Israeli attacks be contained after the ’Cairo Peace Summit‘ ended without reaching a statement that would oblige the parties toward de-escalation and the UN resolutions aimed at achieving the two-state solution based on the 1967 borders? Or, Will the situation develop according to the “scorched earth" theory and "gains on the ground"? This would cement Israel's assumed support of a plan to displace Palestinians and a possible genocide. This would also increase the odds of an “open war” scenario with the build-up of parties outside the geopolitical dimension. For example, if the Israeli attacks continue to develop, Hezbollah will likely enter the fire line. Moreover, the armed militias in Syria may be summoned, in addition to the possible involvement of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards and its other arms in Yemen and the region. On the other hand, armies outside the Arab region will likely provide material support to Israel. For example, the United States and some Western countries will possibly supply Israel with weapons and forces if the conflict moves toward the “open war" pattern.

1: On October 6, 1973, hoping to win back territory lost to Israel during the third Arab-Israeli war, in 1967, Egyptian and Syrian forces launched a coordinated attack against Israel on Yom Kippur, the holiest day in the Jewish calendar. Taking the Israeli Defense Forces by surprise, Egyptian troops swept deep into the Sinai Peninsula, while Syria struggled to throw occupying Israeli troops out of the Golan Heights. Israel counterattacked and recaptured the Golan Heights. A cease-fire went into effect on October 25, 1973. (Ref

2: Al-Qassam Brigades, the military wing of the Hamas, carried out a series of suicide bombings in Israel, in revenge for the assassination of its most prominent leader, Yahya Ayyash on January 5, 1996. Yahya was responsible for several other suicide attacks. The suicide bombings were dubbed “The Holy Revenge” by Hamas.
3: The War of Attrition involved fighting between Israel and Egypt, Jordan, the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO) and their allies from 1967 to 1970. The conflict, launched by Egypt, was meant to wear down Israel by means of a long engagement and so provide Egypt with the opportunity to dislodge Israeli forces from the Sinai Peninsula, which Israel had seized from Egypt in the Six-Day (June) War of 1967.{Ref}

4: Palestinian unity’ shifted from that of political unity namely between leading Palestinian groups, Hamas and Fatah – to the unification of armed resistance. The term, Wihdat al-Sahat, or the Unity of the Squares, expanded the concept of unity to reach all forms of resistance throughout Palestine.

5: It refers to the Green Line that formed the de facto border between the new state of Israel and its Arab neighbors — Jordan, Lebanon, Syria and Egypt, and give up the Arab territories it occupied following the Six-day war of June 1967.

6: A shatterbelt is a geographic region over whose control great powers seriously compete.

Dr. Eman Zahran

Egyptian researcher, specializing in international relations and regional security

Note: This is a translated version of the original text written in Arabic on 22-10-2023



1-Israeli Security and Military Institution/Institute for Palestinian Studies, Fadi Nahhas, 18.9.2020(

2-Dimensions and Repercussions of the Strategic Transformations of the “Al-Aqsa Flood”, Siyassa  International Magazine, 11/10/2023

3-The “Deal of the Century” and the “Alternative Nation”..How Does Israel Plan to Export the Crisis to Egypt, Almasryalyoum, 10/10/2023

4-Philip L. Kelly, "Escalation of regional conflict: testing the shatterbelt concept", Political Geography Quarterly, Volume 5, Issue 2, April 1986, Pages 161-180. ELSEVIER, Accessed Date: October 10, 2023

5-COLIN GRAY, In Defense of the Heartland: Sir Halford Mackinder and His Critics a Hundred Years On, Comparative Strategy, Volume 23, 2004 - Issue 1. (Published online: Jun 24, 2010): 9-25. Taylor & Francis Online

6-Mohab Adel Hassan, The Geopolitical Consequences of the Palestinian-Israeli Conflict in light of Al-Aqsa Flood Operation, Al-Ahram Center for Political and Strategic Studies, 16/10/2023

7-Where does Egypt Stand in the Current Confrontation between Israel and Hamas?BBC Arabic, 15/10/2023

8-A press conference by President Sisi with German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, 18/10/2023

9- As soon as possible.. UAE and Russia call for holding a UNSC session, Sky News Arabia, 18/10/2023

10-U.S. Forces in Syria, Iraq, and Red Sea Come Under Militant Attack - WSJ

11-Washington accuses Houthis of regional escalation (

12-Leaders of 4 Western countries call for consistent and unified support for Israel, Al-Sharq Al-Awsat Newspaper, 10/10/2023

13-Swiss MFA auf X

14-A Russian draft resolution about Gaza and Israel failed to gain the required majority in the UNSC/ UN News (

15-Russia sent 27 tons of humanitarian aid to Gaza, Alqahera News. 19/10/2023

16-The Chinese President to Egyptian PM: “We support the establishment of an independent Palestinian state, Alqahera News, 19[10/2023

17-Foreign Ministry Spokesperson’s Remarks on the Escalation of Tensions between Palestine and Israel”, Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the People’s Republic of China, 8 October 2023

18-Attack on Israel by the Palestinian militants including Hamas (Statement by Press Secretary KOBAYASHI Maki), Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Japan. 7 October 2023

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