Deadly fighting between Israeli military and Palestinian militants: U-M experts can discuss

October 9, 2023
Israel and hamas flags painted over cracked concrete wall. Image credit: iStock


University of Michigan experts are available to share insights on the battle between Hamas fighters and Israel—spurred by a surprise weekend attack by the Palestinian militant group—that has left hundreds dead on both sides.

John Ciorciari is a professor of public policy at the Ford School of Public Policy whose research focuses on international law and politics in the Global South.

“The last few conflicts in Gaza have remained fairly localized, but this war may well be different,” he said. “Whether or not Iran directly sponsored the Hamas attacks, it will try to use the conflict to drive a wedge between Israel and the Arab Gulf States. Hezbollah operations against Israel could quickly extend the war to Lebanon, which has teetered on the edge of turmoil for years, and pour gasoline on the continuing civil war in Syria.

“The war may also exacerbate troubling trends within Israel, giving Netanyahu an opportunity to further weaken domestic checks and balances in the name of national security. The casualties inflicted on Gaza may also reignite radical movements in the region.

“The United States has been on the sidelines of some recent developments in the Middle East, such as the deal between Saudi Arabia and Iran, but will need to play a central diplomatic role to help keep this war from metastasizing at a time when the Ukraine war is already straining Western political capital.”


Javed Ali, associate professor of practice at the Ford School of Public Policy, is a former senior U.S. government counterterrorism official.

“Saturday’s attacks by Hamas were unprecedented in the history of Palestinian violence against Israel and was a sophisticated operation that likely had been planned for months if not longer,” Ali said. “The combined air, land and sea components reportedly involved hundreds of Hamas fighters, a range of attack capabilities, and different objectives for different targets in Israel—a far cry from earlier attacks that were smaller in nature, less complex and more restrained.

“Given these features, it was very likely Iran played a significant role in supporting or guiding the attack given long-standing relationships with Hamas and other Palestinian groups that stretch back to the 1980s. Despite the broad scope of the operation, the apparent lack of tactical warning or other indicators in advance suggest a high degree of operational security that allowed the planning to remain undetected and shortcomings in Israeli intelligence.

“The United States confronted a similar situation in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks and had to implement a host of reforms to address key intelligence and policy gaps that took years to develop or implement. Israel will likely have to adopt the same approach to ensure this does not happen again.”


Mark Tessler, professor of political science and the Samuel J. Eldersveld Collegiate Professor at the College of Literature, Sciences, and the Arts, specializes in Middle East studies.

“Eventually, order will be restored and I think the best guess is that we’ll go back to something like we had before, with Israeli control and Palestinians being unhappy,” he said. “The feelings on both sides will be more intense and angrier.

“There are legitimate Palestinian complaints and they deserve to be taken seriously. (But) I don’t think there can be any justification for what’s going on, what Hamas is doing. Rounding up civilians and executing them, going through towns with their automatic weapons and killing as many people as they can.”