Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu rejected the landmark request 'with disgust'
Protests against the Israeli government have erupted in Tel Aviv. Photo: POOL via AFP / AMIR COHEN AFP News

Since Hamas launched its unprecedented attack on Israeli civilians, killing 1,139 people and kidnapping at least 251 hostages, Israel's retaliatory actions have pushed the country towards an economic crisis.

Israel's eight-month bombardment of the Gaza Strip has resulted in the deaths of at least 37,300 people, displaced nearly 1.7 million civilians, left more than 10,000 Palestinians missing, intensified food shortages, and caused a public health catastrophe. Over 85,372 Palestinians have been injured, many of whom have lost limbs.

Gaza has been completely devastated, with much of its infrastructure destroyed and entire neighbourhoods flattened. According to the UN Mine Action Service, Gaza has been reduced to 37 million tonnes of rubble, equivalent to 300 kg per square metre of land area .

Environmental and Health Hazards

The conflict has also caused significant environmental issues. The destruction includes an estimated 800,000 tonnes of disturbed asbestos—fibres known to cause lung disease and cancer. Another pressing concern is the large amount of unexploded ammunition scattered throughout Gaza . According to UN estimates, if reconstruction follows the same pattern as after the 2014 and 2021 conflicts between Hamas and Israel, it could take approximately 80 years to restore all the fully destroyed housing units in Gaza .

Israel's Financial Burden

While Gaza bears the brunt of the physical destruction, Israel is also facing substantial financial costs due to investor uncertainty, an ongoing call-up of army reservists, and mounting military expenditures. According to the Yedioth Ahronoth newspaper, the cost of the Israeli war on the Gaza Strip has reached 217 billion shekels, equivalent to $59.3 billion .

The newspaper reported, "After tabulating every aspect of the war thus far, the price tag stands at around $60 billion. This includes the war budget itself as well as the various forms of financial aid for every civilian whose income dwindled because of the conflict." It further noted that Israel's daily bombing of the Strip costs the nation roughly $272 million every day. Despite these expenditures, Israel's goals have not been met .

Has Israel Achieved Its Objectives?

Former Israeli hostage negotiator Gershon Baskin expressed his doubts about the effectiveness of the ongoing conflict. In an interview with ABC News, he stated, "I don't believe that there are any winners here. There's only been losers, and we need to cut our losses and end this war sooner rather than later. Bring home the hostages as soon as possible" .

After eight months of targeted assaults, Israel has not eradicated Hamas, a goal that many Israelis now believe is impossible. Israel has also failed to rescue all its hostages taken by Hamas. While many Israelis have been killed in captivity since October, and some have been released, 120 civilians are still believed to be held by Hamas in Gaza. Security has not been reinstated, and Israelis are now considered less safe .

However, according to the Israeli government, Hamas's military capabilities have been significantly reduced. The Israeli Defence Forces (IDF) claim to have "eliminated" around 14,000 Hamas combatants, less than half of the group's estimated 30,000 militants as of October 7 .

Current Israeli Operations

Recently, Israeli authorities issued an order for tens of thousands of inhabitants to start leaving Rafah city's eastern neighbourhoods in preparation for what they described as a "limited" assault to destroy Hamas. Israel has also taken "operational control" of the Gaza Strip's main entrance point for humanitarian aid, the Palestinian side of the Rafah border crossing with Egypt .

According to Israel's administration, capturing Rafah will enable it to eliminate four Hamas battalions, which are thought to contain 4,000 combatants. However, some Hamas combatants have reportedly relocated from Rafah to Khan Younis, a nearby city. Experts predict that even if Israel leaves Gaza, Hamas will remain a potent force in other areas of Gaza where the Israeli military already maintains authority .

Humanitarian and Reconstruction Challenges

The humanitarian crisis in Gaza is dire. Displaced children are waiting for food distribution in places like Khan Younis, and the need for urgent international intervention is clear. The UN estimates that the reconstruction of Gaza could cost between $30 billion and $40 billion, a level of damage unprecedented since World War II . The process is likely to be long and arduous, requiring significant international aid and cooperation to restore even a semblance of normalcy.

As a potential ceasefire looms, reports indicate that Israeli forces killed at least 41 Palestinians in the past 48 hours . The destruction and loss of life highlight the urgent need for a resolution that prioritises human lives and long-term peace over continued violence and destruction.

The Broader Implications

The ongoing conflict between Israel and Hamas has resulted in immense human and economic costs on both sides. Israel's financial burden continues to grow as the conflict drags on. The humanitarian crisis in Gaza worsens daily, with significant damage to infrastructure, public health, and the environment.

The broader implications of this conflict are severe, affecting regional stability and international relations. The international community is calling for an urgent resolution to prevent further loss of life and destruction. The need for a lasting peace agreement that addresses the underlying issues is more critical than ever.