Israel has built border fences and has a well-equipped military. How is such a major attack on the country and its population even possible?

Aaron David Miller: There were always surprising attacks. On October 6, 1973, 50 years ago yesterday, I was personally in Jerusalem when the sirens suddenly wailed and a massive Egyptian and Syrian attack on Israel began. Surprises are always possible. But this attack is hard to believe.

Why exactly?Israel monitors the Palestinians closely: phones, social media, security agencies. They have informants in the Gaza Strip. Apparently they had no indication that this attack would occur. Or there were warnings from the secret services that were ignored by politicians. At this point we don’t know. To be honest, there is a lot we don’t know at the moment. But regardless: This is a trauma with a number of deaths that is difficult to predict.

How will Israel respond to this? The Israeli government must now make a decision. They can bomb Gaza and Hamas and destroy infrastructure. But they cannot defeat Hamas from the air. A ground offensive in Gaza would be a very serious matter. There would be significant Israeli casualties – and many more Palestinian casualties. The government is under great pressure to give a clear and bold response.

How likely is a ground offensive? No one can say exactly what will happen now. There is no precedent for what is happening. Serious clashes have occurred between Israel and Hamas five or six times since 2008, making this the most serious so far. Not so much because of the rocket attacks, which have happened before. The cross-border attacks with trucks are new.

Especially since the attacks are still ongoing. Yes, there are Israeli communities that are under siege right now. They are calling for help from the government. But for a variety of reasons they cannot be saved right now or it will take a while. This will be a huge problem for Benjamin Netanyahu and his government.

The Prime Minister says Israel is at war. What follows from this? He said even more, namely that Israel will win the war. That is the crucial point. The question is what that means. I have been following this conflict for decades and cannot see an end. I don’t see a war that can be won.

Why is this attack happening now? Hamas has seen the economic situation in Gaza worsening and Israel and Saudi Arabia negotiating peace. But above all, they want to be seen as leaders of the Palestinian national movement. They want to show that Fatah is not able to protect Palestinians in the West Bank, but Hamas is. And not only can they protect Palestinians, they can also plan and carry out attacks on Israel.