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ANALYSIS/Experts divided on whether Hamas-Israel war has lessons for Taiwan

10/10/2023 12:58 PM
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Flames and smoke billow during Israeli strikes in Gaza, Oct. 9, 2023. Photo: Reuters
Flames and smoke billow during Israeli strikes in Gaza, Oct. 9, 2023. Photo: Reuters

Taipei, Oct. 10 (CNA) Experts offered mixed views Monday on whether Taiwan could draw any lessons from the recent surprise attack on Israel by Hamas, with some arguing that it should prompt more vigilance against attacks that cannot be detected in traditional ways or take place on a holiday.

Lai I-chung (賴怡忠), an advisor at the Taiwan Thinktank, told CNA the fact that Israel's intelligence services failed to detect an impending attack, and the chaos that immediately followed it, were a "major warning" to Taiwan.

In the past, it's been assumed that there would be clear signs of a military buildup ahead of a large-scale attack. As this seems to no longer be the case, Taiwan will need to review and adjust its intelligence gathering and early-warning mechanisms, Lai said.

Others, however, cautioned against drawing similarities between what happened in the Middle East and a potential conflict in the Taiwan Strait.

Chong Ja-ian (莊嘉穎), associate professor of political science at the National University of Singapore, argued that Hamas' attack on Israel was a type of asymmetric warfare, and was not comparable to the kind of threat Taiwan faces from China.

Chong instead suggested taking broader lessons from the conflict, such as the importance of effective military mobilization capabilities and strong civil defenses, which, despite appeals from some in Taiwan, have still not been entirely accepted by the public.

Meanwhile, retired Air Force Lieutenant General Chang Yen-ting (張延廷) said that despite differences in the two situations, it would still be worthwhile for Taiwan to formulate how it would respond to a Hamas-style attack.

According to Chang, Hamas attempted a sort of saturation attack -- first overwhelming Israel's Iron Dome air defense system with rockets, and then sending large numbers of fighters across the border to kill civilians and take hostages.

The quick pace of the Hamas offensive, as well as its timing on a major holiday -- the Jewish holiday Simchat Torah -- could also be replicated by China, such as in an attack on Taiwan over the Lunar New Year, Chang said.

Overall, however, Taiwan is in a weaker national defense position than Israel, in part because of its much more limited conscription model, Chang said.

While Israel holds a significant advantage over Hamas in terms of force size, Taiwan only has around 150,000 volunteer soldiers, compared some 2 million in China, he said.

(By Huang Ya-shih, Huang Tzu-chiang and Matthew Mazzetta)

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