Israel wants to “crush and destroy Hamas” with its ground attack in Gaza. Whether that is realistic, and whether Israel knows what to do next in Gaza, is less clear. “In urban warfare you should have a ten to one advantage.”
“The government has made a decision: eliminate Hamas,” Israeli Economy Minister Nir Barkat told ABC News. He added: “I will not say anything about the Israeli army’s plans, but we will strike at the time we consider appropriate.” It seems that this will come soon. Israeli forces took up positions on the Gaza border, while Palestinian residents have been instructed to flee south since last Friday.
The Israeli ground attack was expected at the end of last week. Israeli officers surrender The New York Times He noted that the invasion was postponed due to bad weather, which would have made it difficult for Israeli pilots and drone operators to provide air support. According to former Colonel Roger Housen, who is in contact with American soldiers, the hostages are also manipulating. Hamas is currently arresting about 200 people, including American citizens. The Americans insisted on making the evacuation of these hostages the first priority. “The Israelis took advantage of the past week to infiltrate the special forces and obtain intelligence information about the location of the hostages.”
Cutting Gaza in half
The question is what lessons Israel has learned since the two previous invasions it has carried out since its withdrawal from Gaza in 2005. If we had an operation like 2014, the IDF would focus on the border areas and the suburbs. The cities are trying to close the tunnels through which Hamas transports weapons, troops and food. It could also be an invasion similar to the fifteen-day Operation Cast Lead in 2009, when IDF forces pushed deeper into cities and occupied larger parts of Gaza.
But it is also possible that these operations are just a prelude to what awaits Gaza now. Israel’s goal in these operations was to punish Hamas and deal it a strong blow. Now that the October 7 Hamas raids have hit Israel in the heart, Netanyahu and his associates appear to want to take tougher measures. For example, Netanyahu said that “every member of Hamas is a dead man” and that “we will crush and destroy them as the world destroyed ISIS.” “Israel has also called up about 360,000 reservists,” says military historian Tom Simons (Royal Military Academy). “You don’t do that unless you have a big operation planned.”
Based on the fact that the Israeli government has given a message to the Palestinians in northern Gaza that they must flee to the south, it appears that the intention is to strike against the north. One or two armored brigades equipped with tanks may attempt to control an area around the city of Deir al-Balah, thus dividing the Gaza Strip into two parts. The main effort is likely to be focused in and around Gaza City. In the The New York Times Israeli army spokesmen leave no doubt that killing Yahya Sinwar, the leader of Hamas in Gaza, and the rest of the Hamas leadership, is a main goal.
Israel may have numerical superiority and better weapons, but this is by no means a guarantee of success. As a general rule of military engineering, an attacking force needs three times as many men as the defending force to have a good chance of victory. “In urban warfare, you have to make that a ten-to-one advantage,” says Howson.
In Gaza, Israeli forces can be surprised at every corner by mines or by Hamas soldiers who will mix with ordinary civilians. In recent years, Hamas has also built an impressive network of tunnels through which they can attack Israeli soldiers from behind. In 2014, it was also revealed that Hamas fighters sometimes wear Israeli military uniforms to create confusion. “I don’t think a single soldier in the world would be excited about doing an operation there,” Simons says.
The question is also what is the ultimate goal or exit strategy that Israel has in mind? Defeating Hamas to the last man seems impossible. In addition to being an armed faction, Hamas is also a broad and deeply intertwined social movement in the Gaza Strip, with its political leadership based in Qatar. Even if Israel succeeds in breaking Hamas’ will, leaving Gaza in a power vacuum seems like a recipe for another popular uprising. Israel’s seizure of power by itself seems unthinkable for the same reason. If Netanyahu hands power to the Palestinian Authority, he risks being seen as an Israeli puppet.
That is why international politics professor David Kriekmans (UAntwerp) proposes turning it into a “trust zone” under UN supervision. This Trusteeship Council was created in the last century to guide former colonies in their transition to sovereign nations. He added: “In this way, you are also sending an important political message that the Palestinians will eventually obtain an independent state.”
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