Israel announced that its forces will launch a ground attack in the Gaza Strip to “erase” Hamas. However, analysts warn that this is a challenging and potentially risky plan.
Nearly a month since the most fierce attack by Hamas in decades, the Israeli leadership affirmed that it is only a matter of when to carry out a ground attack plan in Gaza.
“Our actions will bring the war into their territory. We will defeat them on their own territory,” said Yaron Finkelma, an officer in Israel’s Southern Command.
Israel plans a three-phase campaign. The first phase is a heavy air strike, followed by a ground attack to eliminate Hamas members and destroy this force’s infrastructure in Gaza. In the next stage, Israel will seek to eliminate the remaining resistance forces of Hamas. Finally, create a buffer zone around Gaza.
Over the past three weeks, Israel has launched its largest-ever air campaign on Gaza and began carrying out lightning raids. This move is said to be intended to clear the way for a large-scale ground attack campaign.
Israeli tanks and infantry raided Gaza within just a few hours and quickly retreated to the border. There have been similar attacks before when Israeli soldiers entered the Gaza Strip, but this time there were tanks. It was clearly preparation for the next phase of the war.
According to analysts, immediately after completing plans for the next operations, Israeli forces will be ready to organize a large-scale ground attack on the Gaza Strip.
Israel Defense Forces (IDF) Israel said that about 400,000 of its troops and hundreds of tanks are besieging the Gaza Strip while the navy is on duty to completely blockade it to ensure that Hamas forces cannot receive supplies. arms and supplies by sea. In addition, Israel also cut off the electricity and water supply to this territory of more than 2 million people.
The only way for Israel to completely eliminate Hamas’s military capacity is to organize urban combat, meaning to attack every area and every corner of Gaza. To do that, Israel needs to mobilize both regular and special forces to coordinate actions in a methodical manner.
Given the size of the Gaza Strip, its fighting forces, and its weapons depot system, this Israeli campaign could take several months even if Israel has superior military potential.
Israeli officials believe that a ground offensive campaign can help them completely resolve the threat from Hamas. However, this campaign also carries many potential risks for Israel.
As Israel continues to airstrike and shell targets in the Gaza Strip, its soldiers wonder: “Is this a trap?”
Hamas and its supporting forces certainly predicted Israel’s fierce response after this group’s rocket attack on October 7. According to analysts, Israel’s next steps will determine the situation in the Gaza Strip even in the next few decades.
In the Gaza Strip, the Israeli military understands that ground forces will face improvised explosive devices that can cripple tanks. Meanwhile, military helicopters could be attacked by Hamas’s surface-to-air missiles.
To prepare for the scenario of an Israeli ground attack in Gaza, Hamas is expected to set up traps and be ready to use tactics such as suicide bombing and kidnapping Israeli soldiers as hostages.
As the attacking side, Israel will also be at a disadvantage because of its urban combat model. Gaza is a narrow strip of land with an area of more than 360 square kilometers. The capital, Gaza City, has about 700,000 people concentrated in about 50 square kilometers with many high-rise buildings.
In 2014, Israel lost 66 soldiers in fighting with Hamas forces. At the time, the Israeli army struggled to fight in urban areas, tunnels, booby traps, ambushes and sniper fire across the Gaza Strip, even though the conflict only lasted a few weeks.
This time, with a record scale of 360,000 reserve troops mobilized for a comprehensive campaign, preparation time and resources will certainly be needed to be much greater, increasing risks for the IDF’s own combat forces.
Not to mention that Hamas forces also have significant support from an underground tunnel system that serves as a shelter, stores weapons and organizes military activities. This is certainly a big advantage for Hamas over Israel in the conflict.
Alp Sevimlisoy, a member of the Atlantic Council, said that Israeli forces will have to carefully consider the possibility of victory on each small battlefield if they want to overcome the pitfalls and obstacles in Gaza.
“In the first phase, the IDF needs to gain control of each area until it controls at least 75%-80% geographically. This process will likely take several months,” Mr. Sevimlisoy said.
In addition to the risk of loss of military force, Israel’s ground attack plan also risks the hostage rescue campaign and causes large casualties among civilians in the Gaza Strip.
Hamas currently holds more than 200 hostages after a surprise attack on Israel on October 7. This makes campaign implementation much more complicated.
To increase rescue options, the US is said to have placed US Special Forces in a European country on high alert in case of need. In addition, US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin confirmed the presence of US military personnel at the scene to support intelligence sharing and planning for Israeli rescue operations.
Rescue operations in the Gaza Strip will face many difficulties when it is uncertain that the hostages are gathered in one location. Furthermore, performing helicopter rescues can be risky given the threat of fire from weapons such as grenade launchers or portable air defense systems.
This will limit rescue plans, both by land and at sea. In addition, due to the lack of medical evacuation support and quick reaction forces on the ground, it will be difficult for Israel to simultaneously carry out secret rescues of hostages in multiple locations across Gaza.
During the 2014 Gaza War, Israeli infantry battalions fought in northern Gaza, killing more than 1,600 people and injuring more than 10,000 in just over a month. In the end, Israel had to withdraw its troops without achieving any significant results.
Israel’s upcoming ground attack campaign, if realized, could be even bloodier when Israel announces that it is seeking to eliminate Hamas. During a meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, he pledged: “Israel will make every effort to minimize civilian casualties.”
However, a large-scale road attack campaign cannot avoid causing large casualties among civilians in the Gaza Strip.
David Cortright, professor emeritus at the School of Global Governance at the University of Notre Dame, said fighting in Gaza entails great risks for Israel’s position. He recommended that Israel “convene an international tribunal” to hold Hamas responsible and seek a separate political solution with the Palestinian people.
“It is understandable that Israel would retaliate after the attacks by Hamas forces, but the continued siege of Gaza will only cause more casualties and damage, and will escalate the conflict and only benefits Hamas,” Mr. Cortright commented.
He added: “Currently, the sympathy and attention of public opinion is gradually shifting from the damage suffered by Israel due to the attack by Hamas, to Gaza and the damage suffered by the people of Gaza due to the retaliation campaign from Tel Aviv. It is a trap that the Israeli army must avoid.”
The Israeli public is outraged when more than 1,400 people in the country died when Hamas attacked and captured more than 200 hostages. That prompted widespread support for an attack on the Gaza Strip. However, if the Israeli army suffers heavy losses in a long, endless conflict, this attitude may have to change.
A poll published by Israeli daily Maariv on October 20 showed that 65% of people supported the ground campaign, while 21% opposed.
Bilal Saab, an expert on the Middle East and North Africa at Chatham House, the Royal Institute of International Affairs based in London, also warned that the ability to support the US will also likely change over time.
According to Mr. Saab, Israel has the ability to destroy Hamas, but they need to “take into account the opinions of allies, threats from opponents and fluctuating public opinion in the country.” “All are important and very difficult to predict,” this expert analyzed.
Furthermore, Israel’s airstrike and artillery campaign in response to Hamas in recent weeks is causing discontent among Arab countries. If Israel takes further steps in this military campaign, it could undermine diplomatic efforts to normalize relations between Israel and Saudi Arabia, and put Israel at risk of isolation. established in the area.
Once launching a ground campaign in the Gaza Strip, Israel will have to consider the risk of the conflict escalating into a regional war. Iran-backed Hezbollah forces can go into battle with a stockpile of about 150,000 missiles capable of attacking Jerusalem and Tel Aviv at any time. These forces are not currently fully engaged, but that could change in the rapidly evolving conflict.
Since the October 7 attack, Israel and Hezbollah have continuously fought on the northern border between Israel and Lebanon. This is one of Israel’s top dangers in recent years, with the risk of even breaking out into a total war.
Iranian officials have also repeatedly warned that they will take action if attacks on Gaza continue.
ISRAEL IS DIFFICULT TO ACHIEVE THE GOAL
Israeli officials have repeatedly stated that they will definitely launch a ground offensive campaign in Gaza with the goal of “erasing” Hamas.
“We will erase them from the face of the Earth. They will no longer exist. There will be no more Israelis killed and we will all be able to continue our work,” Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant spoke on television on October 11.
A day later, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu also announced that he would continue to attack Hamas and emphasized that he would “crush and wipe out” this force.
However, analysts are skeptical about this Israeli plan.
“Many people share the view that the scenario of completely eliminating Hamas would be terrible not only for Israel, but also for the entire region and even the whole world,” said Harel Chorev, a senior researcher at China. Moshe Dayan Center for Middle East and African Studies at Tel Aviv University, commented.
“That means (Israel) will have to destroy all infrastructure related to Hamas in Gaza, including the maze of tunnels that are likened to an underground city,” this expert explained.
Hamas has built a complex, fortified tunnel system in Gaza to move, transport goods and weapons as well as place command centers.
In addition to these infrastructures, to eliminate Hamas, Israel will also have to eliminate the leadership of this force.
Hasan Alhasan, a Middle East policy research expert at the Institute for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), said that the scenario of eliminating Hamas is extremely dangerous and complicated, and could lead to unpredictable consequences.
“Because Hamas is deeply rooted and attached to Gaza both geographically and socially, to defeat it, Israel will have to make permanent topographical and demographic changes in the Gaza Strip,” he said. he commented.
Observers say that the scenario of weakening Hamas seems more feasible for Israel. “I think Israel cannot eliminate all members of Hamas, but they can weaken Hamas so that this force is no longer able to fight,” said Amir Bar Shalom, an Israeli military analyst.
Meanwhile, Michael Milstein, head of the Palestinian studies forum at Tel Aviv University, said that eliminating or weakening Hamas is not an easy goal. He explained that in addition to an army of more than 25,000 people, Hamas also has 80,000-90,000 members in civil organizations.
Former US General Robert Abrams also said that it would be difficult for Israel to achieve its goal of eliminating Hamas while protecting Palestinian civilians. “I think the goal of completely defeating Hamas, eliminating all of its capabilities, while still being able to protect millions of Palestinians is almost impossible,” he said.
Former commander of US forces in Korea Robert Adams emphasized that one of the major challenges to Israel’s goals is the complex urban terrain in Gaza.
“This will be a very difficult task for Israel. The Hamas defense system will be deployed in dense urban terrain in Gaza unlike anything we have seen in recent years. That will requires some siege warfare, while also trying to ensure that Israel does not accidentally target the hostages’ locations,” the former US commander said.
Prime Minister Netanyahu himself, Defense Minister Gallant and other Israeli officials also admitted that the ground attack on Gaza would be a long and difficult campaign.
“The war in the Gaza Strip will be long and difficult and we are prepared for that,” Mr. Netanyahu said, emphasizing that the counterattack is only the beginning, the ultimate goal will be ” Destroy enemies both above and below ground.”