The leaders of Israel have made it clear that Hamas will be eradicated from the face of the earth, and that Gaza will never again be the same as it was before.
After militants from the group Hamas carried out an attack on Israel that resulted in the deaths of 1,300 people, the Prime Minister of Israel, Benjamin Netanyahu, declared that “every Hamas member is a dead man.”
It seems as though the goal of Operation Swords of Iron is going to be significantly more ambitious than anything else the IDF has planned in Gaza before. But is that a military objective that’s actually feasible, and if so, how can its leaders possible carry it out?
An invasion of the Gaza Strip on the ground would require house-to-house combat in urban areas and would put the lives of the civilian population in grave danger. More than 400,000 people have been forced to flee their homes as a result of the air attacks, which have already resulted in the deaths of hundreds of people.
The military has been tasked with the additional mission of rescuing at least 150 captives who are being detained in unidentified locations around Gaza.
The Chief of Staff of the Israel Defense Forces (IDF), Herzi Halevi, has made a public commitment to “dismantle” Hamas and has specifically targeted the organization’s political head in Gaza. But does Hamas have a long-term plan for how they want Gaza to look after they’ve ruled it violently for the past 16 years?
According to a statement made by a military analyst for Israel’s Army Radio named Amir Bar Shalom, “I don’t think Israel can dismantle every single member of Hamas because it’s an idea of extremist Islam.” “But you can weaken it as much as you can so it has no operational capabilities.”
It’s possible that this is a goal that’s more attainable. Israel and Hamas have engaged in a total of four wars, yet none of Israel’s attempts to stop Hamas’ rocket fire have been successful.
Hamas should no longer have the military capability to “threaten or kill Israeli civilians,” according to a statement made by Lt. Col. Jonathan Conricus, who is a spokesman for the Israeli military.
Invasion of the ground fraught with danger
The military operation is vulnerable to a number of circumstances, any one of which could cause it to fail.
The Izzedine al-Qassam Brigades, which serve as the military wing of Hamas, will have made preparations for an Israeli assault. There will have been preparations made for an ambush, including the setting of explosive devices. It is able to launch attacks against Israeli forces by utilizing its infamous and extensive network of tunnels.
During the year 2014, Israeli military battalions sustained high casualties as a result of anti-tank mines, snipers, and ambushes. Meanwhile, hundreds of civilians lost their lives as a result of fighting in a northern neighborhood of Gaza City.
One of the many reasons why Israel has sought the expulsion of 1.1 million Palestinians from the northern part of the Gaza Strip is because of this demand.
The Israeli population has been informed that the battle could last for several months, and a record number of 360,000 reservists have reported for duty.
The question is how much longer Israel can sustain its campaign in the face of no pressure from the international community to stop.
The United Nations’ refugee agency has expressed concern that Gaza is gradually deteriorating into a “hell hole.” The number of people who have lost their lives is rapidly climbing; water, power, and fuel sources have been cut off; and now it is being advised that almost half of the population should evacuate big areas.
“Both the administration and the armed forces believe they have the support of the international community, or at the very least, the leaders of Western nations. “Let’s mobilize, we have plenty of time,” says Yossi Melman, one of Israel’s finest security and intelligence journalists. “The philosophy is ‘let’s mobilize, we have plenty of time.'”
However, he believes that Israel’s allies will intervene sooner or later if they witness photographs of people who are starving to death.
The rescue of the hostages
There are a significant number of Israelis among the hostages, but there are also a significant number of foreign citizens and dual nationalities among them. As a result, a number of other nations, notably the United States of America, France, and the United Kingdom, have an interest in this operation and the safe release of the hostages.
French-Israeli families have been given a pledge by President Emmanuel Macron that their loved ones will be brought back to them: “France will never abandon its children.”
It is unknown to what extent the fate of the captives will affect military strategists, and there is also pressure coming from within Israel’s own population on its leaders.
Amir Bar Shalom draws parallels between the current situation and the Munich Olympics of 1972, during which Palestinian terrorists kidnapped Israeli athletes and murdered 11 people.
He believes that the government would want to seek down all of those responsible for the kidnappings and that an operation has already been initiated to discover and kill everyone who was engaged in the incident.
It’s possible that the commandos of Israel’s elite unit Sayeret Matkal won’t be able to save all of the people who are being detained in different parts of Gaza. As a form of deterrence against an Israeli assault, Hamas has previously threatened to execute hostages.
In 2011, Israel traded almost a thousand detainees for the release of Gilad Shalit, an Israeli soldier who had been held captive by Hamas for the previous five years. One of the men that was freed as part of the exchange was Yahya Sinwar, who has since become the political leader of Hamas in Gaza. Because of this, Israel will consider twice before carrying out any significant prisoner release.
Neighbors keeping a tight eye out.
The responses of Israel’s neighbors could also have an impact on the length of an Israeli ground offensive and the results it achieves.
It is possible that Egypt, which shares a border with Gaza and is already pushing for supplies to be permitted through its Rafah border crossing, may make increasingly stringent demands of it.
According to Ofir Winter of Israel’s Institute for National Security Studies, “the more that Gazans suffer as a result of the Israeli military campaign, the more pressure Egypt will face to appear as if it has not turned its back on the Palestinians.” Egypt will confront this pressure to appear as if it has not turned its back on the Palestinians.
However, he believes that this would not extend to Cairo, and it will not permit Egypt to enable a mass movement of Gazans into Egypt or to intervene militarily against Israel on their behalf.
Additionally, Israel’s northern border with Lebanon is being thoroughly investigated.
Although there have been some strikes across the border involving the Islamist militant group Hezbollah, these actions have not amounted to a new front against Israel as of yet.
Iran, which is the primary backer of the terrorist organization Hezbollah, has already threatened to open “new fronts” against Israel. They were the focus of the warning that United States Vice President Joe Biden issued this week, when he said: “To any country, any organization, or anyone thinking of taking advantage of this situation, I have one word: Don’t!”
In order to drive home that point, the United States has dispatched an aircraft carrier to the Eastern Mediterranean.
What does Israel intend to accomplish by controlling Gaza?
The question that needs to be answered is what organization would fill the vacuum left by a severe weakening of Hamas.
In 2005, Israel withdrew its army and thousands of settlers from the Gaza Strip, and it has no intention of going back into the territory as an occupying force in the future.
Ofir Winter is of the opinion that a change in power might potentially clear the path for the Palestinian Authority’s (PA) gradual return to Gaza. Hamas expelled the PA in 2007, and Ofir Winter feels that the PA was forced out of Gaza as a result. At this time, portions of the West Bank are under the jurisdiction of the PA, which is not a militant group.
According to his argument, Egypt, too, would be pleased to have a neighbor who is more pragmatic.
In the end, the war-ravaged infrastructure of Gaza will need to be restored in the same manner as it was after the previous conflicts.
Even before Hamas committed its atrocities in Israel, there were stringent limitations on the entry of “dual-use goods” into Gaza. These are items that may be used for either military or civilian purposes. Israel will likely pursue the imposition of even stricter restrictions.
In order to provide Israeli towns with a higher level of safety, there have been suggestions for the establishment of a sizable buffer zone along the fence that separates Gaza from Israel. Yoram Cohen, a former head of Israel’s Shin Bet security service, believes that a “shoot-on-sight” zone with a distance of 2 kilometers (1.25 miles) will be required to replace the current zone.
Regardless of the outcome of the battle, Israel will want to make certain that an attack of a similar nature will never occur again.