IDF Soldiers in Nablus during operation Defense Shield InternationalIndiaAfricaTel Aviv has imposed a full blockade of the Gaza Strip and is reportedly fixing to launch a large-scale land operation against Hamas. How could this ground op play out for Israel?Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu reportedly told US President Joe Biden that Tel Aviv has no other alternative but to launch a ground operation in the Gaza Strip, as quoted by an American news outlet.Meanwhile, signs of the forthcoming operation have already surfaced: Tel Aviv has declared war on Hamas; the Israelis have mobilized 300,000+ reservists and evacuated residents from areas near Gaza; Netanyahu has announced an extensive blockade on the Gaza Strip. Simultaneously, the US dispatched a carrier strike group to the Israeli shores and has “also taken steps to augment US Air Force F-35, F-15, F-16, and A-10 fighter aircraft squadrons in the region,” according to US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin’s Sunday statement.”I am 90 percent sure that [the Israeli ground operation] will take place,” Yuri Lyamin, military expert, senior researcher at the Center for Analysis of Strategies and Technologies (CAST), told Sputnik. “I leave 10 percent for unseen circumstances, but I am almost sure that it will happen, simply following the statements that are heard from the Israeli side that they want to completely destroy Hamas, completely change the situation, and so on. Without a full-scale ground operation with the complete occupation of the Gaza Strip or its main areas, this is simply impossible to do.”Sputnik ExplainsRoots of Israel-Hamas Conflict13:29 GMTGaza is a Palestinian exclave on the eastern coast of the Mediterranean Sea which borders Egypt on the southwest and Israel on the east and north. The Gaza Strip is 41 km long, and is up to 12 km wide, occupying a total area of 365 square kilometers. The predominantly Arab population of the region amounts to around two million people. Together, the Gaza Strip and the West Bank are under the Palestinian Authority (PA). Since 2007, the Gaza Strip has remained under the control of Hamas and its military wing, the Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades.
Israel’s Gaza Operation Would be Long
Lyamin believes that Tel Aviv’s operation won’t be quick and smooth, because the Gaza Strip is a very difficult battlefield for an offensive.”[Gaza] is relatively small in size, but it is one of the areas of Earth with the highest population density,” explained the military expert. “Accordingly, much of the Gaza Strip is densely urbanized. In addition to dense urban development, there are numerous underground passages and various underground structures.”To conduct battles in dense urban areas, one needs a lot of troops, according to Lyamin. One needs to bear in mind that the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) would be confronted there not just by Hamas, but also the Islamic Jihad, the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine and smaller militias totaling several tens of thousands of fighters.”Dense urban development and underground communications largely neutralize the advantage of the Israeli Army’s aviation, armored vehicles and artillery,” the military expert continued. “Now they are destroying high-rise buildings, bombing them and so on, but they are not completely destroyed. Underground structures that always exist under large buildings stay intact. They actually seem to create unique places for defense, for organizing ambushes and other things. Accordingly, it is very difficult to conduct an offensive and control the situation in such conditions.””The Palestinians have a lot of different anti-tank weapons. Even if they may not have many anti-tank missile systems there, they have quite a lot of grenade launchers. And an urban battlefield provides great opportunities for point-blank shooting from grenade launchers. Surely, in some places, mines, land mines may be laid, and traps may be prepared against [Israeli soldiers].”WorldHamas Attacks Might Be Attempt to Disrupt Saudi-Israel Normalization Talks, Says Ex-US Official03:19 GMT
Battle for Gaza Would be Akin to Mariupol, Artemovsk
Lyamin has drawn parallels between Israel’s potential ground offensive and battles for Mariupol and Artemovsk (Bakhmut) – the latter lasted for 224 days – during Russia’s special military operation to demilitarize and de-Nazify Ukraine. The latter fierce battle was later dubbed in the press as the “Bakhmut meat grinder”.”Gaza is larger than Artemovsk or even Mariupol with all these industrial facilities,” the military expert said. “And most importantly, there is a much larger population [in the Gaza Strip]. In my opinion, there are about 2.5-3 million people living in Gaza now.””I would compare [Gaza] with Mariupol, after all, for the reason that Artemovsk is a relatively small city, there are several tens of thousands of people there. In Mariupol, the population was under half a million. Closer to Mariupol, but again the density is higher,” he continued.According to Lyamin, Israel has avoided large-scale urban operations for many years. The military expert noted that previously the IDF avoided entering Gaza. If the Israeli military did, these were very limited, targeted operations, precisely to avoid the scenario of large-scale urban fighting.Per the military expert, Israel appears to not conduct large-scale urban battles even during the Second Lebanon War in 2006: most of the combat operations took place in relatively small villages. During the 1982 war (the First Lebanon War) Israel again tried to put Beirut under siege, without engaging into a fight inside a large city.
Gaza Siege: What’s Behind the Strategy?
Prior to launching a ground operation, Tel Aviv imposed a full blockade of the Gaza Strip. In general, the region has been under blockade for 16 years which was imposed by Israel to curb the delivery of weapons to Palestinian militant groups. Now, the region has been cut off from electricity, water and fuel supplies.”Firstly, they want to create the most unbearable conditions for [Palestinian] civilians,” said Lyamin. “In this way they will try to undermine the power of Hamas in the Gaza Strip. Create obstacles for the organization, its further defense, and so on. (…) Hamas still needs to provide food, water, etc., for the population. And if you cut off water, electricity, etc., it makes everything difficult for them [to fulfill its obligations].”Still, Lyamin expressed some doubts that this strategy would work.Earlier, the Israeli forces used similar tactics when they besieged Beirut in the summer of 1982 during the Lebanon War. The purpose of the siege was to expel Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) combat units from the Lebanese city.© Michael ZarfatiIsraeli soldiers in Lebanon, June 1982Israeli soldiers in Lebanon, June 1982The siege began on June 13, 1982, and lasted until mid-August. Only West Beirut, where the majority of the population was Muslim and where the PLO headquarters was located, was besieged. For the IDF the siege was an alternative to the urban warfare which would have involved unacceptable levels of casualties. In addition to blockading the city, the Israeli military conducted attacks on Beirut from sea, air, and land. By August 18, 1982, Israel, Lebanon, the PLO and Arab states finally reached an agreement with US mediation. Three days later, the PLO was removed from Beirut to Tunisia, Yemen, Jordan, and Syria. The evacuation was supervised by the American, French and Italian military. The casualties of the siege (including Arab militants and civilians) reached over 5,000, according to some estimates. At the time, Washington condemned the siege, while the USSR called for a worldwide arms embargo on Israel (which was vetoed by the US.) Some US publications presently suggest that the siege and ground op against the Gaza Strip could become deadlier than the Beirut siege.AnalysisIDF Veteran: Signs Showing of Large-Scale Op to Eliminate HamasYesterday, 18:30 GMT