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Gaza’s Tough Urban Conflict with Israel
On Friday, Israel’s warning to the residents of northern Gaza to move towards southern Gaza Strip has added a new dimension to the ongoing tensions. This is due to Israel’s plans to launch a major ground incursion into Gaza, as Hamas has conducted deadly rocket attacks on Israeli military bases and border towns and launched large-scale ground offensives, resulting in over 1,300 Israeli casualties.
In response, Israel has carried out nearly 6,000 airstrikes against Hamas positions within Gaza, including aerial strikes in Palestinian territories. Health officials estimate that over 1,800 civilians have been killed, with more than 7,000 injured.
In the past week, Israel has mobilized its forces around Gaza, calling up thousands of reservists, preparing for a possible preemptive strike against Hamas, the militant organization operating within the Gaza Strip.
Now, how will a large-scale ground operation in one of the most densely populated regions on Earth, Gaza, unfold? Where approximately two million Palestinians live in a narrow strip of land that is only 4 to 7.5 miles wide and 25 miles long.
A news report discussed the aggressive intentions, potential scenarios, and challenges Israeli soldiers might face with former senior U.S. military commanders and analysts. They foresee a difficult urban warfare campaign ahead.
Retired U.S. Central Command commander, General Kenneth “Frank” McKenzie, explained that Israeli’s stated objective is to eliminate Hamas in Gaza, but achieving that goal would require an extensive urban warfare effort.
McKenzie, who now serves as the Executive Director of the University of South Florida’s Global and National Security Institute and its Florida Center for Cybersecurity, stated, “If Israel chooses to do this right now, waging a war campaign in Gaza would be exceedingly difficult.”
“Fighting in a densely populated area is the most difficult of all military campaigns, and Gaza is especially densely populated and densely packed with high-rise buildings.”
Moreover, Hamas has spent years establishing an extensive tunnel network that would make it even more challenging,” he continued. McKenzie has predicted that this would be “a brutal, bloody, dirty fight.”
He believes that after Israeli soldiers break through Hamas’s obstacles in Gaza, they will be engaged in a “block-by-block” struggle.
However, McKenzie believes that Israel will be well-equipped for this style of warfare, particularly through the use of Israeli robotics and Merkava tanks, which he described as “a very good urban combat tank.”
Former Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense, Mick Mulroy, explained, “To clear extensive networks of buildings, bunkers, and tunnels, they will have to deploy their ground forces and engage in soldier-to-soldier and block-to-block fighting in heavily fortified areas.” Mulroy, a former Middle East defense secretary, emphasized the preparedness needed to navigate through constructed areas.
Retired U.S. Forces Korea commander, General Robert Abrams, added that an Israeli incursion into Gaza would be “extraordinarily challenging” due to the “benefit of time that the defenders will have to establish their positions and fortify them.” “They will have all sorts of immediate explosive devices. It will take months to build up munitions, to store ammunition, and so on,” he said.
“Maybe there are quite a lot more tunnels than we know of. So, there is an underground element to it. So, I think this is going to be extraordinarily difficult for the Israelis,” Abrams concluded.
They noted that both Israel and Hamas learned important lessons from the limited incursion by Israel in 2014, which, according to them, “ended badly for Israel, to be honest.”
How will the aggressive start be?
On Friday, the Israeli Defense Forces revealed that Israeli soldiers had begun conducting local raids in Gaza, as contact was made with experts who suspected weaknesses in Hamas security as part of their efforts. According to Abrams, Israel’s strategy involves launching attacks from multiple directions and domains simultaneously. Therefore, they will use all of these areas, including air, marine, cyber, and electronic warfare.
The initial operations could include aerial strikes and the use of special ground forces aimed at targeting Hamas leaders and potentially capturing prisoners, according to Mullroy.
Mullroy believes that the main ground assault could start from various locations along the Gaza border, including the north, far south, or the central part of Gaza. “Their main thrust is likely to come from the far north, around the Erez point, an area that supports a sizable tank and armored personnel carrier,” he said. (APC) presence.”
It’s also possible that Israeli soldiers might attempt to enter Gaza from the southernmost point of Rafah near the Egyptian border, which is currently closed, according to Mullroy. According to him, the Israeli military might try to encircle the majority of Hamas fighters in Gaza’s southern region by sandwiching them between the north and south. cutting Hamas’ communication lines.”
However, once the fight transitions from Gaza’s urban centers to urban warfare, former military officials expect the battle to become even more challenging and intense. Abrams stated, “Once Israeli forces enter, warfare becomes very difficult.” “The advantage goes to the defender, even if they’re in relatively small numbers, they’ll be well-armed and resilient.”
Mullroy stated that Israeli soldiers on the ground might have to deal with “anti-tank explosive tunnels and obstacles, designed to turn them into focal points in the center of they might encounter helicopters on the ground and airborne missile assaults.
Former military commanders agree that the extensive tunnel network beneath the surface, where Hamas has established command posts and used for storing weapons and ammunition, will complicate the fight for the Israelis. Mackenzie said that the tunnel network “allows them to emerge from the fire and, while civilians on the surface are affected, Hamas leadership remains underground very effectively.”
Civilian Evacuation During his visit to Israeli leaders on Friday, Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin referred to his 41 years of military service, which included working with Israeli forces, as an indicator that Israel is attempting to prevent civilian casualties in its airstrikes, in Gaza now and in future battles.
Austin said, “My experience working with Israeli forces is that they are professionals, they are disciplined, and their focus is on the right things.” “So, I expect going forward, they will continue to exhibit the same level of professionalism we’ve seen in the past.”
From 2004 to 2005, Abrams led a brigade of foot soldiers in the city of Sadr in Baghdad, a urban environment he described as similar to Gaza, which faced growing insurgency. He noted that direct urban warfare in a small urban area can be hazardous and can help reduce the number of civilian casualties.
Abrams said, “Knowing that your force is abiding by the laws of armed conflict, which say that you have to avoid harming non-combatants, requires discipline, precision, and focus at the highest level.”
Military experts interviewed by a news channel also agree that Israel will face challenges in preventing civilian casualties, given Hamas’ use of human shields, which increases the risk of civilian casualties.
Mackenzie explained, “Hamas wants to maximize the number of civilian casualties, and it will try to do so by finding opportunities to increase the number of civilian casualties.”
“We know they have placed their rocket launchers around mosques and hospitals and places like that. We shouldn’t anticipate them to change at this time. So, this is a very difficult task for Israel; it’s going to be very hard for them to do.”
Mackenzie also believes that Hamas is willing to allow civilian casualties to maintain its fighting capabilities. He continued, “I think they will actively and aggressively attempt to do so.” They will make every attempt to cause as many civilian casualties as possible since they desire a high increase in the number of civilian casualties here.”
He said, “My belief is that they will try to do so in an active and aggressive manner.” “They will do whatever it takes to cause a large number of”Every effort is being made to raise the number of civilian casualties here.”