Israel Prepares for Ground Invasion of Gaza

The Israeli military is gearing up for an intense ground assault on the Gaza Strip.

by Faruk Imamovic
Israel Prepares for Ground Invasion of Gaza
© Getty Images News/Alexi J. Rosenfeld

The Israeli military is gearing up for an intense ground assault on the Gaza Strip. Tens of thousands of troops are being ordered to capture the city and target the enclave's leadership. However, a sudden shift in weather conditions has delayed the invasion's commencement.

Aims and Risks of the Offensive

The primary goal of this planned invasion is to neutralize the top brass of both the political and military echelons of Hamas, the Palestinian group in control of Gaza. This group was responsible for the recent attacks in Israel, as noted by senior Israeli military officers privy to the strategy.

This is set to be Israel's most massive ground operation since its 2006 invasion of Lebanon. Significantly, it will be the first time Israel plans not only to enter but to temporarily retain control of the territory since the 2008 Gaza incursion.

There are numerous potential pitfalls. As pointed out by The New York Times, the densely populated nature of the area could result in prolonged urban warfare. Concerns also abound regarding Hamas' potential use of Palestinian civilians as human shields, the setting of territorial traps, and the endangerment of Israeli hostages during the invasion.

Moreover, the endgame remains ambiguous. The aftermath of a successful occupation and the strategy to dismantle the deeply rooted Hamas leadership within the Gaza community raises questions.

Regional Ramifications

Hezbollah, a staunch ally of Hamas and backed by Iran, could potentially capitalize on Israel's preoccupation with Gaza.

There's a looming risk of this group initiating conflicts along the Israeli-Lebanese border, thereby opening a secondary front for Israel. While the Israeli military has refrained from officially declaring an imminent assault, they did acknowledge that recon teams made a brief foray into the Gaza Strip.

This move, along with increased troop "readiness", hints at the advanced stage of invasion planning.

Underground Defense Systems of Hamas

Hamas' defense strategy relies heavily on its underground network. The group is believed to have constructed an extensive series of tunnels and bunkers beneath Gaza City and the northern parts of Gaza.

These underground passages are expected to play a crucial role in their defense, with Hamas likely using explosives to deter the Israeli advance and potentially ambushing Israeli troops by emerging unexpectedly from concealed tunnel exits.

Initial plans slated the invasion for the weekend, but adverse weather conditions, which would hinder aerial support to ground forces, led to a brief postponement. The upcoming Israeli offensive will not solely depend on infantry.

Tanks, commandos, and a range of aerial assets including drones, helicopters, and warplanes are slated to be part of the mix, along with artillery support from both land and sea. Lastly, Yahya Sinwar, a top-ranking Hamas official, finds himself on Israel's radar.

His headquarters, like that of the larger Hamas governance structure, is located in Gaza City. Sinwar has been implicated by Israel for orchestrating attacks against its citizens last Saturday.