Street fighting is one of the most difficult forms of warfare, so an Israeli ground campaign can be long and bloody, involving fighting in Gaza’s streets and alleys, as well as the subterranean tunnel complexes underneath.
According to military experts, a large portion of Hamas’s street-level defenses in parts of Gaza City were likely damaged by airstrikes, although the rubble left behind may provide cover and concealment for its fighters. Furthermore, Israeli operations may be complicated by a desire not to harm hostages when intelligence indicates their possible presence.
The experts add to the “Sawt Beirut International” website, “There have been many long-standing questions about the extent of the preparedness of the Israeli ground forces for such a complex and difficult mission in light of the weak response of the Israeli army on October 7 and the problems in equipping conscripted reserve forces followed, however, and the long wait before major ground operations began provided necessary time to refine plans, fill intelligence gaps, resolve problems identified during conscription, and conduct refresher training for the forces, as is the case with Hamas, which has prepared well and this is what appears to be the case up to the moment, despite the great destruction that occurred to Gaza’s infrastructure, but Hamas still has the ability to move.
Experts point out that Hamas’s military center of gravity may be in Gaza City, but Israel will eventually have to expand its ground operations to include other populated areas in the Strip – Al-Nuseirat, Al-Bureij, Al-Maghazi, Deir Al-Balah, Khan Yunis, and Rafah – If it wants to destroy the movement, as many Hamas fighters and leaders live in these areas, and others may have fled there since the beginning of the conflict to take refuge among crowds of displaced people and near facilities run by the United Nations and international organizations.
This expansion may require additional relocation of internally displaced persons who previously headed south at the request of the Israeli military, creating additional humanitarian challenges. As a result, Israel will likely come under pressure to avoid subsequent operations in these other parts of the Strip.
According to experts, the media also plays an important role, as emotional images can have a significant impact on audiences and policy makers. Thus, Israeli operations in Lebanon were reduced in 1996 and 2006 as a result of the international outcry sparked by media reports about Israeli artillery strikes that targeted Hezbollah fighters and killed civilians in the town of Qana. Israel today also generally faces major structural deficiencies in the information field.
Experts point out that it is not clear how long Israel will continue to enjoy freedom of action in Gaza. The longer the war lasts, the greater the possibility of violence expanding between Jews and Arabs in the West Bank and Israel, and escalation with Hezbollah – even if war with Hezbollah seems unlikely, at least for the time being – and political instability in the Arab world and perhaps increasing US pressure to end the operation due to the high number of civilian casualties, it can be concluded that the longer the war lasts, the more likely it is that political and perhaps military restrictions will hinder Israel’s ability to achieve its war objectives.