Implications of possible ground invasion of Gaza for Israel

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TEHRAN- In a significant turn of events, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has strongly hinted at an imminent ground invasion of the Gaza Strip. 

Troops from several directions are now massing close to the area, signaling a potentially drastic shift in the ongoing conflict.

While the regime's priority is reportedly regaining control of settlements bordering Gaza, the regime's fear is that any ground incursion would come at a substantial cost. 

Israel is showing no mercy as demonstrated by its unprecedented bombardment of the coastal enclave. It has also cut off water, gas and electricity to Gaza in order to starve Hamas into some sort of submission. Sending in troops, however, poses an entirely different challenge.

Daniel Hagari, a spokesperson for the Israeli military, says the rate of air raid attacks on the Gaza Strip is five times that used against Hezbollah in the 2006 War, but sending in troops is a completely different story. 

Even if Gaza is a tiny blockaded enclave, where Israel is the occupying power, there is no doubt that Hamas, along with other Palestinian resistance groups in the besieged enclave, has made extensive preparations for such a scenario, leveraging its intimate knowledge of the region's alleyways, routes, and underground tunnels in a dense urban environment.

This formidable, cell-based resistance structure provides an advantage that Israel, which operates as a regular army, lacks.

There is no doubt that Hamas has made preparations for such a scenario before starting its operation on Saturday morning. It has already declared that its forces are prepared for a "long war".

Speaking to the Associated Press, Hamas leader Ali Barakeh said, "We have prepared well for this war and to deal with all scenarios, even the scenario of the long war."

The group has many experienced commanders familiar with combat operations and the initial positioning of Israeli forces and tanks in previous wars waged by the regime against Gaza in northern rural farmland areas and south of Gaza City, where there is also open space overlooking central Gaza. 

Hamas is aware that Israel will try to divide the coastal enclave?, but Israeli troops advancing into major cities would prove very difficult. As witnessed in the past, they have been ambushed and caught up in traps. 

In view of previous Israeli land incursions, Hamas tends to set up its defensive lines in the main land routes Israel has used to invade Gaza over the past decades, where heavy exchanges of fire have taken place.

Hamas has increased its underground tunnels and taken lessons from Hezbollah to turn these into command centers to coordinate its own response without any interruption. 

Then comes the issue of drones, a new threat in modern warfare, which the Palestinian resistance has in its arsenal and can be used to drop bombs on Israeli tanks, other military vehicles or forces.

The ongoing Israeli slaughter of Palestinian women and children could open up new fronts in the occupied West Bank and Lebanon.

Israel would face three fronts, and it is struggling to contain the newly emerged armed resistance in the occupied West Bank.

Should Hezbollah, the formidable resistance group in Lebanon, were to enter the fray, the situation could take a dire turn for Israeli ground forces. The emergence of a well-prepared, spontaneous movement could strain Israel's capabilities to the breaking point.

Hezbollah has already demonstrated its resolve by firing rocket salvos into northern occupied Palestine in response to Israeli shelling on Lebanon that killed three of its members. Reports suggest that elements of Hezbollah are mobilizing towards the Israeli-occupied Palestinian territories.

A well-prepared, spontaneous movement could really stretch Israel's capabilities to the point of no return.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu Netanyahu's stated objective is the destruction of Hamas in Gaza, but executing this on the ground is far from straightforward. Hamas cells have maintained a presence in Israeli settlements, offering a unique perspective that may catch Israeli forces off guard.

Netanyahu's remarks are much easier said than being executed on the ground. 

In the Gaza Strip, only Hamas knows what surprises await an Israeli ground invasion.

Israel's new Barak tank, the updated version of the regime's Merkava tanks, would be the first targets for Hamas and the Palestinian Islamic Jihad.

During the 2006 war with Lebanon's Hezbollah, Merkava tanks were blown up by man-portable anti-tank Kornet missiles. 

Israel had no idea that Hezbollah was even in possession of such advanced military technology 17 years ago. 

Once the trigger is set off on the Kornet, there is no way of stopping the missile from destroying its target. 

The true extent of the weaponry at the disposal of the Palestinian resistance remains uncertain to Israel, adding an element of unpredictability to any potential military ground operation.

The Israeli military can perhaps occupy the Gaza Strip if they choose to do so because it's such a small territory; however, that would not solve the regime's problem. 

It would require a more permanent policing operation that would prove a nightmare for Israel to handle. Gaza is far more hostile and powerful now than it has ever been.

Occupying the territory may be a temptation for Netanyahu's cabinet to satisfy Israeli public opinion, but it will leave the Israeli army with a bigger problem than it started with. It would be an extremely prolonged, almost guerrilla-war-type occupation. 

Israeli estimates suggest more than 1,000 Hamas members infiltrated into the settlements bordering Gaza after crossing the strongly fortified separation wall on Saturday morning, underscoring the gravity of the situation.

This was, without a doubt, a very well-thought-out Palestinian operation.

Jeremy Bash, who served as chief of staff at both the U.S. Department of Defense and the CIA, has said Israel has never faced a ground incursion like Hamas's on Saturday.

Speaking to NBC, he said Hamas cells "came in by boat, they came in paraglider, they've done both of those things before, but never before have they been able to blow 15 holes in a fortified border fence and enter Israel on vehicles ... go throughout all of those villages and towns there along the Gaza Strip."

While sirens and entering bomb shelters are nothing new for Israeli settlers.

He added, "But never before had they have to contend with a ground invasion and military assault from [Hamas] in their homes, in their community centers, in their villages."

Israel may also decide that now is the time to push into Palestinian territories and try to drive their inhabitants out and force them to go somewhere else. 

That would, of course, be disgraceful, but at this stage, the United States and Israel's other staunch allies in the West won't step in to stop the regime from trying to carry that out. 

The U.S. Republican presidential hopeful and former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations reflected Washington's mood by saying, "America needs Israel more than Israel needs America." 

And she is right, Israel is Washington's top proxy in West Asia and the number one destabilizing element in the region. 

The Israeli military has a phrase for what they do in Gaza. They call it "mowing the lawn". 

They purportedly take out Hamas's command and control sites and weapons storage sites and couldn't care any less about the civilians who would inevitably get caught up in the middle of the fire. 

Nevertheless, there would also inevitably be a further loss of Israeli soldiers' lives amid very little Israeli planning since the Saturday surprise Palestinian operation for the regime's forces to invade the Gaza Strip.

Israel has already underestimated Hamas and its organizational ability. In particular, the undoubtedly massive intelligence failure on Saturday morning, can it afford to underestimate the group again with a ground invasion? 

There is already a lot of Israeli anger over the intelligence failure, with Netanyahu trying to shift the blame because it ultimately comes down to him. 

Israel has cut off electricity supplies to the Gaza Strip, but Palestinians have gotten used to working in the dark. 

In essence, amid the regime's monumental military and intelligence failure, the death toll among Israeli troops would rise significantly with a ground invasion. 

Is Netanyahu willing to take the risk?

culled from Tehran Times

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