Poised to enter Gaza City is Israel as the country’s armed forces (IDF) believe that within the next 48 hours they will have it surrounded and fighting will begin within it as Operation Iron Swords moves into its next phase. .
Israel’s Haaretz presents the army’s plan as described by representatives of the armed forces. The IDF estimates that Israeli forces will completely surround Gaza City within 48 hours and fighting will begin inside the city.
The aim of the operation, they say, will be to reach Hamas operatives in the city and destroy the tunnels and the military and civilian government organs of Hamas.
The IDF believes that it is possible to achieve the government’s goal of destroying Hamas, but that it will take a long time. From a few months to a year or more.
“Israel’s ‘Operation Iron Sword’ looks like a copy of the 2009 and 2014 operations, but they are avoiding repeating the mistakes they made in the past”
Still, as they noted, in order to clear the area of ”terrorists”, it is necessary to act thoroughly and relatively slowly.
The IDF also stated that at this stage, Israeli forces will avoid entering tunnels, considering them trapped. Therefore, each tunnel will be dealt with from the outside by special forces, so as not to put the soldiers in immediate danger and allow them to be dealt with at a later stage.
Israeli troops around the Gaza Strip
In some cases, if intelligence indicates it is appropriate, the air force will hit tunnels from the air, neutralizing anyone inside.
An operation at Al Shifa Hospital is not ruled out
At this stage, the IDF has not ordered forces to begin operations at Al Shifa hospital, where intelligence estimates many senior Hamas officials are hiding.
Senior IDF officials have addressed the issue and have not ruled out a military operation at the hospital, if the opportunity arises.
An Israeli source familiar with the situation told Middle East Eye that the first of the two objectives of the initial phase of the ground operation had been achieved. This was the creation of isolation zones in areas where the risk of being attacked is low, as well as the creation of bases to support further operations.
The second stage of the ground offensive will be to link the points of Israeli control, impose a complete siege on Gaza City and slowly expand the territory controlled by Israel, he added.
“Operationally, the army is proceeding on three lines and according to plan, dealing with terrorist attacks so far. The convergence of two of these lines is enough to trap terrorist targets in a specific area, allowing the operation to move towards more precise targeting,” the Israeli source said.
Lessons from the past
Turkish security sources closely following the war in Gaza said it appeared Israel had learned a lot from previous ground attacks in the enclave and was now following a more carefully planned road map.
“Israel’s ‘Operation Iron Sword’ looks like a copy of the 2009 and 2014 operations, but they are avoiding repeating the mistakes they made in the past,” a Turkish source told Middle East Eye, speaking on condition of anonymity because restrictions on communication with the press.
The source added that Israel is moving slowly to avoid serious trouble, which suggests a certain tactical pattern.
In 2009’s Operation Solid Pencil, 13 Israeli soldiers were killed as the army moved into densely populated areas. Similarly, in the 2014 Operation Protective Edge, 66 Israeli soldiers were killed during operations in residential areas.
According to the Turkish source, Israel was not ready for such an operation and so far has only moved into open areas and the urban communities surrounding them.
“A recurring pattern has emerged to avoid mistakes. The Palestinians may also have realized this,” he said.
“The Israeli army enters the area, locates the firing positions and targets of the enemy and quickly withdraws. Then the airstrikes follow, and then the armor and infantry advance. This model will not work as they move towards the cities.”
The last time Israel carried out a ground attack on Gaza was in 2014, which was known as Operation Protective Edge and lasted three weeks.