“Whether Gaza becomes more peaceful and prosperous over the long-term, however, depends almost entirely on Israel recognizing what a ground offensive cannot accomplish. It certainly will not be able to break Palestinian nationalism, nor will it be able stamp out Hamas’ brutal ideology.”
Nearly three weeks after the Oct. 7 terrorist attacks left 1,400 Israelis dead, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced the start of “new stage” of its war in Gaza and the start of its much anticipated ground offensive. But what can such an operation hope to achieve and why launch such a campaign now?
For starters, a ground offensive offers Israel the chance to root out Hamas’ infrastructure in Gaza. Much public attention already has focused on the so-called “Gaza metro” – the vast subterranean infrastructure where Hamas allegedly keeps much of its weapons and personnel. Gaza’s Hamas leader, Yahya Sinwar, has boasted that Hamas has built over 500 kilometers of these tunnels under the Strip.
Airstrikes alone cannot destroy a network that extensive. During Israel’s most recent clash with Hamas – Operation Guardian of the Walls, in 2021 – the Israeli military conducted over 1,500 strikes on Gaza, but successfully damaged only 5% of Gaza’s tunnels – at least, according to Sinwar.
And while the current Israeli air campaign is already more than four times as intense as 2021’s, striking targets so deep underground, and from thousands of feet in the air, is quite technically challenging.
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