This piece is based on my presentation to a private group looking beyond the kinetic operations of current Middle East crisis.
The Day After
“As a rule, there are no military solutions to political problems. Solutions are always combined. The use of military force is both part of policy and a pursuance of policy.”
Major General Yoav Har-Evan; Head of Israel Defense Forces Operations Directorate
On 07 October 2023, Hamas launched a devastating attack on Israeli towns close to Gaza border killing over fourteen hundred Israeli soldiers and civilians including women and children. Israelis were shocked at the stunning intelligence and military failure as well as the unprecedented carnage. It was a forgone conclusion that Israel will react with the unprecedented vengeance. Hamas was surprised by poor response of Israeli security forces and went on a killing spree and even brought back over two hundred Israelis as hostages. This unexpected success may prove to be the end of Hamas as an organized political and military entity. Jury is still out on whether this incident will jump start a moribund Israeli-Palestinian peace process or prove to be a fatal blow to two state solution.
Israel unleashed its fire power without any restraints and after two weeks of bombing, Gaza looks like a post-apocalyptic zombie land. Of the nine thousand dead, half are children and that is a new blood-soaked record for the Middel East that is used to carnage. Israel started ground operation from the north while at the same time cutting off Gaza into half by surrounding Gaza City. The first step is to gain control of the above ground battlefield and then think about what to do with the underground battlefield. It looks that their goal is to finish Hamas fighters in northern half and blowing up underground tunnels before launching similar exercise in the south with the goal of completing high velocity kinetic operations in six to eight weeks. There is no intention of going in the tunnels to fight Hamas fighters as it entails high casualties. For Hamas fighters there are only two options. One is to drop weapon and mingle in the civilian population and live to fight another day or fight to death with no quarter given or asked. Presence of Israeli hostages in the tunnels poses another challenge as using smoke, chemicals, or water to flood the tunnels means certain death of hostages along with Hamas fighters.
The free pass given to Israel by United States and European Union (EU) has an expiration date as large-scale civilian carnage cannot be ignored. Large scale protests in United States and European cities are putting pressure on the governments to allow humanitarian pauses if not a ceasefire. This also unleashed anti-Jewish sentiments and violent acts against Jews all over the world. Modern conflict is not limited only to the battlefield but beamed in real time to the living rooms of a global audience and public opinion becomes an extension of the conflict. Israel cannot ignore public relations disaster despite a united nation at home and support from US and western governments.
Gaza is a densely populated area where 2.3 million Gazans live in a territory that is about thirty miles long and ten miles wide. Out of 1.1 million Gazans living north of Gaza City, 800’000 have moved to south after incursion of Israeli troops. Israel will allow several hours windows for civilian evacuation route along the main north-south Gaza highway from north to south and then reverse it when operations start in south. However, the small geographic size and very high population density puts limits to such exercise, and more than a half million Gazans will be in the middle of the inferno at any given time. Israel will also allow intermittent humanitarian convoys into Gaza from Egypt and coordinate with Jordan for even airdrop of humanitarian supplies. These measures are essential for public relations. Civilian casualties have probably peaked in the first phase, and it is estimated that it will be markedly reduced in the second phase. However, large scale damage is already done with a new generation of Palestinians filled with anger and hatred that will unleash the next round.
Kinetic operations are the easy part and will be completed in few weeks with less than few dozen dozen fatal Israeli casualties. In view of unprecedented carnage of Israel citizens, society is willing to absorb military casualties as high as about a thousand. War is a business of uncertainty and unexpected events not even initiated by the adversary can change the course. In 1997, midair collision of two Israeli transport helicopters killed 73 soldiers. This national trauma generated a groundswell of anti-war sentiment in Israeli society that resulted in Israeli withdrawal from Lebanon.
Heavy work will be required when kinetic operations are completed as there is no clear path ahead. In view of un-precedented Israeli carnage, Israel entered the conflict without serious debate about exit strategy. Kinetic operations had to be initiated quickly mainly to restore morale of Israeli public. All other considerations took the back seat. Continue reading The Day After (the Gaza war).. From Dr Hamid Hussain