Geopolitical Report ISSN 2785-2598 Volume 35 Issue 3
Author: Giuliano Bifolchi
The recent Hamas’ military offensive conducted against Israel has significantly escalated regional geopolitical risks, laying bare a glaring intelligence lapse within the Israeli security apparatus.
Failing to anticipate and thwart the attack, coupled with the inability to safeguard civilian lives, underscores a critical vulnerability in Israel’ strategic posture. With Palestinian insurgents successfully abducting both Israeli and foreign nationals in their incursion, and subsequently moving them to Gaza, Tel Aviv finds itself confronted with a multifaceted crisis demanding a swift and decisive response.
In order to achieve their primary objectives of hostage liberation and neutralisation of both Hamas and the Palestinian Islamic Jihad, a spectrum of military and diplomatic options lies at their disposal.
This report aims to examine potential scenarios, each bearing relevance to Tel Aviv’s prospective strategy in countering the threat posed by Hamas and Islamic Jihad, securing the release of hostages, and effectively mitigating any forthcoming dangers emanating from the contiguous Lebanese border.
Hamas/Israel War: Background Information
On Saturday 7th October, 2023, Harakat al-Muqawama al-Islamiya, Hamas, launched a military attack against Israel by launching over 2,500 rockets and then infiltrating its operatives and troops inside the Israeli territories.
The Israel Défense Forces (IDF) have escalated their response by declaring a ‘state of alert for war’ and starting retaliatory airstrikes on the Gaza Strip. This 140-square-mile territory, home to 2 million Palestinians, has endured a blockade imposed by Israel and Egypt since Hamas took control in 2007. This blockade has severely restricted the flow of essential resources and vital services, exacerbating an already challenging humanitarian situation.
The escalating conflict between Israel and Hamas has led to a devastating toll on both sides. The Palestinian enclave of Gaza has witnessed 493 casualties and an additional 2,651 individuals sustaining injuries since Israel initiated its airstrikes in response to Hamas’ surprise attack.
In Israel, the situation is equally grim, with authorities reporting over 700 fatalities and over 2,300 individuals sustaining injuries. This unprecedented incursion by Hamas, involving a barrage of rockets fired from the neighbouring Gaza Strip, has plunged Israeli communities into a state of emergency and grief.
Amidst this harrowing backdrop, there is a glimmer of hope as approximately 30 missing Israelis who were attending a dance party targeted by gunmen emerged from hiding on Sunday. Israeli media reported this development, which now puts the death toll at this outdoor gathering at 260.
In a significant move, defence Minister Yoav Gallant has issued orders for a comprehensive siege of the Gaza Strip in response to the actions of the Hamas terror group. This entails a complete cessation of electricity, food supplies, and fuel, effectively imposing a state of isolation on the region.
Israel’s Strategies: Risk Scenarios Assessment
The recent Israeli air strikes targeting Hamas and the Palestinian Islamic Jihad serve as a preliminary move that could potentially lead to a ground military operation. Tel Aviv has started the mobilisation of reservists and is assembling troops and vehicles along the Gaza borders. The primary objective remains the liberation of hostages followed by the elimination of Hamas and Islamic Jihad.
However, it is important to acknowledge the substantial risks associated with a ground operation within Gaza. The territory, housing an overcrowded population of 2,2 million, presents significant logistical challenges for the deployment of tanks and armoured vehicles. Consequently, any IDF ground operation would hinge on infantry and specialised forces navigating the narrow streets of Gaza, engaging with local military resistance, employing guerrilla warfare tactics.
Additionally, the prospect of activating dormant Hamas sleeper cells within Israeli territory must be taken into consideration, adding another layer of complexity to the operation.
Moreover, there is the grim possibility that an IDF incursion into Palestinian territory could prompt Hamas and the Palestinian Islamic Jihad to resort to hostage executions to exert leverage and halting the Israeli military offensive.
The announcement of a complete siege on Gaza, as articulated by the Israeli Defence Minister, represents a strategic move aimed at pushing Hamas and local Palestinians to release hostages for essential provisions such as food, power, and water. This approach offers an alternative avenue to securing the release of Israeli hostages.
However, it’s essential to recognise that the results of a siege may take days or even weeks to materialise, exerting considerable pressure on the Israeli government, especially considering the impassioned pleas from the families of the abducted individuals for swift intervention.
Exploring diplomatic avenues, albeit remote, remains a possibility. Countries like Egypt, Qatar and Turkey may act as intermediaries in negotiations with Hamas, hypothetically facilitating the release of children and women.
Nevertheless, it is crucial to acknowledge the inherent complexity of this scenario, as it is unlikely that the Palestinian terrorist group would entertain such a prospect without the simultaneous liberation of Palestinian inmates currently held in Israeli prisons.
The Israeli government faces a critical juncture in its response to the recent Hamas attack. The urgency to stabilise the security situation is paramount, with every passing hour carrying the potential risk of further harm to the Israeli and foreign civilians held captive in Gaza’s tunnels.
While Tel Aviv is pondering its strategic options, the delicate balance between acting swiftly and planning the right approach is pivotal. The paramount aim is to neutralise potential threats from dormant cells and any remaining Hamas resistance. The gravity of this situation necessitates a calculated and decisive response from the Israeli authorities.
Imposing a siege on Gaza, as a means to exert pressure for the release of hostages, introduces a complex dynamic. While it could serve as a potential leverage point, offering essential resources for the captives, it also carries the risk of inadvertently fortifying Gaza’s and pushing local people to support Hamas and the Palestinian Islamic Jihad, an eventuality which potentially represents an obstacle for a ground military intervention.
This dual-edged nature of the strategy underscores the multifaceted challenges Israel confronts in navigating this crisis. Striking the right balance between exerting pressure and avoiding further radicalisation will be a critical aspect of the Israeli government’s deliberations.
The potential ramifications of an IDF ground operation within Gaza cannot be underestimated. While it may be aimed at eliminating entrenched threats, it also poses a significant risk to the local population.
The already substantial toll on Palestinian lives because of Israeli air raids against Hamas and the Palestinian Islamic Jihad targets raises concerns about potential civilian casualties. These consequences would reverberate not only within the region, but also garner attention and scrutiny from the international community.
Striking the right balance between maintaining security, safeguarding civilian lives, and eliminating threats requires a meticulous and well-calibrated military strategy. It’s imperative that Tel Aviv maintains a strong and unified front, both domestically and internationally, to navigate this complex geopolitical and military landscape successfully.
Last update: October 9th, 2023 – Time: 01.00 pm CET
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