Geopolitical Report ISSN 2785-2598 Volume 35 Issue 5
Author: Giuliano Bifolchi
Analysing the impact of Israel’s military operation in Gaza to defeat Hamas and the Palestinian Islamic Jihad is necessary to understand future geopolitical scenario in the region and its impact on Tel Avivi’s security and foreign policy.
Since October 7th, 2023, when Hamas coordinated an attack against Israel, Tel Aviv has declared its will to conduct a military operation in Gaza to eliminate any ‘threat’ coming from Hamas itself and the Palestinian Islamic Jihad.
After two weeks of airstrikes against Hamas strategic infrastructures and operatives and Palestinian buildings and people, Israel has amassed its troops at the borders with Gaza in the attempt to deploy its soldiers in the Palestinian territory.
This report based on the principles of SWOT Analysis (strengths, weakness, opportunities, threats) attempts to evaluate how effective might be an Israeli military operation on the ground and which further developments we should expect considering the military, political, and economic issues.
- Israel has a military superiority compared to Hamas and the Palestinian Islamic Jihad in terms of military personnel, weapons, technology, and hardware. The Global Fire Power index ranks Israel as a Top 20 world power. In 2023, they rank Israel 18 of 145 out of the countries considered for the annual GFP review. The nation holds a PwrIndx* score of 0.2757 (GFP considers ‘perfect’ a score of 0.0000).
Israel has approximately 646 thousand military personnel (active personnel 173,000, reserve personnel 465,000), 601 aircraft, 241 air fighters, 48 attack helicopters, 2,200 tanks, 650 self-propelled artillery, 300 Multiple Launch Rocket System (MLRS), 45 patrol vessels, 7 corvettes, and 5 submarines.
Thanks to its strong military apparatus, Israel can coordinate a military attack in Gaza by exploiting naval and air forces to protect military troops inside the Palestinian territory. By engaging Hamas and the PIJ on several fronts, the Israeli army might divide the Palestinian groups’ military strength and quickly eliminate their fighter commandos and, meanwhile, attempt to free the hostages.
- U.S. military and political support to Israel. U.S. Secretary of Defence Lloyd J. Austin III underlined Washington’s unwavering commitment to Tel Aviv after meeting with key leaders in Israel after Hamas attacks.
U.S. Secretary Austin’s strategic directives, including the deployment of the 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit and the convergence of carrier strike groups, underscore Washington’s commitment to safeguarding Tel Aviv’s security and preventing any escalation of the conflict by state or non-state entities. The deployment of Air Force fighter squadrons and attack squadrons, alongside the heightened state of readiness for approximately 2,000 personnel, further bolsters the U.S. responsiveness in the Middle East.
- Hamas has created a ‘mini-army’ in the Gaza Strip, which might transform Israeli on-the-ground operation into a quagmire. Harakat al-Muqawama al-Islamiya (Hamas) has boasted a military academy offering specialised training, including in cyber security, and featuring a naval commando unit within its 40,000-strong military wing.
In the last 20 years, the group established an extensive tunnel network beneath Gaza for fighter concealment, weapon manufacturing, and smuggling arms from abroad. Hamas has also acquired a diverse arsenal, including bombs, mortars, rockets, anti-tank, and anti-aircraft missiles, according to their officials.
In addition, inside the Gaza Strip, Israeli forces will fight also against the Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ). The group possesses the second-largest armed network within Gaza, trailing behind the dominant militant group, Hamas. Current and accurate assessments of Islamic Jihad’s strength present a challenge, with estimates in 2021 spanning from approximately 1,000 to several thousand gunmen,
- The lack of intelligence regarding Hamas tunnels and military position as well as the urban guerilla might inflict enormous loss to the Israel Defence Force (IDF). The attack that Israel suffered on October 7th, 2023, generated concerns regarding Tel Aviv’s intelligence reliability. Indeed, the surprise of the attack and the slow readiness to fight back Hamas and PIJ fighters in its territory underlined a leak inside the Israeli intelligence and security apparatus.
Therefore, an operation inside the Gaza Strip without solid intelligence might cause high losses from the Israeli side and the impossibility to completely defeat Hamas and the PIJ as well as capture or kill their leaders.
- International criticism over Israeli air attacks against civilians in Gaza. Tel Aviv is facing significant criticism because of the last two weeks of air attacks against Hamas and PIJ targets which caused at least 3,793 victims, mostly civilians, including 1,500 children, and approximately 12,500 injured people, according to Palestinian Ministry of Health in Gaza.
Perpetrating air attacks against Gaza and deploying military forces inside the Palestinian territory might increase international disapproval, especially from Arab neighbouring countries, and let Israel almost isolated.
- Israel might definitely defeat and destroy Hamas and the PIJ. The elimination of these two military groups and the creation of a militarised buffer zone inside the Gaza Strip might guarantee more security to Israel, especially those territories near the area.
- Tel Aviv might show its military force in the region and warn Middle Eastern neighbouring countries. By eliminating Hamas and the PIJ, Tel Aviv might send a powerful signal to neighbouring Lebanon and Syria and, therefore, their major ally, the Islamic Republic of Iran. If what happened on October 7th, 2023, highlighted Tel Aviv’s weakness regarding its security, eliminating threats coming from Hamas and the PIJ could invigorate Israeli power in the region.
- Death of the Israeli and foreign hostages because of the air attacks and military clashes on the ground. A significant part of the Israeli society and the Jewish diaspora in Europe and the West has questioned the Israeli government about its strategy, or inconsistent strategy, related to the hostages that Hamas and the PIJ held in captivity in Gaza. Indeed, the Palestinian commandos have captured over 200 people among Israeli and foreign citizens.
Air attacks and clashes on the ground might kill the hostages and cause significant disappointment towards Israel by its citizens and the international community, resulting in an undermine governance in Tel Aviv and lack of foreign support.
- Hezbollah’s involvement in the conflict. The ongoing exchange of fire between Israel and Hezbollah has escalated since the initial attack by Hamas and might extend the conflict to Lebanon. The situation along Israel’s northern border has grown increasingly tense, prompting the Israeli military to announce the evacuation of 28 communities near Lebanon, affecting around 10,000 individuals. At least three Lebanese civilians, including the Reuters journalist Issam Abdallah, have lost their lives in the past week. One Israeli civilian has been reported as killed, with casualties among fighters from both Hezbollah and Hamas.
Despite Hezbollah and its political allies losing their majority in Lebanon’s Parliament in the 2022 elections, the group keeps significant political influence, exerting de facto control over various parts of the country, particularly southern Lebanon.
- The opening of a ‘second front’ in the West Bank. On October 18th, 2023, the devastating explosion at a Gaza hospital resulted in several protests in the Middle East against Israel and its principal ally, the United States.
Although the Al-Ahli Hospital bombing was the trigger which caused protests in the West Bank, it awoke long-running popular discontent and dissatisfaction with the Palestinian Authority’s silence on the current situation in Gaza. Protesters shouted slogans calling for the Palestinian regime to be toppled, and for Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas to step down.
Local people’s disappointment with the Palestinian Authority and anger against Israel might cause a general destabilisation of the West Bank and the beginning of clashing with Israeli forces in the area. The opening of a ‘second front’ might divide the Israeli military power, with consequences also for Tel Aviv’s operation in Gaza, and increase security threats for the Israeli population.
Last update: October 21st, 2023 – Time: 09.00 am CET
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