What the IDF Faces in Gaza

Drawing on his experiences commanding British forces in Afghanistan, and on a recent visit to the Gaza Strip, Richard Kemp analyzes the challenges Jerusalem faces in the current operation:

The IDF spokesperson Rear Admiral Daniel Hagari has reported that Hamas has been using suicide attackers, a uniquely difficult and lethal enemy to counter. An opponent who wears civilian clothes and operates within the civilian population can only really be identified if he is carrying or firing a weapon. If you don’t make the right split-second decision when someone appears in front of you in civilian clothes, without a rifle, with his hands up and with an unseen suicide vest beneath his outer clothing, you and your comrades could be vaporized. Or if there is no suicide vest you might just have killed an innocent civilian. There is no tougher call.

Inside Gaza, . . . in almost every alleyway—and something like every other house in Shuja’iyya—the IDF has found explosives, weapons, and booby-traps, not to mention terror-tunnel entrances. I entered one partly destroyed house and saw boxes of Iranian-supplied hand grenades that had been stored in a child’s bedroom.

In the midst of this hell, IDF soldiers are daily risking their lives to hunt down Hamas terrorists and to find and rescue Israeli hostages held at gunpoint. I spoke to many of them inside the Strip and saw some of them in action. What I found deeply impressed me. The standards of professionalism and battle discipline of these young conscripts are remarkable, especially when you consider that most are straight out of high school, as well as the older reservists who dropped what they were doing in their offices and factories, grabbing rifles and uniforms to answer the call of duty. I was struck also by their sky-high morale and incredible fighting spirit, virtues that are so vital in any fighting army.

Read more at Ynet

More about: Gaza War 2023, Hamas, IDF

Iran’s Calculations and America’s Mistake

There is little doubt that if Hizballah had participated more intensively in Saturday’s attack, Israeli air defenses would have been pushed past their limits, and far more damage would have been done. Daniel Byman and Kenneth Pollack, trying to look at things from Tehran’s perspective, see this as an important sign of caution—but caution that shouldn’t be exaggerated:

Iran is well aware of the extent and capability of Israel’s air defenses. The scale of the strike was almost certainly designed to enable at least some of the attacking munitions to penetrate those defenses and cause some degree of damage. Their inability to do so was doubtless a disappointment to Tehran, but the Iranians can probably still console themselves that the attack was frightening for the Israeli people and alarming to their government. Iran probably hopes that it was unpleasant enough to give Israeli leaders pause the next time they consider an operation like the embassy strike.

Hizballah is Iran’s ace in the hole. With more than 150,000 rockets and missiles, the Lebanese militant group could overwhelm Israeli air defenses. . . . All of this reinforces the strategic assessment that Iran is not looking to escalate with Israel and is, in fact, working very hard to avoid escalation. . . . Still, Iran has crossed a Rubicon, although it may not recognize it. Iran had never struck Israel directly from its own territory before Saturday.

Byman and Pollack see here an important lesson for America:

What Saturday’s fireworks hopefully also illustrated is the danger of U.S. disengagement from the Middle East. . . . The latest round of violence shows why it is important for the United States to take the lead on pushing back on Iran and its proxies and bolstering U.S. allies.

Read more at Foreign Policy

More about: Iran, Israeli Security, U.S. Foreign policy