How Israel Can Solve Its Gaza Problem

On Monday, the Israeli and U.S. national security advisors, along with other senior officials, had a video call in which they discussed the IDF’s current plans to evacuate civilians from Rafah, the city on the southern tip of Gaza where Hamas’s military strength is now concentrated. Israeli television reported that the American participants rejected the plan, and that their reaction was “harsh.” But, absent a Hamas surrender, one way or another the IDF will have to find have to find a way to deal with the terrorists in the city.

Amos Yadlin and Udi Evental explain that such an operation is necessary to eliminate the four Hamas battalions in Rafah, to kill or capture the group’s other leaders, and if possible to free the remaining hostages. There is yet another reason, which, Yadlin and Evental claim, is “far more important,” namely

the need to cut off the smuggling routes from the Sinai, aboveground and primarily underground, along the Egypt-Gaza border (the “Philadelphi” route). This smuggling activity has enabled Hamas to amass an enormous quantity of weaponry, which the citizens of Israel and IDF forces have encountered in the war. Without thoroughly addressing this issue, the smuggling tunnels will enable Hamas to reap profits, receive assistance from its supporters in the Muslim world, and ultimately restore its military capacity and resume its military buildup.

It should also be emphasized that complete Israeli control in Rafah does not guarantee the success of blocking the smuggling tunnels and effectively monitoring the Rafah crossing (and the adjacent Saladin Gate). These objectives depend, in part, on effective action by Egyptian forces on the other side of the border, who rake in profits from the smuggling and conduct a policy of calibrating pressures vis-à-vis Gaza.

They go on to explain how Jerusalem might deal with this diplomatic and military conundrum:

[T]he threat of an extensive operation in Rafah serves as leverage vis-à-vis Hamas in the context of a hostage deal. The IDF should take advantage of the Ramadan period to start to evacuate civilians and amass forces along the outskirts of Rafah.

Read more at Times of Israel

More about: Egypt, Gaza War 2023, Hamas, U.S.-Israel relationship

Israel Just Sent Iran a Clear Message

Early Friday morning, Israel attacked military installations near the Iranian cities of Isfahan and nearby Natanz, the latter being one of the hubs of the country’s nuclear program. Jerusalem is not taking credit for the attack, and none of the details are too certain, but it seems that the attack involved multiple drones, likely launched from within Iran, as well as one or more missiles fired from Syrian or Iraqi airspace. Strikes on Syrian radar systems shortly beforehand probably helped make the attack possible, and there were reportedly strikes on Iraq as well.

Iran itself is downplaying the attack, but the S-300 air-defense batteries in Isfahan appear to have been destroyed or damaged. This is a sophisticated Russian-made system positioned to protect the Natanz nuclear installation. In other words, Israel has demonstrated that Iran’s best technology can’t protect the country’s skies from the IDF. As Yossi Kuperwasser puts it, the attack, combined with the response to the assault on April 13,

clarified to the Iranians that whereas we [Israelis] are not as vulnerable as they thought, they are more vulnerable than they thought. They have difficulty hitting us, but we have no difficulty hitting them.

Nobody knows exactly how the operation was carried out. . . . It is good that a question mark hovers over . . . what exactly Israel did. Let’s keep them wondering. It is good for deniability and good for keeping the enemy uncertain.

The fact that we chose targets that were in the vicinity of a major nuclear facility but were linked to the Iranian missile and air forces was a good message. It communicated that we can reach other targets as well but, as we don’t want escalation, we chose targets nearby that were involved in the attack against Israel. I think it sends the message that if we want to, we can send a stronger message. Israel is not seeking escalation at the moment.

Read more at Jewish Chronicle

More about: Iran, Israeli Security