US special forces and senior Pentagon officials have been ‘advising’ Israel ahead of a ground offensive, as the army is deemed unprepared to confront the Palestinian resistance in urban warfare
Israel forces launched a limited ground incursion into the northern Gaza Strip late on 25 October to prepare for the “next stages” of the war and its anticipated large-scale offensive into the enclave.
“In preparation for the next stages of combat, the IDF operated in northern Gaza. IDF tanks and infantry struck numerous terrorist cells, infrastructure, and anti-tank missile launch posts. The soldiers have since exited the area and returned to Israeli territory,” a military statement said on 26 October.
The incursion was considerably bigger than the smaller incursions that Israel has been carrying out near the Gaza border lately, which reportedly aims to locate missing Israelis and clear out explosives.
Last weekend, Israeli troops crossed the border fence by several meters, launching a preparatory incursion into the Gaza Strip.
However, the Al-Qassam Brigades ambushed the troops, destroying two army bulldozers and a tank, leaving several soldiers seriously wounded, and forcing them to withdraw.
Israel announced plans to launch a full ground invasion of the Gaza Strip following the launch of Operation Al-Aqsa Flood on 7 October.
The stated goal is to “eradicate” Hamas. Israel says it intends to find and destroy the group’s extensive network of tunnels and wipe out its infrastructure while its army attacks from the air and sea.
However, Tel Aviv has continued to delay the operation, coinciding with reports that Washington is unconvinced of Israel readiness for a ground invasion.
US officials told the New York Times (NYT) on 23 October that the Israeli army is “not yet ready” to launch a ground offensive into the Gaza Strip and lacks “achievable military objectives” to accomplish the stated goal of “eradicating” the resistance group.
Other US officials have also urged Israel to delay the ground offensive further to make way for prisoner release talks, allow Gaza access to aid, and prepare itself further for the challenging urban combat it will face inside the enclave. Israel has been coordinating with US special forces in preparation for the ground invasion.
According to Middle East Eye (MEE), US Delta Force commandos are helping Israel devise a strategy to flood tunnels underneath Gaza used by resistance forces with nerve gas and chemical weapons.
Over the past two weeks, reports have circulated regarding concerns that the army is ill-equipped to launch a full-scale invasion of Gaza.
According to Israel Hayom, many reservists have complained about “equipment shortages” and “shortcomings” in the army preparations.
The Times of Israel also wrote earlier this month that army reservists are finding themselves preparing for battle with “old, inadequate combat gear.”
Israel announced on 25 October that it is waiting for further equipment deliveries from the US.
Analysts have said Israel’s goal of “eradicating” Hamas is overambitious.
According to The Cradle’s Hassan Illaik, such an operation will drag Israel into a massive multi-front war, the losses of which it would not be able to bear the cost of.
Israel’s last ground invasion occurred in 2014 when it lost dozens of soldiers and failed to achieve any of its goals.
“At that time, the Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) forces had nowhere near the quality of armaments, training, and numbers that they have today.”