Assessing Israel’s Challenges and Controversies in the War Against Hamas: A Critical Analysis

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Since the beginning of the war, the war narrative on Gaza has been significantly influenced mainly by the Israel Defense Forces and the country’s Ministry of Defence. Israel’s global reputation may have descended with the slaying of more than 20,000 Palestinians, the wounding of more than 50,000 and the devastation of much of Gaza. However, the IDF could still sell a convincing narrative of a harshly weakened Hamas, even arguing that the war in northern Gaza was essentially concluded and success in southern Gaza would be pursued before too long.

The narrative was supported by severe problems for the few journalists still working in Gaza, including the risk to their protection, while the international press community was stuck in Jerusalem and hanging on IDF sources for much of their data.

That changed as a distinct picture began to appear. First, there was a lack of proof to support the IDF’s assertion of a Hamas headquarters under al-Shifa hospital; then, the IDF could not determine the location of the Israeli captives despite containing some of the world’s most developed intelligence.

Very just there have been two additional incidents. On 12 December, there was an expert triple ambush directed by Hamas paramilitaries in a part of Gaza allegedly controlled by Israeli forces. An IDF squad was ambushed and took losses. Further troops were sent to assist that unit, and they were then attacked, as were reinforcements.

Ten IDF soldiers were conveyed killed, and others seriously injured, but it was their seniority that mattered, including as it did a colonel and three majors from the honoured Golani Brigade. That Hamas, apparently decimated and with thousands of corps already killed, could mount such a procedure anywhere in Gaza, let alone a community reportedly already under IDF control, should expand doubts about the idea that Israel is creating substantial progress in the war.

A further manifestation came a few days later when three Israeli captives succeeded in getting away from their captors, only to be eradicated by IDF troopers, even though shirtless and holding a white flag. What has since made that more sinister and is causing significant anger in Israel is that calls from the hostages were gathered up by an audio-equipped IDF search dog five days before they were shot dead.

There are other, more sweeping indications of the IDF’s concerns. Official casualty figures have revealed more than 460 military personnel killed in Gaza, Israel and the populated West Bank and about 1,900 injured. But other sources present far greater numbers of injured.

Some days ago, Israel’s leading daily, Yedioth Ahronoth, publicised information received from the Ministry of Defence’s rehabilitation department. The head of the department, Limor Luria, was noted as saying that more than 2,000 IDF soldiers had been recorded as disabled since the conflict started– with 58% of all those it had treated suffering from severe wounds to their hands and feet – presenting a far higher casualty toll than the authorised figure. Meanwhile, the Times of Israel has noted the number of injured IDF soldiers, Israel Police and other security forces as 6,125. There have also been numerous friendly fire deaths, with the same paper reporting 20 out of 105 deaths due to such fire or misfortunes during the fighting.

Across the board, the IDF is yet following the well-rehearsed Dahiya principles of massive force in reacting to irregular war, causing vast social and economic damage, damaging the will of the rebels to fight while preventing future threats to Israel’s security. But it is running badly wrong. 

The objection comes from surprising quarters, including the former UK defence minister, Ben Wallace, who has cautioned that an effect will last 50 years. Even the Biden administration is evolving thoroughly uneasy at what is developing, yet Benjamin Netanyahu and the war cabinet are committed to continuing for as long as possible.

It is worth identifying why. The 7 October raids and the brutality involved hit Israel’s assumption of security to the essence, which indicates that the great bulk of Israeli Jews have so far persisted in supporting Netanyahu’s reaction. Even that, though, is fraying and is made more ominous by the killing of the three captives by IDF troops.

An outcome of all this is that the IDF leaders are coming under enormous pressure to thrive and will go as far as the war cabinet will permit. Many of those commanders are positively intelligent, if inevitably single-minded individuals, and will now know that for all Netanyahu’s oratory, Hamas, or at least Hamas’s views, cannot be conquered by military force. They also know that while discussions are slowing, pressure from the relatives of hostages may soon result in another humanitarian halt. Therefore, they will aim to harm Hamas as much as they can, as fast as they can, while they can, whatever the price to Palestinians. For proof of this approach, witness severe air raids.

What makes that potential is Netanyahu’s reliance on an extremist juvenility of religious fundamentalists and sharp Zionists in his government. They would not have anything like the broader backing in Israel were it not for the disaster of 7 October, yet they are accomplishing more and more damage to Israel’s long-term security. Not only does Israel attempt to become a pariah state, even among its partners, but it will also fuel years of radical opposition from a reconstituted Hamas or its inescapable successor.

It needs protecting from itself, but that will turn, more than anything, on Joe Biden and the people near him. Perhaps forced on by the rapidly transforming public mood in Western Europe, they must acknowledge their role in bringing an instantaneous end to this conflict.

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