According to Amos Harel, a military expert in the Israeli Haaretz newspaper, who wrote on Wednesday that the battles in the Gaza Strip are more complex than the picture drawn by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
In his daily analytical article, Harel preferred not to be drawn into the excessive optimism shown by Israeli military and political leaders regarding the conduct of the ground operation in the northern Gaza Strip, which has claimed the lives of 33 Israeli soldiers since its expansion last October 27.
He raised several questions about the military performance of the Hamas movement, and the extent of its true desire to fight at the present time, based on the accounts of Israeli soldiers on the battlefield.
Harel said, “Conversations with Israeli army commanders and those who are leading the fighting in the Gaza Strip and belong to the senior ranks of the army reveal that the picture is somewhat more complex,” against the backdrop of the nature of the current military performance of Hamas fighters.
He added, “Last Monday witnessed few incidents (referring to the scope of the ground battles), taking into account that Israeli army forces are encircling Gaza City, and are already active in its southern and western suburbs, so the worrying question remains is to what extent Hamas wants to Fight now”.
According to Harel, “The Israeli army’s happiness with the professional level of the ground forces in the second week of the ground maneuver in Gaza is offset by the impression that Hamas leaders don’t consider the movement’s situation now to be critical”.
He explained, “The fighting on Tuesday was more fierce, but there is still the impression that Hamas prefers in some places to leave its combat personnel in underground tunnels, and send only small teams against the Israeli army forces, focusing on anti-tank fire from close range and attempts to plant Explosive devices in tanks and troop carriers”.
Harel considered that Hamas, through its current combat plan, is perhaps trying to keep most of its forces in this way.
He added, “The fact that Hamas rejects any real negotiations regarding the release of hostages on a large scale may indicate that its leadership does not view its situation now as critical”.
In this regard, according to Harel, “Hamas’s decline in the scope of launching rockets into the center of Israel on Monday and Tuesday, due to two main factors linked to the ground operation.
He added, “There appear to be two influential factors here, the difficulty that Hamas faces in launching rockets from the northern Gaza Strip due to the Israeli army attack, and the desire to leave enough medium-range rockets for the next stages of the war.
Accordingly, Harel pointed out that the duration of the war, according to the current number of Israeli forces, won’t be indefinite.
In this context, the Israeli expert revealed joint efforts by the United States and Israel to modify the form of fighting in the coming period, after revealing that the Southern Command of the Israeli army would need long months to complete the mission, to harm Hamas mainly in the northern Gaza Strip, and to comb the areas comprehensively in order to defeat the militants and collect ammunition.
He believed that most of the Israeli forces will be withdrawn from the Gaza Strip, and we will switch to the method of precise raids on Hamas facilities, in the northern Gaza Strip, and perhaps in other places as well.
“Hamas’ military and organizational strength can be dismantled, not completely destroyed, just as ideology cannot be destroyed,” he added.
He pointed out that Israeli military leaders, unlike Netanyahu’s circles, don’t talk about the possibility of eradicating Hamas.
Harel considered that the essential part of achieving victory against Hamas is based on the issue of tunnels.
He pointed out that intelligence sources in the West and in Israel believe that the leadership of Hamas and its military wing have built the capabilities of the tunnels to allow people to stay inside them for long months.
“The Israeli army is gradually learning that everything that Israeli intelligence knew about the group of defensive tunnels that Hamas dug under the land of Gaza doesn’t scratch the surface of the scope and complexity of the project, which may be the largest of its kind in the world”.
He continued, “If a breakthrough is achieved that allows the tunnels to be destroyed on a larger scale, the organization may lose the organization’s relative superiority, and may be forced to confront the Israeli army in less favorable circumstances”.
Harel believed that reaching this stage in the battles may be the optimistic scenario and the decisive step that Israel seeks.
He questioned the feasibility of the widespread belief that the continuation of large-scale attacks on Hamas will ultimately lead to change that strengthens a future arrangement in which Arab and international powers participate, while removing Hamas from the political game on the Palestinian scene.
Harel said that this belief is a somewhat vague plan, full of holes regarding the way Israel is trying to describe what comes next.
On Monday evening, in a television interview, Netanyahu announced intention to assume comprehensive security responsibility for an indefinite period over the Gaza Strip following the war.