The Gaza Strip, with an area of 140 square miles (362.5 square kilometers) and a population of more than two million, is one of the most densely populated places on Earth.
Regarding the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, the New York Times said that it appears that Hamas wants to lure Israeli soldiers into a quagmire, as Hezbollah did in southern Lebanon during the period from 1985 to 2000.
After years of fighting, Israel suffered a humiliating and chaotic withdrawal, which led to the emergence of a strong and threatening Hezbollah on its northern borders.
Hamas has unchallenged authority in Gaza, and the Palestinian Authority cannot challenge Hamas there.
In fact, it has only increased in strength after successive wars with Israel, which have greatly improved it, despite the Israeli siege that has been ongoing for nearly 16 years and round-the-clock surveillance.
It appears that Hamas has been able to steadily build and import more rockets, improve their range and accuracy, provide offensive combat training for its fighters, and develop an intelligence network sufficiently advanced and far-reaching to launch simultaneous attacks on 22 Israeli sites simultaneously.
Certainly, Hamas believes that it’s capable of defeating the Israelis on its soil in a war of attrition.
In addition, Hamas also seeks to expand its popularity in the West Bank if Israel invades Gaza, and especially if the Israeli advance falters.
Many West Bank Palestinians already view the Palestinian Authority, which administers parts of the Israeli-occupied West Bank, as corrupt, clientelistic, weak, and unable to fulfill the aspirations of its people.
According to the New York Times, the Israeli incursion in July into the West Bank city of Jenin highlighted that the government of Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas is unable to protect the residents of Jenin or present a vision for a more hopeful future.
If Israel invades Gaza, Hamas may gain popular support.
What is necessary to challenge the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank, and perhaps assume leadership as the sole representative of the Palestinian people.
In the broader region, Hamas can also rely on its ally, Hezbollah.
The day after the Hamas attack in southern Israel, Hezbollah, in an attempt to test the readiness of Israeli forces, engaged in combat with the IDF along the northern border near the Shebaa Farms, which is on the Lebanese-Syrian border, which is occupied by Israel and claimed by Lebanon.
Hezbollah may seek to gain ground if Israel fights Hamas in Gaza and the West Bank.
Hamas may have already reset the political realignment in the Middle East, by disrupting anticipated diplomatic talks between Israel and Saudi Arabia, but if events in Gaza now escalate into a protracted ground war, Hamas may also work to undermine the normalization agreements signed between Israel, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain, breaking the trend towards increasing Arab-Israeli normalization, and the Palestinian Authority weren’t able to obstruct the normalization agreements, but Hamas could still spoil them.
Of course, Israel can count on American support in taking its next steps.
The Biden administration sent an aircraft carrier strike group to the eastern Mediterranean, in what it said was a “deterrence posture” to provide the Israeli army with “additional equipment and resources, including munitions”.
The US National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan reiterated US support for Israel immediately after President Biden’s press conference on Tuesday, October 10.
Despite Israeli threats to invade Gaza and destroy Hamas, the movement is working to complicate the freedom of action of Israeli forces, given its detention of at least 150 Israeli male and female prisoners.
If the ground war is prolonged, Israel won’t achieve gains on the battlefield, and will almost certainly fail to destroy the ruling Hamas or the unrealized Palestinian aspirations to establish a state.
To avoid being drawn into a trap in Gaza, Israel needs Arab allies on the ground and in the region, says the New York Times.
Hamas and its sisters represent an opponent or an unwanted party by the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Egypt and Jordan.
But in order to gain the support of key regional leaders, Israel must make significant security and intelligence concessions in the event of a broader war with Iran, and define a clear and meaningful political horizon for a post-Abbas and post-Hamas Palestinian state.
However, Netanyahu faces a severe credibility gap domestically and with Israel’s Arab neighbors.
In the end, the coming days will be bloody and difficult for Israelis and Palestinians.
Hamas may have set a trap if it pushes Israel to invade the Gaza Strip.
Before issuing the order to begin the ground offensive, Israel must develop a strategy for exiting Gaza and a plan for the next day.
Any Israeli miscalculation in Gaza could lead to a crisis in the Middle East that could last for generations.