A war with no victory? As Israel battles further into Gaza, experts warn the ... trends now
As Israeli troops enter Gaza City to crush Hamas militiamen and eradicate the terror group's power base, the future of the Gaza Strip - and millions of Palestinians - hangs in the balance.
One month on from the ruthless October 7 attacks in which Hamas gunmen streamed over the border and massacred some 1,400 Israelis, the IDF continues to conduct brutal bombing campaigns across the Strip while soldiers and heavy armour scythe into the City, going door to door to eliminate Hamas fighters, demolish their tunnels and seize their supplies.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu yesterday declared that the Jewish state would assume 'overall security responsibility' for Gaza once Hamas is defeated - something that is likely to take months to achieve.
'When we don't have that security responsibility, what we have is the eruption of Hamas terror on a scale that we couldn't imagine,' he said.
But his comments on what the future of Gaza under Tel-Aviv's control would look like were very vague, sparking rampant speculation over the hard-right Israeli government's plans for the embattled Palestinian enclave.
The IDF continues to conduct brutal bombing campaigns across the Strip while soldiers and heavy armour scythe into Gaza City
This picture taken from a position along the border with the Gaza Strip in southern Israel on November 8, 2023 shows a view of buildings destroyed in the north of the Palestinian enclave following Israeli bombardment amid the ongoing battles between Israel and the Palestinian group Hamas
Israeli soldiers keep a position while troops train in the upper Galilee region of northern Israel near the border with Lebanon on November 8, 2023
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu yesterday declared that the Jewish state would assume 'overall security responsibility' for Gaza once Hamas is defeated
Netanyahu's declaration that Israel would assume security control of Gaza indefinitely was left deliberately ambiguous, experts said, giving the IDF time to dismantle Hamas while planning their approach to maintaining long-term control.
But no matter what course of action is ultimately taken, every path forward is fraught with jeopardy.
Relaxing strict military control of Gaza means accepting the possibility that remnants of Hamas or jihadist groups could yet again begin to rebuild their power base.
Meanwhile, maintaining a strong military presence in Gaza will almost certainly lead to widespread international condemnation - even from Israel's allies - and would likely only serve to turn Palestinian public opinion against Israel even further.
'You can imagine the IDF using a variety of remote sensors (e.g. cameras, drones, etc) to monitor the population centres and keeping its forces mostly on the outskirts - but you could also imagine a scenario where the IDF chooses to put soldiers on every street corner. And there are a bunch of scenarios in between these two options,' Rafi Cohen, Director of RAND's Strategy and Doctrine Program, said.
'Israel can remove Hamas from political power in Gaza with force and that's a still significant win - but I think it is a real concern that IDF presence (in Gaza) will foster further hatred of Israel.'
Peter Neumann, Professor of Security Studies at King's College London, and Sean McFate, Professor of Strategy at the US-based National Defense University, concluded that the IDF is likely to maintain a significant military presence in Gaza, in spite of Netanyahu's alleged reluctance to 'reoccupy' the territory.
'Until four weeks ago, most Israeli generals would have said that it's a terrible idea to reoccupy Gaza, and that occupying Gaza is neither good for the Gazans nor for Israel. But clearly the risks coming out of that territory are now considered unacceptable,' Neumann said.
'Israel should think twice if this is the right way forward,' he warned.
McFate added: 'Israel would have to occupy Gaza indefinitely - their strategic logic being that there is no better security than controlling Gaza themselves. To Israel, ''owning'' Gaza is probably the least worst option.'
Merkava tanks in the north of Gaza city during heavy fighting against Hamas
Lieutenant colonel Ziv Boanish, commander of Givaty reconnaissance unit,at a boys' school in the northern part of the city of Gaza where weapons workshop was discovered
Merkava tanks outside a boys' school in northern Gaza city where heavy fighting against is taking place, November 7
A woman walks past destroyed buildings as she evacuates Gaza City amid increased military operations in the Gaza Strip, 08 November 2023
Netanyahu has been reluctant to say Israel would 'reoccupy' Gaza - but even before the October 7