The Israeli government is determined to eliminate Hamas at all costs following the group’s horrific Oct. 7 attack. The terror group has retained control of the Gaza Strip, positioned along Israel’s southern border, since 2007. It proudly boasts that its mission centers on the annihilation of the Jewish state and extermination of the Jewish people. Following the barbaric atrocities committed by Hamas last week, the Israeli government aims to completely wipe out the terror organization.
Hamas Is a “Mini Army”
Obviously, Hamas’ ability to breach so many areas within Israel and carry out atrocities for many hours is a massive intelligence failure for the Jewish state. Terrorists used paragliders to invade the Nova peace music festival, where at least 260 were murdered. Hamas used bulldozers to puncture security fences along Israel’s southern border, allowing militants to enter Kibbutzim where perhaps the most atrocious war crimes were committed against innocent civilians.
Throughout the last few decades, Hamas has greatly enhanced its military capabilities, strengthened its training, and grown its weapons stockpiles. Iran backs this terror organization, providing its militants with more advanced weapons and munitions.
Today, Hamas functions as an army in miniature with roughly 40,000 members, according to a source close to Hamas in the Gaza Strip. A variety of rockets, bombs, mortars, and anti-aircraft missiles make up Hamas’ supplies, which are housed in the group’s underground tunnel system beneath the city.
What Is the IDF’s Plan in Gaza?
In order to completely wipe out Hamas, the Israel Defense Forces is expected to carry out a thorough ground invasion. A few days ago, the IDF warned residents in Gaza to evacuate to the southern part of the besieged territory. Israel has bombarded the Strip with frequent airstrikes in attempts to cripple or eliminate Hamas’ tunnel network and kill high-ranking officials. A potential full-scale ground invasion, however, comes with an assortment of complications.
In addition to trying to limit unintended civilian casualties, the military must consider the 200 to 250 hostages Hamas has likely hidden throughout its tunnel systems. According to a former national security adviser to Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, “After the operation, Hamas as an organization will not exist in the Gaza Strip, we will kill as many as possible of its members, and we will destroy every facility of the organization.”
An Overview of the IAF’s Capabilities
While a ground invasion is likely, Israel’s Air Force will play a leading role in the country’s retaliatory efforts. The IAF continues to carry out airstrikes in Gaza, targeting Hamas officials, facilities and other assets under the IDF’s “Swords of Iron” operation. Israel’s specialized variants of the F-15 Eagle, F-16 Fighting Falcon, and F-35 Joint Strike Fighter make up the majority of its aerial fleet. Additionally, the IAF’s AH-64 airframes have participated in airstrikes over Gaza.
The IAF was the first export customer for the American-made F-15, which has remained a mainstay in the service for decades. Israel’s F-15I “Ra’am” possesses an assortment of upgrades, including AESA radar and the ability to launch air-to-ground ordnance. The F-15A variants are equipped with 2,000-pound class GBU-31 JDAMs, which have been used in several strikes in Gaza over the last week. The IAF’s arsenal of F-16s makes up its largest fleet. The F-16 “Sufa” can fly in a heavier configuration than the Ra’am. As detailed by The Aviationist, “Israeli F-16s are the only ones to be able to load JDAMs also on the inner 4 and 6 pylons, in addition to the standard 3 and 5 pylons. Configurations with GBU-54 Laser JDAMS have also been employed.” While the IAF’s fleet of F-35I Adir fighters is its smallest, these fifth-generation airframes are extremely lethal.
As the IDF continues its mission to eliminate Hamas in Gaza, its aerial capabilities will lead the way.
Maya Carlin, a Senior Editor for 19FortyFive, is an analyst with the Center for Security Policy and a former Anna Sobol Levy Fellow at IDC Herzliya in Israel. She has by-lines in many publications, including The National Interest, Jerusalem Post, and Times of Israel. You can follow her on Twitter: @MayaCarlin.