Israel’s military launched its first limited ground incursion into Gaza last night. The hours-long operation was described as the biggest incursion of the ongoing war, according to a statement released by Israel’s Army Radio. In the “targeted raid,” infantry forces and tanks were deployed up to a kilometer into the northern part of the Gaza Strip.
As the IDF prepares for the next stage of the conflict, an eventual full-scale incursion into Hamas-controlled territory is expected. Israeli officials said that its troops were able to eliminate terrorists, dismantle explosives, and neutralize threats during its overnight operation. Soldiers were also tasked with searching for bodies of missing Israelis. As the Israeli government grapples with how to vanquish the terrorist organization, all options appear to be on the table.
Aiming to Eliminate Hamas
On Oct. 7, Hamas militants breached Israeli territory and launched an array of attacks. At least 1,400 people were murdered, and as many as 250 hostages remain unaccounted for following the onslaught. Soldiers, men, women, children, infants, and the elderly were all targeted in the disturbing attacks.
Immediately following the attack, the Israeli government declared war against Hamas terrorists and announced a full siege of Gaza. Over the last 20 days, the IDF has launched frequent airstrikes and targeted attacks in the Strip, eliminating several high-ranking Hamas officials. More recently, the IDF has been calling on Palestinians to evacuate from northern Gaza and move southward as airstrikes continue.
Is a Ground Incursion of Gaza Essential?
To achieve its goal of fully wiping out Hamas, the IDF must target infrastructure, command centers, tunnels, rocket launchers, and all other assets attributed to the terror group. Hamas controls a large swath of underground tunnels beneath the city, and experts believe hostages are held there.
Since Gaza is densely populated, civilian deaths are a grave concern. Gaza’s Hamas-run Health Ministry claims that more than 6,500 civilians have died due to Israel’s airstrikes over the last 20 days. However, this number cannot be independently verified. Additionally, it reportedly includes the victims of a blast at a Gaza City hospital last week that has since been attributed to a rocket misfired by Palestinian Islamic Jihad militants.
Hamas explicitly calls for the genocide of the Jewish people. If the IDF does not adequately respond to the threat it poses, Israelis and Jews at large are at risk of future attacks. The barbarity of Hamas’ onslaught is a wake-up call to the Israeli government, which clearly underestimated Hamas’ capabilities and its willingness to perpetuate atrocities. Israeli officials have said they do not wish to occupy Gaza, but that a ground incursion is necessary to ensure that all remnants of Hamas are wiped out.
U.S. officials have pressured their Israeli counterparts to hold off on a full-scale invasion, citing the hostages held below the city, which include some Americans. Other experts have warned that a ground incursion is a death trap for the IDF, since Hamas has had plenty of time to plant booby-traps and explosives, and its fighters understand the urban environment much better.
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.