Riyadh pushed against a ground invasion in Gaza: As the Israel-Hamas war enters what looks like a long-term phase, questions regarding an expected full-scale ground incursion in Gaza are mounting.
U.S. officials have perhaps had the most influence in Israel’s decision to delay its ground invasion following Hamas’s heinous October 7 attack. Since American hostages are among the individuals being held captive in the terror group’s underground tunnel network, the White House has asked Israel to slow the pace of its incursion in light of the hostage negotiations.
However, the Biden administration has also made it abundantly clear that the U.S. “has Israel’s back” and will support its decision to eliminate all remnants of Hamas from Gaza.
Saudi Arabia Is Worried
Saudi officials have also voiced concerns that an Israeli ground assault could be “catastrophic” for the Middle East. According to the Kingdom’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, “The Saudi leadership was hopeful that a ground operation could be avoided for reasons of stability as well as the loss of life,” adding that this type of incursion would be “Extremely harmful.”
The Biden administration has been trying to expand the Abraham Accord peace agreements between Israeli and several Middle Eastern countries brokered by the Trump administration in 2021.
Riyadh, however, has said it would only be willing to consider normalizing ties with the Jewish state if it received a series of benefits from the U.S., including a mutual defense pact and support for a Saudi civilian nuclear program.
What’s Riyadh’s end goal?
Riyadh’s position that Israel should not fully invade Gaza due to concerns this would only “plant the seeds for more violence and extremism” mirrors rhetoric calling for a ceasefire between Israel and Hamas.
The Jewish state, however, does not have the option any longer to let Hamas continue to grow, advance its weapons arsenal, and plan future attacks in Israel.
On October 7, the terror organization indicated its willingness and capability to carry out barbaric attacks targeting innocent civilians and soldiers alike.
The atrocities committed by these terrorists reflect Hamas’s overarching tenant, which is to kill as many Jews as possible.
In order to survive, the IDF must dismantle the terror group from its southern border.
Regardless of how Israel responds, violence and extremism will always pour from Hamas-held territories, including Gaza.
IDF prepping for full-scale incursion into Gaza
While the IDF has held off on carrying out a large-scale invasion into Gaza based in part on requests by the White House, this patience is wearing thin.
This week, Israel knocked out internet and communications in Gaza as the military said it was “Expanding ground operations” in the Hamas-held territory. The White House is publicly supporting Israel’s decision to carry out its war against Hamas as it deems fit.
National Security spokesman John Kirby told reporters that “We’re not drawing red lines for Israel,” adding that the U.S. is evaluating the impact of recent rocket/drone barrages against Iranian-linked groups and that the U.S. “will not hesitate to take further actions in our own self-defense.”
On Friday, the IDF announced it was expanding ground operations to create “better conditions for optimal operational conditions on the ground” in Gaza. “So we are seeking out anti-tank capabilities, we are destroying observation posts and we are engaging the terrorists where we find them on the front lines or in the peripheral of the Gaza Strip,” IDF spokesperson said, adding that it was a continuation of IDF “activities” over the past “several days.
As a densely populated city, Gaza is not an ideal battleground for the IDF. Urban warfare comes with its own unique challenges.
Hamas terrorists can fortify structures on and above street levels, making it difficult for IDF troops to traverse the city. Cramped quarters also make the movement of tanks and other tracked vehicles challenging and leave them very vulnerable to ambush.
Many of the 360,000+ reservists called up for duty by the IDF since October 7 are currently stationed along Israel’s southern border with Gaza, ready to begin a full invasion of the territory at any moment. If and when this incursion commences, many lives will be lost.
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.
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