The decision to redeploy IDF forces in Gaza was a “purely military one”, but marks a crucial crossroads for the Israeli government to decide whether it will deal decisively with Hamas and other terrorist groups in Gaza, or merely push off the next round of fighting for a few years.
That’s according to former Israeli National Security Adviser Major General (res.) Yaakov Amidror, a fellow at the Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies at Bar Ilan University.
Speaking to Arutz Sheva, Amidror explained that the IDF’s mission upon entering Gaza was very clear: “to identify and destroy” Hamas’s tunnel network.
Amidror clarified that there are three different kinds of tunnel networks in Gaza. The first two – smuggling tunnels from the Sinai Peninsula into Gaza, and the vast “labyrinth” of tunnels under Gaza’s urban population centers, meticulously constructed in preparation for any IDF ground operation – were not the target of Operation Protective Edge, although those discovered in the course of fighting were usually destroyed by IDF forces.
Only the limited number of tunnels leading into Israeli territory (several dozen – although the precise number may never be known), in preparation for deadly raids or kidnappings were actively targeted by Israel.
Echoing statements made earlier on Sunday to Arutz Sheva by a senior military official, Amidror said the IDF was close to completing that mission – although he suggested a post-operation committee of inquiry be set up to determine what gaps, if any, there were between the tunnels which were known about in advance, and those which were eventually discovered.
That being the case, there was therefore simply “no military logic” for forces to remain where they were once they had cleared the areas in question.
But as for the still constant rocket-fire against Israel’s civilian population, Amidror emphasized that there is “no way” for the current operation to succeed in physically putting an end to it once and for all.
“No one promised or said that Israel can neutralize all of Hamas’s rockets without gaining control of (all of) the ground in Gaza. There is no technical way to do it,” he said.
What the current operation can achieve – and largely has – is “to destroy all the rockets and launchers that we know about,” and then rely on the Iron Dome system to frustrate Hamas and Islamic Jihad’s attempts to inflict significant harm on Israel’s civilian population with what remains.
“You can’t neutralize 10,000 rockets purely with air power,” Amidror noted.
With the army’s deployment, signalling the imminent end of the initial phase of the operation, the government is now faced with two stark options – neither of which is especially palatable.
The first would be to accept the aforementioned operational limitations and, once the tunnels had been destroyed along with what rockets and other terrorist infrastructure can be reached, to dig in for a long, attritional battle, in which both sides will slug it out for many more weeks or even months. (It is impossible to know precisely what remains of Gaza’s arsenal of rockets, although Amidror estimates anything between 25-50% still remain out of approximately 10,000 rockets – enough to keep going for quite some time.)
The IDF could then choose to keep its for