In the ongoing conflict between Israel and Hamas in Gaza, the Israeli army faces a formidable challenge as it navigates through the densely populated streets turned into a deadly maze by the Palestinian group. The current ground offensive, initiated on October 27, has already resulted in a significantly higher Israeli military death toll compared to the 2014 conflict.
Hamas has strategically utilized its vast tunnel network, knowledge of the terrain, and a substantial weapons stockpile, ranging from drones armed with grenades to powerful anti-tank weapons. The death toll on the Israeli side has reached 121 soldiers, almost twice the number from the 2014 conflict, indicating the intensity of the current offensive.
Experts point out the stark contrast between the scope of the two wars, emphasizing the depth of Israeli forces in Gaza this time. Retired Israeli Major-General Yaacov Amidror notes the challenge posed by the expanded tunnel network, stating that a satisfactory solution has yet to be found.
The offensive was triggered by a Hamas rampage on October 7, where gunmen reportedly killed 1,200 people and took over 200 hostages. The toll on both sides has been high, with nearly 19,000 people killed in Gaza, prompting international calls for a ceasefire.
Hamas’s guerrilla tactics are evident in videos posted on its Telegram channel, showing fighters using bodycams to navigate buildings and launch rockets at armoured vehicles. The group takes advantage of its knowledge of the terrain, often ambushing Israeli forces by emerging from tunnels or manoeuvring within the intricate street layout.
While Hamas has not disclosed its fighter casualties, Israel claims to have killed at least 7,000 militants. The disparity in power is acknowledged by a Hamas source, who emphasizes their reliance on familiarity with the terrain.
The current conflict has seen Hamas making significant advancements since 2014, building up its forces and expanding its arsenal. Advanced weapons, including Russian-designed Kornet anti-tank missiles, are believed to have been smuggled in with the assistance of Iran. Additionally, the group has developed the capability to produce weapons locally, such as RPG-7 rocket-propelled grenades.
Despite Hamas’s innovative tactics, Israel employs strategies to mitigate risks, including using bulldozers to create alternative routes through built-up areas and avoiding mined roads. The conflict is expected to persist for months, with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu expressing a commitment to continue until “absolute victory.”
As both sides endure a “huge price” in terms of casualties, the global society intensified calls for a ceasefire, emphasizing the urgency of finding a diplomatic resolution to end the devastating conflict.