Analysis | Can the Gaza War’s Objectives Be Achieved?

Already, Israel cannot prevent Hamas members from returning to the area and enforcing their authority over the residents

The war in the Gaza Strip and along the Lebanese border has been ongoing for almost five months now, yet there is still uncertainty regarding Israel's objectives in the conflict.

Destroying the Hamas regime necessitates the identification of an alternative entity to replace it, but none exists. Israel itself does not want to control the Gaza Strip – directly, indirectly, or covertly. And as a result, Israel cannot prevent Hamas members from returning and enforcing their authority over the residents in the Gaza Strip.

Destroying Hamas’ main frameworks

The destruction of Hamas is almost an impossible task. Hamas is an organization with broad support among Palestinians. Efforts should be made to weaken its position among Palestinians in the political, social, and economic spheres, but such a process would take many years, and is doubtful if it will succeed.

In the military aspect, since October 2023, Hamas has suffered the heaviest blow in its history in terms of loss of personnel, weapons, and equipment. All of this occurred after Hamas underwent its greatest strengthening since its inception. Israel can complete the process of weakening Hamas by destroying its last stronghold in Rafah.

The Biden administration expresses reluctance towards an attack on Rafah, and Israel is in great need of the United States. Even if Israel launches an attack and Hamas battalions in Rafah are defeated and the entire Hamas army is crippled, it will indeed be a significant achievement for Israel, but limited. Hamas will continue to fight, in other ways.

In wars against Arab countries until 1982, the IDF defeated Arab armies by destroying their main formations, and then it was clear that the Arab states had lost. But “Hamastan” in Gaza operates according to different rules.

Arab armies were based on large formations of armored corps along with heavy artillery, air force, and navy. In contrast, the Hamas army relies on infantry units operating in small formations. Hamas has advanced weapons and means, but even before the war, when it was at its peak strength, it was still an infantry-based army, not an armored corps.

Hamas had tens of thousands of rockets, anti-tank missiles, and mortars, but not heavy artillery. It has drones and UAVs, but it's not an air force, and it had a sort of naval commando unit, not a navy.

In fact, it is more convenient for Hamas to fight in small infantry units that employ guerrilla tactics and terrorism, such as hit-and-run attacks, ambushes, traps, and mines.

Eliminating Hamas’ heads

Another Israeli goal, as part of its aspiration to end the war as soon as possible, is to capture or kill the leadership of Hamas. Past attempts have shown that Hamas is capable of recovering from similar blows, such as after the assassination of the organization's founder, Ahmed Yassin, and his successor, Abdel Aziz Rantisi, in 2004.

They were dominant figures in Hamas, but the terrorist organization survived. Sinwar, despite his status in Hamas, is no more significant than Yassin, and if Sinwar is no longer in his position, he will find a replacement, who may be even more dangerous than Sinwar. The promotion system in Hamas is like a mafia, and that's not the only similarity between them.

When Israel eliminates or incarcerates a senior member of Hamas, space is created for those loyal to him to rise. In this regard, promotions and power struggles at the top of Hamas are closely linked to Israel.

For example, so far, in terms of hunting down Hamas leadership, Israel assassinated Salah al-Arouri, who was very senior in Hamas and a rival of Sinwar. In a certain way, and ironically, this assassination served Sinwar.

There is a dilemma about the best way to release the hostages: to continue pressure through comprehensive attacks in Rafah or to seek their prompt return through negotiation, even if it requires painful concessions including reduction and even cessation, for now, of the Israeli attack in Gaza.

The conflict with Hamas will continue for many years. In other words, there will be more opportunities, and even better and more convenient ones for Israel, to strike Hamas in the future.

A gradual escalation on the Hezbollah front

There is a gradual escalation on the front with Hezbollah in Lebanon. Israel can fight on two fronts. It has a clear preference for Hezbollah over Hamas in every key criterion, including manpower. However, the IDF still prefers to deploy its best units to the battlefield in Lebanon, units that have accumulated significant combat experience in the Gaza Strip.

This is another reason to end the war in Gaza as soon as possible, to allow these units to rest, organize, and train to face a stronger adversary than Hamas.

It will take time, waiting also for the appropriate timing, including weather conditions, to launch an attack in Lebanon. A broad offensive can be conducted in Lebanon, whereas in the Gaza Strip, given the significant weakening of Hamas, the IDF will adopt a containment strategy while carrying out occasional raids.

Since 2006, Hezbollah and Israel have managed to restrain themselves and avoid escalating into full-scale war. Since October 2023, there has been tension between them, but it is possible to minimize and even end it without escalating into a full-scale war.

Hezbollah doesn't have hostages, but it does, to some extent, hold a portion of northern Israel as a hostage.

It's possible to solve this issue through some sort of arrangement, even if unofficial. Despite its cost and uncertainty, it's preferable to war. Hezbollah would endure a heavy blow from it, but like Hamas, it would survive.

It is possible to solve this problem through some kind of arrangement, even if unofficial. Despite its cost and uncertainty, it's preferable to war. Hezbollah would suffer a heavy blow from it, but like Hamas, it would survive.

Such an outcome is not worth the high price Israel would pay in a war with Hezbollah.

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