Analysis | Gaza’s War of Attrition is Expected to Last Years

Hamas is known for its adaptability and resilience. The IDF should prepare for prolonged fighting in the Gaza Strip area

Israel and Hamas in Gaza are both located on the shores of the Mediterranean Sea. Over two thousand years ago, Rome waged a prolonged struggle with another city located on the shores of the Mediterranean, Carthage. These sworn rivals fought three wars known as the Punic Wars. Rome emerged victorious in all three of them, and on the third occasion, it destroyed Carthage. Of course, there are many differences between those cycles of wars and Israel's conflicts in the Gaza Strip.

Israel does not seek to do to Gaza what Rome did to Carthage, but there is still widespread destruction and a lack of progress in the Gaza Strip. This is done operationally, like demolition of buildings to pressure Hamas to stop using tunnels to carry out attacks. However, destroyed built-up areas serve as a buffer zone for defense.

Hamas' control in the Gaza Strip is weakening, but it hasn't completely collapsed. The IDF has defeated most of Hamas' battalions, but their remnants continue to fight.

As long as Hamas can deploy even a handful of its people in a certain area, they can demonstrate presence and some degree of control there. This situation will continue because the IDF refrains from direct and permanent control over the entire Strip, and there is no other entity to undertake this task in its place.

Hamas has lost infrastructure, weapons, and significant equipment and has suffered immense losses. However, as mentioned, it continues to fight, albeit to a limited extent. In the future, the terror organization may recover and increase its efforts in the fight against the IDF.

Hamas is known for its adaptability and resilience, even after enduring severe blows. This has been evident after confrontations with it over the past few decades. Hamas will partially recover, relying on its surviving members who have experienced battles and gained combat experience.

They will study the weak points in the Israeli system and attempt to surprise it. Hamas may carry out another pinpoint attack within or outside the Strip, albeit to a limited extent, and not a wide-scale attack like on October 7th.

During the 1980s and 1990s, a war of attrition took place in Lebanon, which could repeat itself in the Gaza Strip. Hamas will attack IDF positions and the routes leading to them. The short distance from Israel and well-protected convoy movements, both on the ground and in the air, will reduce but not eliminate the risk.

It may be necessary to deliver supplies only through designated and possibly outdated armored vehicles such as APCs or through the air. Field fortifications with bulldozers, sandbags, individual shelters, and the like are needed, but that alone will not be sufficient.

The IDF will need to continue investing in establishing bases for everything, meaning comprehensive defense readiness with concrete fortifications and everything necessary for forces to stay there for an extended period, even under field conditions.

As part of this war of attrition in the Gaza Strip, the IDF will attack from the air, land, and sea to delay Hamas's recovery as much as possible, undoubtedly from a military standpoint. Much will depend on whether Israel can successfully impose a comprehensive siege on the area.

This will require close cooperation with Egypt, the only Arab country that shares a border with the Strip, to cut off any escape routes from the Sinai Peninsula to the Strip. Almost complete severance of the Strip, and thus Hamas's receipt of external supplies, primarily from Iran, will significantly weaken it. At the same time, Israel must prevent a humanitarian disaster in the Gaza Strip.

At some point, Israel may decide that it is preferable to withdraw, once again, from parts or even the entire Gaza Strip. This depends on the human, economic, political, and other costs of the conflict in the Strip.

The IDF will need to establish a defense system outside the Gaza Strip, which is necessary anyway if Hamas attempts to infiltrate through IDF installations to strike within Israel.

The IDF should therefore establish a defense system deep, at least several kilometers, around the Gaza Strip. It would consist of at least two lines of defense so that if one is breached, there would still be the ability to block deeper infiltration into Israel.

Such a defense system would need to include extensive measures against foot or vehicular infiltration (Hamas does not possess armored vehicles, so there is no need for anti-tank traps). Of course, in the minefield, there would still be open pathways for IDF movement into Gaza.

Overall, the war of attrition in the Gaza Strip will likely continue for a long time, possibly even years. There may currently be no other option, but at any time, it is essential to explore if there is an alternative to prolonging the fighting.

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