What Happened To Israel’s Ground Invasion Of Gaza?

There could be both domestic and foreign factors causing the delay, such as military or civilian concerns as to why Israel’s ground invasion of Gaza is being delayed.

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Israel has yet to launch its planned ground invasion in retaliation for the Hamas strikes in southern Israel, over three weeks after they occurred.

Following the October 7 assaults, initial actions followed military and political rationale. To show that the nation is running as a unit, a national unity government was constituted. A total of 350,000 reservists were summoned for duty. The bombardment of Gaza began immediately, and it hasn’t stopped since. Thousands of civilians have been killed, and there is still no clear military rationale or pattern for the shelling of Palestinian infrastructure.

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An enormous response and complete annihilation of Hamas are demanded angrily by Israeli society, particularly its radical sections, but analysts caution that ground war preparations are a time-consuming process. It was realistic to assume that Israel would be prepared in ten to fifteen days. Nothing took place.

Though there are still 500,000 armed men and women spread throughout Israel and the occupied West Bank, the pace of the conflict appears to have slowed, if not completely stopped. What took place? Why hasn’t the Israeli military machine reached the Gaza Strip?

There might be numerous explanations, but they are top-secret and only known by the Israeli cabinet and army general staff. From the few available open sources, outsiders can only speculate.

There could be both domestic and foreign factors causing the delay, such as military or civilian concerns.

Rustem Klupov, a veteran of Russian military intelligence and a military expert, said that the US wants to draw Hezbollah into the Palestine-Israeli conflict.

Seeking a peaceful resolution would be the first option. Israel might be refusing to negotiate and obtain a ceasefire in order to give impromptu and poorly planned international initiatives a chance to at least gain the release of some or all prisoners.

That school of thought is about as credible as the international community’s efforts. The most improbable possibility is this one. Even the relatives of the captives, who beg for their release without a battle, seem to be ignoring the unyielding commitment to exact revenge for the October 7 dead. Any armed hostage rescue operation could result in significant collateral damage and the death of the victims rather than their release.

If military concerns are preventing Israel from unleashing its fury, does this mean that Matkal, the high command, is concerned that its existing force complement is inadequate? No, that isn’t possible since it could just arm and mobilize hundreds of thousands more trained reservists from its stores.

Realizing that the brigades stationed surrounding Gaza are untrained for violent urban combat, particularly for the most challenging aspect of such a conflict—fighting underground in the Hamas tunnel network—could prove to be another barrier. It is also not possible that this is the explanation since on October 7, the General Staff would have recognized how (un)prepared its troops were for that mission and would not have started the hasty mobilization without first raising the units that required further training.

Ominous lull

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There might be discord between Israeli Defence Minister Yoav Gallant (center) and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on one side and the military commanders on the other [Handout: Israeli Ministry of Defence via Anadolu Agency]

Chief of Staff of the Israeli General Staff General Herzi Halevi and his colleagues must be worried. Unaware of their mission, timing, or mode of operation, half a million soldiers are becoming anxious.

Every sergeant in every army is aware that waiting, lingering, awaiting the unknown, and being unsure of one’s next move are the worst things for military morale. Grunts are forced to perform menial chores during peacetime in order to avoid that toxic discomfort, but during a conflict, it quickly becomes apparent and impairs combat abilities.

Why, therefore, are the Israelis allowing their military to begin questioning their mission? All signs led to conflict between Halevi and his commanders and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Yoav Galant.

Officers adhering to superior orders—whether imperial, royal, or civilian—have always desired clarity and unambiguity in their commands. When civilian authorities give the army orders, they have to specify the strategic objectives and backup plans in case the main objectives prove to be unachievable. Generals prefer written orders so that accountability for any eventual deficiencies or failures may be fairly assigned following the conflict.

Regarding Israel, the generals undoubtedly desire the government to inform them of the expectations for the forces as well as the politically acceptable threshold for losses and casualties. Although it is Matkal’s responsibility to prepare for every scenario, it must be informed of the policy.

The military command would determine the force levels and composition required and prepare and deploy them if, in a hypothetical scenario, the cabinet decided to declare: “We want to expel all Palestinians from Gaza, kick them into Egypt” or “We want to get into Shujaieya Park, into the center of Gaza City, raise the Israeli flag there, stay for a month and withdraw into Israel.” It would account for anything from a straightforward win to a violent standoff or intolerable defeat and losses.

There could be a confrontation between the military and people based on the current unsettling silence. An assumption is that Netanyahu will try to coerce the army into acting by giving unclear orders, such as, “Just move in, kick Hamas fighters as much as you can, and then we will see how it develops,” in keeping with his bully attitude and cowboy approach.

It would also be in line with generals’ mindsets, who believe they owe it to their subordinate officers and soldiers to refrain from behaving carelessly when given ambiguous orders.

These ambiguities probably can’t be permitted to persist for very long for the reasons listed above. Israel needs to announce that the major offensive has been postponed, maybe indefinitely, or begin it shortly.

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