On the first day of its attack on Gaza, Israel announced a number of goals, the most important of which was to deal a harsh blow to Hamas, stop the rocket fire, hit the network of tunnels and restore calm to the population in southern Israel.
However, almost a month into this attack, Israel has been deprived of announcing that these goals have been achieved despite succeeding another unstated goal; committing massacres against Palestinian civilians, as the number of victims exceed 1,800 martyrs, most of whom are children, women and the elderly.
A lack of information
Israel’s failure to achieve these goals is the result of a number of factors, including the fact that the Israeli army has faced stubborn resistance in Gaza which has hindered its progress into Gaza. There were leaks from the Israelis and assurances from the Palestinians that the resistance on the eastern outskirts of Gaza was extremely ferocious.
A few days after the Israeli ground operation was launched, influential Israeli circles attacked the government because the military operation against Hamas in Gaza had not achieved any of its objectives and the army was unable to prevent Hamas from continuing to fire rockets into Israel.
In addition to this, the army was unable to deal with the tunnels, which have become a strategic threat with rockets still being fired deep into Israel, despite the army’s operations. It no longer makes sense that such a small organisation as Hamas can inflict such damage on Israel.
Israel explained the army’s decline during clashes with the resistance on Gaza’s borders as due to the soldiers having to fight under complex field conditions which have given Hamas a strategic achievement after they were able to capture an Israeli soldier. This achievement was one of several for Hamas, including its ability to close Israel’s air space for several days and forcing millions of settlers to take refuge in shelters.
Another setback suffered by the Israeli army was the lack of intelligence information about what they would face during a ground invasion of Gaza, specifically warnings by senior officials on the consequences of the army going deeper into the more densely populated areas in the Gaza Strip and the risk of potential capturing of soldiers.
Hamas is waiting for the opportunity to capture more soldiers and brandish them as a final sign of victory in the war emphasising Hamas’ superiority on the ground which has turned the Gaza Strip into a “tunnel metro”, enabling its fighters to disappear from areas of confrontation and emerge behind the lines of forces to attack them.
Interestingly, Israel admitted that the “shelf steadfast” military operations continued even while Hamas fighters were firing rockets, infiltrating settlements and killing and injuring dozens of soldiers. This suggests that the army was not seriously prepared for war and that Hamas “burst the bubble” in Israel’s face, inflicting serious casualties and losses on the military forces and civilian infrastructure.
The strategies that have been employed suggest that Israeli sovereignty has been violated and that the army is unable to stop the firing on the settlements nor is it able to successfully and score in battle. It also indicates that despite Israel’s regional strength they were unable to decisively defeat Hamas.
The ferocity of the fighting
The continuous fighting in the Gaza Strip has revealed flaws within the Israeli army regarding their preparation for battle and their management. Military forces are accustomed to using powerful firearms to implement model operational plans that are pre-planned and pre-meditated, but this was unsuccessful in Gaza despite the high human cost of Palestinian victims. It was unsuccessful because they were unprepared for a determined “enemy” with a low budget, such as Hamas, which had developed responses to Israel’s air superiority and advanced intelligence. This prevented the Israeli army from having tricks and surprises and instead forced them to rely on the air force, neglecting the ground forces and special units.
What’s more, the military clashes with Hamas fighters also revealed the failure of the intelligence to discover Hamas’ control and command system and to find the locations of its leaders. Al-Qassam Brigades continue to control their troops, fire rockets into Israel and attacks forces on the outskirts of Gaza and in light of the absence of intelligence information. The army chose to use heavy arms against populated areas, thus exposing the Palestinian civilians to death and displacement.
As a consequence serious questions have been raised in Israel about the military failure against Hamas in Gaza. Such questions include: What do you know and what don’t you know? What have you done and what haven’t you done? Should you have waited ten days before starting the ground operation, or would it have been better to start with entering Gaza? Which is more effective for the execution of the mission and which harmed the mission, bombing or missile launching? Do future risks lie in the tunnels or in the rocket-propelled grenades? This has prompted some to say that after the war is over, the head of the Israeli army will have to examine the behaviour of the security cabinet during the war.
Perhaps the Israeli evidence of the failure in the Gaza Strip is not limited to testimonies and admission of army generals and the soldiers, but have reached their peak in the political arena, as there are frequent calls to mistrust what the political and military elite are reporting on Hamas’ strength. There are claims that the Israeli public has been misled and that they tried to convince the public that Hamas was weak and therefore unable to engage in a confrontation with Israel.
However, the fierce confrontations in Gaza showed that these claims were completely inaccurate. It also showed that, as many days went by while Israel was unable to address the threats coming from the Gaza Strip, they were being used to cover their intelligence failures and inability to gain security information that would allow Israel to target missile launch pads or the command and control systems of the al-Qassam Brigades. Therefore, it seems clear that Hamas’ list of achievements is much longer than Israel’s.
In addition to this, the course of the war in Gaza demonstrated that the logic followed by Hamas was successful as Israeli soldiers were taken for treatment in Israeli hospitals. During this war Israeli politicians and the military made plans based on the results of past confrontations with Hamas but lacked the element of creative military thinking, Hamas shocked the Israeli army commanders with their own military surprises, and it seems that the generals were unable to keep up with them.
The military operation “Nahal Oz” raised several questions about the performance of the Israeli forces in the field as well as the decisions that were taken to deploy defensive forces. Hamas’ fighters’ use of tunnels to carry out operations inside enemy lines was a symbol of their achievements in response to the aggression against Gaza. The broadcasting of the video by media outlets was further proof of Hamas’ certain victory in the operation, as was the failure of the Israeli military security’s offensive operations against the tunnels. Hamas succeeded over in raiding a number of locations through the tunnels under the border fence.
Perhaps the most interesting issue regarding the Israeli comments on the ferocity of the fighting in Gaza and the actions against the Israeli army was Israel lack of a true and strong leader that has strong internal support, as well as confidence and popularity in the international arena. Israel was being dragged from one bad situation to a worse situation, while the military operation was quickly turning into a national scandal.
The current military operation did not succeed even after eliminating prominent Palestinian leaders, leaving the operation in stalemate for the political and military leaderships. The operation’s goals were not achieved despite the length of time that has passed. Senior military leaders and influential politicians in the government are preparing for inquiry commissions that will be formed later, after the end of the attack on Gaza, which will examine the recklessness and the failures of the war as well as the clashes with the resistance on the border of the Gaza Strip.
A quick review of the facts of the war in Gaza indicate clearly defined differences between the capabilities of the Israeli army in the fields of defence and intelligence, which have been considerably shaken and weakened and between Hamas’s maturity and ability to inflict serious losses on Israel. Hamas has now become more prepared when searching for military targets and for launching missiles on military vehicles.
The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.