Israel: Israel and Hamas Continue Fighting


December 19, 2023: Israeli troops continue operations in Gaza to eliminate the Hamas presence there and rescue hostages still held by Hamas. Several weeks after the October 7 Hamas attack from Gaza into southern Israel, Hamas was on the defensive but still held over 200 of these hostages. The initial attack killed about 1,400 Israelis and foreigners living in Israel. Hamas took over 200 people hostage, planning to negotiate with Israel to release hostages in return for Israel releasing imprisoned Palestinians. Ten weeks after the Hamas offensive 112 to 130 hostages are still held by Hamas, 17 of them women and children.

The IDF (Israeli Defense Forces) mobilized several hundred thousand reservists to fight Hamas in Gaza. The Israeli air force provides most of the firepower used against Hamas in Gaza. Hamas sought to protect itself by using Palestinian civilians as human shields. That didn’t work, partly because Israel warned the Palestinian civilians to evacuate the combat zone. Most did, but some of those who didn’t became casualties. IDF efforts to prevent Hamas fighters from mingling with the Palestinian civilians and escaping the IDF were often successful.

Hamas has built about 500 kilometers of tunnels under Gaza over the last decade. Israeli troops have sealed as many entrances as they can find but there are still plenty left, and Hamas uses those to fire rockets into Israel. This gives Israeli forces an incentive to find and seal as many tunnel entrances as possible. It will be difficult to find and seal them all because Hamas have been clever in how they construct tunnel exits and, as long as the rocket fire continues, that means tunnel exits remain and are in use. Israeli is also planning to build a pipeline to the nearby Mediterranean and bring in a continuous flow of seawater to flood the tunnels. They can’t do this until they get all the hostages out and Hamas knows it.

Israeli is reluctant to send troops into the tunnels because Hamas has the advantage down there and can quickly install explosive traps and ambush sites. Israel has sent remotely controlled bomb disposal robots into the tunnel and discovered many of the deadly preparations Hamas has prepared for an Israeli incursion. Hamas is well protected in their tunnels and believes Israel will not expose its troops to the heavy losses they would suffer if the fighting were continued inside the tunnels. Meanwhile Israel has technology for mapping and monitoring Hamas activity in the tunnels. This tech was developed over the last few decades to deal with Hamas tunnels in Gaza and Hezbollah tunnels on the Lebanon border.

Israeli troops have more control on the surface and use that to try and halt Hamas rocket attacks on Israel or armed Hamas men from leaving Gaza. Israel wants to dismantle any military capabilities Hamas has. Because of the tunnels and hostages, that will take time. Meanwhile Israeli forces have taken control of areas in Gaza where over two million Palestinians civilians live, and Israeli troops will stay for a long time. Palestinians call this an armed occupation and Israel agrees with that. Israel justifies the occupation as necessary because of the threat from armed Hamas members. Until 2005, Israel occupied Gaza with troops. When Israeli forces withdrew in 2005 it was with an understanding that the Israeli military would return in force if the Palestinians did not control the violent radical Palestinian groups in Gaza, including Hamas and several Islamic terrorist groups. The radicals were kept in check for 18 years but during that time they stole much of the foreign aid sent to Gaza, including millions of dollars in cash, to prepare for an attack on Israel. That began on October 7th and the fighting continues, with Hamas on the defensive and determined to continue this resistance as long as possible.

On December 15 a gun battle between Hamas and Israeli troops led to the accidently shooting of three Israeli hostages that Hamas had with them. The continuing fighting in Gaza puts the Israeli troops in a difficult position since armed Hamas members often take shelter among civilians or, in this case, some hostages who were Israelis. The Israeli hostages were captured by Hamas during the October 7th fighting and were among the hostages Hamas hoped to trade for the release of more Palestinian terrorists still in prison. The Israeli army went on the offensive in Gaza on October 27 and so far a hundred Israeli soldiers have been killed and about 600 wounded. About 18,000 Palestinians have been killed in Gaza, most of them civilians. Hamas refuses to allow Palestinian civilians to leave the combat zone, needing them to involuntarily serve as human shields for Hamas gunmen. If Palestinian civilians are killed, they are considered involuntary martyrs to the cause of defending Islam and destroying Israel. Hamas is hated by most Palestinians because of these cynical practices. Palestinians consider Hamas more of a danger to Palestinians than a protector. Outside the combat zone Hamas manages to portray itself as heroic fighters against the wicked Israeli defense forces.




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