Israel: Israel February Update


February 16, 2024: Israel continues fighting Hamas gunmen in Gaza while also searching for more hostages. Three hostages were recently rescued from an apartment in the Gaza town of Rafah. Over a hundred hostages are still missing and believed to be held by Hamas in various Gaza locations. Israel gave peace a chance and that didn’t work and is now trying belligerence. The IDF (Israeli Defense Forces) are again fully mobilized at great cost to the Israeli economy. There had been a brief, limited and now ended demobilization after it became apparent that Hezbollah in Lebanon had no present intention of bombarding Israel with its arsenal of a hundred thousand plus missiles and unguided rockets.

Israeli troops continue operations in Gaza to eliminate the Hamas presence there and rescue hostages. Several months after the October 7, 2023, 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 about 200 Israelis and foreigners hostage and still holds about a hundred. Hamas is again allegedly planning to negotiate with Israel to release hostages in return for Israel releasing imprisoned Palestinians.

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 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 still 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. Israel began flooding tunnels with sea water in November 2023. They used the flooding carefully to avoid drowning any of the hostages out. The main goal of the flooding was to drive Hamas out of their tunnels.

Israel 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. Israel went ahead and used their technology to map and monitor 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. The ability of Hamas to hold out in the tunnel network is limited and it may be that part of Israel’s strategy here is to wait Hamas out until most of its remaining forces have to surface and surrender before eradicating the remainder.

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. By early 2024 Israel has discovered many hostages it believed to be alive had been killed during the continuing fighting between IDF forces and Hamas gunmen. At the same time 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.




Help Keep Us From Drying Up

We need your help! Our subscription base has slowly been dwindling.

Each month we count on your contribute. You can support us in the following ways:

  1. Make sure you spread the word about us. Two ways to do that are to like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.
  2. Subscribe to our daily newsletter. We’ll send the news to your email box, and you don’t have to come to the site unless you want to read columns or see photos.
  3. You can contribute to the health of StrategyPage.
Subscribe   contribute   Close