Sat 13 Apr 2024 2:55 pm - Jerusalem Time

Newspaper: Israel is close to losing the war in Gaza

In a lengthy analytical article, the Wall Street Journal said, “For six months, the IDF has won battle after battle against Hamas. But as the fighting loses momentum and post-conflict plans fail to cohere, Israel faces the prospect of losing the war.”

The newspaper pointed out that the invasion of the Gaza Strip is faltering. Most Israeli soldiers have returned to their homes, "and Hamas is returning to areas that were previously cleared of militants."

International pressure and the challenges of confronting fighters fighting from deep underground tunnels and in urban settings “have combined to obstruct efforts to eradicate Hamas from the refugee-crowded south of the Strip,” according to the newspaper, “thwarting Israel’s central, publicly stated goal of the war.” “Killing Hamas leaders and destroying the armed extremist Islamic group as a military and political force.”

The newspaper notes that some military and political leaders blame the failure of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to issue a post-war plan for Gaza, saying that it left a political vacuum that Hamas is exploiting to rebuild its influence in the Strip.

According to the article, "The IDF is growing increasingly frustrated with the government's indecision. Without a political plan for Gaza, tactical gains will not add up to any lasting strategic gains, say senior officers and current and former soldiers who have spent months in grueling urban combat."

Last Sunday, Netanyahu claimed that Israeli forces are achieving achievements in the war against Hamas. “We are one step away from victory,” he said at the beginning of the cabinet meeting.

But many of his forces disagree with him. The reservists who recently returned from Gaza said frustration over the lack of a plan to consolidate their tactical gains into a lasting strategic victory is growing weekly.

The newspaper attributed to a captain in the Israeli army who fought in Khan Yunis that early in the war, “his forces knew why they were fighting, but as time passed, more people began to wonder about the purpose of it all, and the truth is that I have no answers to provide my soldiers.”

Other reserve soldiers said, "There is frustration about the failure to release more than 120 Israeli hostages remaining in Gaza or the killing of senior Hamas leaders such as Yahya Sinwar, two of the declared goals of the war," according to the newspaper.

The newspaper attributes Tamir Hayman, head of the Institute for National Security Studies in Tel Aviv and advisor to the Israeli Defense Minister, as saying that Israel's central goal in the war - changing the political regime in Gaza - is not easy to achieve at all. He said that the United States did not achieve complete regime change in Iraq or Afghanistan.

Hayman said Israel made it more difficult by destroying Hamas' power without knowing what to replace it with. “You have to simultaneously destroy and rebuild” the new order, he said.

The newspaper claims, “Israel has been more successful in suppressing and dispersing Hamas military formations in most parts of Gaza, but even this mission has stopped at the gates of Rafah, the city on the southern border of Gaza, where Hamas brigades remain intact – and where some 1.5 million Palestinian civilians are taking refuge.” .

Netanyahu pledged weeks ago to take control of Rafah, saying his goal of achieving “total victory” required it. He recently said a date has been set, but not when. However, senior military figures say a ground attack on Rafah cannot happen anytime soon.

The Israeli forces are trying to find a way to transfer the growing numbers of Palestinian refugees to another place in the almost completely destroyed Strip “at a time when the United States, an indispensable ally of Israel, opposes any major ground attack on Rafah, saying that would cause... "Unacceptable deaths among civilians."

The confrontation over Rafah intensified tensions between Netanyahu and the Biden administration. Washington's patience with Israel ran out after the killing of seven aid workers from the US-based non-profit group World Central Kitchen, an incident the Israeli military said was a mistake.

The newspaper says that Hamas is returning to more areas in Gaza that were evacuated by the Israeli army forces that had taken control of those areas after intense fighting (in urban areas).

The newspaper says that Israel reduced the presence of its forces in the Gaza Strip to one brigade, down from more than 20 brigades and more than 60,000 soldiers late last year, to allow the soldiers to recover and reduce the burden on the Israeli economy.

“Despite achieving almost complete tactical control over Hamas in the battles, the Israeli army was unable to eliminate an elusive enemy, find Sinwar, or rescue the hostages,” according to the newspaper.

According to the newspaper, Israel claims that it killed about 13,000 militants and dismantled 20 out of 24 Hamas battalions, but the American and Egyptian intelligence services believe that the number of Hamas fighters killed in the battles is much less than that.

Hamas, which had about 30,000 fighters before the war, is also able to recruit new members from among Gaza's large number of young males, Israeli experts say.

Hamas is adapting to the Israeli campaign, mostly avoiding major battles, hiding and waiting for Israeli forces to advance. Hamas then tries to re-establish its presence and power. Militants (from the Hamas movement) began to reappear in Gaza City in the northern Gaza Strip in January, when Israeli forces withdrew after occupying the city last year. This pattern is repeated in Khan Yunis, where the Israeli 98th Division fought a long battle before withdrawing, according to the newspaper.

“The Israeli Ministry of Defense strongly opposes a complete military occupation of the Strip, while the United States, major Arab countries, and a large portion of the Israeli security establishment see only one realistic alternative: the involvement of the secular Palestinian national party Fatah, which runs the Palestinian Authority in the occupied West Bank.”

But Netanyahu has strongly rejected any role for this group, which represents anathema to the prime minister and far-right members of his fragile ruling coalition.

The newspaper attributes Amos Yadlin, the former head of Israeli military intelligence, to his claim that Israel made Hamas unable to launch another attack like October 7, “and showed its enemies throughout the Middle East that they will pay a heavy price for attacking it.”

He said that if the government focused on those manageable goals, it could claim success. Yadlin added: “I cannot say that Israel has failed strategically, but I can certainly say that it has not achieved its ambitious goals of dismantling and destroying Hamas or returning the hostages.” He said that given the damage done to Hamas, it was "kind of like a draw."


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Newspaper: Israel is close to losing the war in Gaza