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DATE 2023-10-01

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MESSAGE
DATE 2023-10-22
FROM Ruben Safir
SUBJECT Subject: [Hangout - NYLXS] Israel/Hamas Urban Warefare
Taking Gaza Would Be Possible, Sieges From Mosul to Mariupol Show—but at
a Steep Cost
Yaroslav Trofimov
9–11 minutes

Updated Oct. 22, 2023 12:09 am ET

Your browser does not support the audio tag.

This article is in your queue.

DUBAI—As Israel plans a ground operation in Gaza, aiming to eradicate
Hamas, recent history elsewhere suggests that the goal can be
achieved—but only at a tremendous cost, to Israeli troops and much more
so, to Palestinian civilians caught in the middle.

Urban warfare, especially in dense terrain with multiple high-rises—and
Gaza has scores of buildings over six floors—naturally favors the
defenders. Close-quarters combat also usually reduces the advantages of
the technologically more advanced side, something that would partially
offset Israel’s formidable military edge.

And yet, over the past several years, major cities were taken and the
forces defending them destroyed or captured. The most relevant example
often raised in Israel is the U.S.-led campaign in 2016-17 to seize
Iraq’s second-largest city of Mosul from Islamic State. Its population
at the time was similar to the Gaza Strip’s 2.1 million inhabitants.

“If Israel does what it says it wants to do—toppling Hamas and
destroying Hamas military capabilities—we are talking about a Mosul all
over the Gaza Strip,” said Michael Horowitz, head of intelligence at the
Le Beck risk-management consulting firm. “And it means really extensive
civilian casualties and really extensive damage.”

The battle of Mosul, which lasted 277 days, was indeed a bloody,
drawn-out campaign, its true toll never fully acknowledged. An
Associated Press investigation, based on cemetery records and data
compiled by nongovernment organizations, found that between 9,000 and
11,000 civilians had been killed in Mosul. Much of the Iraqi city’s
historical center turned into rubble. Islamic State militants, in one of
their final stands, blew up Mosul’s ancient Great Mosque of Al-Nuri
where their “caliphate” was first proclaimed in 2014.

For the U.S. military, which enabled Iraqi forces in Mosul with
on-the-ground support, Mosul was the first sustained urban campaign
since the battle of Hue in Vietnam in 1968. In an assessment after the
campaign, the U.S. Army’s Mosul Study Group noted that Islamic State
used the coalition’s effort to adhere to the law of armed conflict as “a
weapon against it,” by creating situations in which the U.S. would
either have to slow down operations, giving Islamic State an advantage,
or run a higher risk of killing civilians.

Though most of U.S.-backed forces in Sunni-majority Mosul were either
Shiite militias or the mostly-Shiite Iraqi army and police, the
scrutiny—and tolerance—for such civilian casualties wasn’t anywhere near
what Israel faces in Gaza. Some 4,000 Palestinians have already been
killed by the bombing campaign, according to Gaza’s Hamas-controlled
health ministry, a toll that sparked protests and calls for a cease-fire
from around the world.

The health ministry’s numbers, which are unverified, include 471
Palestinians it said were killed Oct. 17 in the Al-Ahli Arab Hospital, a
blast that the U.S. and independent analysts say was caused by a
misfired Palestinian rocket and caused a significantly smaller toll.

“Though Iraq is a very divided society, and the forces that were coming
to Mosul were very much not from Mosul, there is a fundamental
distinction,” said Patrick Osgood, an independent security consultant
based in Dubai who has extensively worked on Iraq. “They were liberating
their own territory. This is not the case in Gaza.”

Political circumstances are even more different in Ukraine, which is
repelling an unprovoked invasion by Russia. But from the purely tactical
standpoint, the Russian siege of Mariupol last year also points to the
daunting difficulties that Israel may face in Gaza. Unlike elsewhere in
Ukraine, Russia enjoyed air supremacy over Mariupol, pounding the
coastal city of 450,000 people for months. The civilian death toll,
according to Ukrainian estimates, was in the tens of thousands, with the
dead often simply bulldozed into the rubble.

Unlike Hamas, which has spent years preparing an extensive network of
tunnels and fortifications, and picked the timing of its current war
with Israel, Ukrainian forces in Mariupol weren’t expecting the Russian
invasion and hadn’t stockpiled weapons, ammunition or fuel. They were
cut off from the rest of Ukrainian-held territory just three days into
the war.

Still, Russia’s military took huge casualties in the battle for
Mariupol—losing at least two generals—and was only able to capture the
city after President Volodymyr Zelensky ordered the surviving Ukrainian
forces to surrender nearly three months later.

“Urban fights are very slow, they are protracted, and they are costly.
There is no easy way to do it,” said Rob Lee, a senior fellow at the
Foreign Policy Research Institute. “When you go against an adversary
defending urban terrain, especially one who’s had time to prepare a good
defense, and who’s not going to give up quickly, it takes time.”

Time is one commodity that Israel likely won’t have, as the global
attention on Gaza fuels political pressure for a cease-fire and as its
call-up of more than 300,000 reservists damages the economy. The
military paradox here is that, the faster Israel is forced to operate,
the more it would have to use to brute force, increasing the civilian
toll and the damage to Gaza’s infrastructure, said Michael Knights, an
expert at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy who has
extensively researched the campaign against Islamic State in Iraq and Syria.

“When someone puts an artificial pace on the operation, as we had in
Mosul to some extent, and says ‘Faster, faster, get it done,’ that’s
when your ‘combat accelerants’ include leveling the entire city,”
Knights said. “If I was the Israelis, I’d be telling the international
community: ‘Give us 180 days and we’ll be doing it with less casualties.
If you make us try to do it in 30 days, it’s on you.’ ”

In urban combat, much more than in other environments, the training,
equipment and motivation of troops plays a crucial role. Despite
Israel’s initial failures on Oct. 7, when Hamas overran Israeli border
villages and towns, killing some 1,400 people, most of them civilians,
the Israel Defense Forces are a much more capable military than the
Russian forces in Mariupol, let alone Iraqi troops and militias that
battled in Mosul, or Syrian militias that ousted Islamic State from
Raqqa in 2017.

Ret. U.S. Army Col. Joel Rayburn, a former strategic intelligence
adviser to U.S. Central Command who served as U.S. Special Envoy for
Syria in 2018-21, said he had little doubt that the IDF will be able to
achieve its objectives in Gaza—and, in some ways, faces an easier fight
than the coalition in Mosul.

“It’s a foregone conclusion. Hamas will be tactically defeated in Gaza,
they cannot defend Gaza in a sustainable way,” he said. “Militarily,
Gaza is like an island. There cannot be an effective defense of Gaza
because Hamas has no way to resupply itself and no rear area to support
front-line operations.”

Israel already has the experience of two land operations in Gaza, in
2008-2009 and 2014, though both aimed to deter Hamas rather than fully
root it out, a much more difficult challenge. In 2014, Israel’s elite
Golani brigade took heavy casualties as it tried to take Gaza City’s
Shujaiya neighborhood, and could only advance after airstrikes and
intense artillery barrages that caused numerous civilian deaths.

Iran has supplied Hamas with more sophisticated weapons since then,
including modern antitank guided missiles. Small drones that either drop
munitions or slam into tanks or armored vehicles, a tactic used by
Islamic State fighters in Mosul and now an integral part of warfare in
Ukraine, will pose additional dangers. While Israel’s more advanced
tanks and armored vehicles possess the modern Trophy defenses against
drones and guided missiles, they don’t necessarily offer foolproof
protection.

“Hamas is waiting, Hamas has prepared itself for the ground invasion,
and there are going to be casualties, no doubt about it,” said Kobi
Michael, a senior research fellow at the Institute of National Security
Studies in Tel Aviv and a former head of Palestinian affairs at Israel’s
Ministry of Strategic Affairs. “But we also understand pretty well,
after these horrible attacks, that in this neighborhood you have to be
able to sacrifice to remain here. The other option is just to take our
luggage and leave.”

The massive intelligence and military failures that allowed Hamas to
carry out the Oct. 7 attacks, severely damaging the Israeli security
establishment’s reputation, raise the stakes of the looming Gaza fight
even more.

“They have to win this war, but they have to demonstrate that they are
doing it with a very clever operational design and genuinely impressive
intelligence-led military capacities,” said retired Air Marshal Edward
Stringer, a former head of operations at the British Ministry of Defense
who oversaw the air campaign in Libya in 2011. “Using all the heavy
weaponry you’ve got to flatten Gaza as an act of retribution, leaving
your allies thinking ‘How the hell do we defend this?’ while making your
foes even more united—that would not be very clever.”
--
So many immigrant groups have swept through our town
that Brooklyn, like Atlantis, reaches mythological
proportions in the mind of the world - RI Safir 1998
http://www.mrbrklyn.com
DRM is THEFT - We are the STAKEHOLDERS - RI Safir 2002

http://www.nylxs.com - Leadership Development in Free Software
http://www.brooklyn-living.com

Being so tracked is for FARM ANIMALS and extermination camps,
but incompatible with living as a free human being. -RI Safir 2013
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