Israel-Hamas War: What's Happening With Tel Aviv's Ground Invasion Into Gaza?

Israel launched a brief raid into the Gaza strip overnight, but has been threatening to launch a much larger invasion.
Israeli soldiers patrol next to communities near the Israeli-Gaza border.
Israeli soldiers patrol next to communities near the Israeli-Gaza border.
via Associated Press

Israel has been expected to launch a ground invasion of the Gaza Strip for some time now, but it’s yet to happen.

After Palestinian militants – Hamas – launched an unexpected attack on Israel on October 7, and killing a reported 1,400 people and taking more than 200 hostage, Tel Aviv declared war.

It put the Palestinian territory of Gaza under siege and launched a series of air strikes.

Shortly after the Hamas massacre, Israel called on Gaza civilians to evacuate the north ahead of a “wide range of offensive operative plans”, including an “integrated and coordinated attack from the air, sea and land”.

However, a ground invasion is yet to take place. So what might be behind the delay?

What is Israel planning?

Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu said this week Israel is “raining down hellfire” and a ground offensive is being prepared.

He said; “I cannot say when, how, or how many, nor all the elements that we taking into account, of which most are not known to the public.”

So, we can’t know for sure what Tel Aviv’s military strategy is.

But, Israel Defence Forces (IDF) are currently standing ready to launch into northern Gaza in a bid to wipe out Hamas completely.

More than 350,000 reservists were also called up and a national unity government was set up to show Israel is working together after a series of divisions with its domestic policies.

It’s thought this is part of the government’s plan for a “three-phase” operation to eliminate Hamas.

It will begin with an intense series of air strikes and ground operations, which, according to Israel’s defence minister Yoav Gallant, will involve “neutralising terrorists and destroying Hamas infrastructure”.

It appears this stage has already begun. Gaza officials claim more than 6,500 civilians have been killed by Israeli air strikes since they began on October 7, although these numbers have been difficult for news organisations to independently verify.

And according to the country’s military, Israel’s troops – along with tanks – just attacked Hamas targets in a brief “targeted raid” on Thursday before withdrawing.

Army radio, a local station, said the raid was “relatively large” and the biggest incursion of the current war.

It claimed the operation was “preparation for the next stage of combat”, although it’s not clear if that was a reference to a full ground invasion.

This is not the first time Israeli forces have broken into Gaza since October 7, as the troops claimed to be investigating Hamas positions and getting information on the hostages.

But, it takes a while to prepare for full ground offensives – which is why it was expected to launch around 10 to 15 days after the Hamas massacre, according to Al Jazeera.

Still, Israel’s defence minister claimed that once the first phase was completed, the second phase would include “lower intensity” operations and aim to “destroy pockets of resistance”.

His office said: “The third phase will require the removal of Israel’s responsibility for life in the Gaza Strip and the establishment of a new security reality for the citizens of Israel.”

Air strikes in Gaza
Air strikes in Gaza
MAHMUD HAMS via Getty Images

Has Israel ever invaded Gaza before?

Yes – in fact, the territory was occupied by Israel for 38 years until they withdrew in 2005.

Then in 2008, Israel launched a 22-day military offensive in Gaza after rockets were fired at an Israeli town.

Israel also invaded in July 2014 in a seven-week war after the kidnap and killing of three Israeli teenagers by Hamas.

What’s behind the delay?

It’s not entirely clear – but there are likely to be several factors at play.

There are worries that the death toll could get much higher if the ground invasion goes ahead, so much of the international community is calling for Tel Aviv to delay the invasion.

It’s especially risky considering Hamas has only released four of its more than 200 hostages – and more than half of its captives have passports from 25 different countries, according to the Israeli government, many with dual Israeli nationality.

US media also reported that US president Joe Biden was discouraging Netanyahu from launching a ground invasion while hostages are still being held, although he has denied such allegations.

The president said: “What I have indicated to him is that if that’s possible to get these folks out safely, that’s what he should do.

“It’s their decision. But I did not demand it.”

Meanwhile, the US think-tank, the Institute for the Study of War, has claimed that Iran and its allies in the group known as “Axis of Resistance” are also trying to stop Israel from destroying Hamas in Gaza.

These Hamas allies are attempting to deter the US from providing military support for Israel’s ground operations in the Gaza and break down Israel’s “political will”, according to ISW.

“Hamas is conducting attacks targeting population centres and conducting an information operation to erode the will of Israel’s political establishment and public to launch and sustain a major ground operation into the Gaza,” the think tank said.

So is Israel pushing for a peaceful resolution, or the release of hostages?

But others do not think the delay can be attributed to actions from either Israel’s allies or Hamas’ allies.

Al Jazeera’s Zoran Kusovac, a geopolitical and security analyst, suggested it came down to “discord” between Netanyahu and Gallant on one side, and chief of Israeli General Staff, General Herzi Halevi, on the other.

He speculated that the military may be unwilling to fight on “muddled orders” from the government – a move Kusovac claimed would be “consistent” with Netanyahu’s style.

However, amid the possibility of waning morale, he warned: “Israel must either launch the big offensive soon or say it is postponed, possibly indefinitely.”

Yet, Paul Rogers is emeritus professor of peace studies at Bradford University and an honorary fellow at the Joint Service Command and Staff College, wrote in the Guardian that a ground invasion would only boost Palestinian extremism in the long-run.

He wrote: “Instead of extinguishing Hamas, the war will result in tens of thousands more very angry young Palestinians set to join the organisation or a similar successor.”


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