From ‘invincible’ to vulnerable: The Dilemmas of Israel’s Ground Operation in Gaza

Written by Elijah J. Magnier:

The Israeli Defence Forces (IDF), often hailed by many as ‘invincible’, has faced its share of challenges and setbacks over the decades. A closer look at its military campaigns since 1973 reveals struggles, particularly in ground operations, which means the IDF faces severe challenges and pitfalls in Gaza, which is expected to be far from a simple promenade. With their unpredictability and potential for casualties, ground operations appear to be a less favoured option for the IDF, which relies instead on its formidable air and bombardment capabilities. Recent confrontations in Gaza have shown that even a military giant like Israel can be challenged by smaller, determined resistance groups.

1982 Israel invaded Lebanon, primarily against the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO). This was not a confrontation with a conventional army but a political organisation with a disorganised guerrilla. Despite its superior military capabilities, Israel faced significant resistance, mainly from the local Lebanese population. 2000, Israel was forced to withdraw from southern Lebanon after enduring sustained guerrilla warfare from various Lebanese factions. In 2006, Israel was also involved in a month-long conflict with Hezbollah. The war culminated in intense ground fighting, particularly in Wadi al-Hujair and southern Lebanese villages. Despite its technological and numerical superiority, the IDF struggled to achieve a decisive victory. The conflict in Wadi al-Hujair and the man-to-man fighting in southern Lebanon illustrate Israel’s challenges against a determined and well-prepared opponent.

Israel’s military strategy has increasingly relied on its air and missile capabilities. Supported by the United States, Israel has a vast arsenal of missiles to fill its stockpiles, making its capacity for destruction immense. This stockpile is frequently replenished, ensuring the IDF can carry out prolonged air campaigns. This was evident in its operations in Lebanon and Gaza in 2008, 2012, 2014 and most recently in 2023. The reliance on air power can be seen as a strategic choice to inflict maximum damage while minimising IDF casualties, especially given the challenges of ground operations in the past.

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