Israel Mulls Over Stage 3 of its War on Gaza

Al Shifa Hospital

Israel is losing at great speed in Gaza. The losses are unprecedented in its history of wars with Arab countries, certainly much more and far greater than 1948, 1956, 1967, 1973, 1982 and its last minor wars on Gaza, excluding this one of course.

This last war, despite its intensity, ferocity, destructiveness and appetite for revenge and killing innocent civilians – over 20,000 dead and 53,000 injured so far – is proving far too costly for Israel to the extent – it now says it is repositioning its war machine and redeploying its soldiers.

Israeli repositioning

Military experts are saying Israel is doing that because it’s losing badly. Its economy is in tatters, its people are angry and want to get on with their lives, they are not achieving their objectives to end the Palestinian resistance – Hamas, and Islamic Jihad and their armed wings – and worse still, they are not getting anywhere near to freeing their 138-or so hostages in Gaza.

And as a result, the Israeli government are saying they are winding down the war and/or giving it a new number. Its officials say they will start phase three of the war by early January, 2024. What does this mean practically? Apparently for the Israelis, it means more precision targeting as they claim rather than an all-out war on civilians. This new strategy is being made under pressure from the Americans who have long urged the Israelis to avoid civilian casualties in Gaza but that is apparently falling on deaf ears despite the nods.

The White House, beginning with US president Joe Biden, Vice-President Kamala Harris, Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Defense Secretary Lloyed Austin have long told the Israelis they must not target and kill civilians. But who is listening, certainly not Benjamin Netanyahu or his Defense Minister Yoav Gallant which are being daily supplied with an American airlift of military hardware and massive one-ton and two-ton bombs.

Major losses

But in all fairness, the Americans keep telling the Israelis not to target civilians. So maybe, phase 3 of the war is targeted to that. Arab military analysts like Major-general Dr Fayez Al Dwairi, with long military and academic career, says this phase is related to major losses in the Israeli military, adding the withdrawal of its 13th Battalion of the elite Golani Brigade from Gaza points to that fact whilst pointing out there has never been a fighting force that withdrew in the midst of battle.

The Israeli army said the troops are withdrawing for repositioning purposes but judging from the celebrations seen among their ranks-and-file, the Israeli soldiers are very happy to be pulling out from the Gaza cauldron of destruction where they suffered military defeats pointing to thousands of deaths and injured, contrary to the official narrative of only 480 soldiers killed since 7 October and 1900 wounded which are gross under estimations. 

The Israeli army is in a quandary, they want to pull out but they don’t want to say so. Already 3000 of their soldiers have been permanently handicapped and this is not to mention the increasing number killed in friendly fire, the insubordination and outright desertion. In this phase however, they can pull back right to the border but still inside Gaza without losing face.

Buffer zone

The Israeli army now wants to create a buffer security zone starting from north Gaza right down to the south to Rafah city. This buffer, which Israel has always talked about will be around 1 kilometer in width and filled with Israeli soldiers and tanks and set to be there as long as possible.

Presumably however, the Israeli soldiers fighting in different urban areas in the enclave such as Gaza city, Jabalia, Shiekh Radwan, Shujaiya, Johr Al Deek, and its eastern areas of Khan Younis to the south will first have to pull back to the east.

It should be recognized as well, most of the ground fighting, has always been on either the periphery of the Gaza strip like Beit Hanoon in the north, Biet Lahia and Jabalia, being beyond the border and/or Johr Al Daeek, Shujayia and Al Zaitoon in the center and moving to Beni Suhaila, Muraj, Al Qarara, Al Fukhari, Abbassan, Khuza’, surrounding the eastern part of Khan Younis, and onwards to Rafah.

So, when Israel talks about “repositioning”, its troops are only moving back to the far part of the territory and where intense fighting has already been taking place for the past two months or so.

In all these places the Israeli army has been getting a battering. The Israeli army has been effectively stuck in these areas which are not far from the border and the buffer zone Israel keeps talking about and which also raises other practical problematics. This is because Israeli soldiers have not yet got ride of the Palestinian fighters.

They are still in deadly skirmished with Izz Al Din Al Qassam and Saraya Al Quds combatants. We keep saying that in deadly videos. Incidentally, the Israeli army has started to follow that approach half way into the war by showing their soldiers in different maneuvers.

But analyst have said the Israeli videos lacked in content. Unlike the Hamas videos that showed real time tanks being blown up, Israeli clips showed soldiers running around and shooting at walls, a bit like the ones you see in video games. 

So, Israel is in a bit of a fix. Thus, establishing a buffer zone maybe related to the fact they are losing in the war and said its move back to the borders is to show: It wants further security for Israel and not a repeat of the 7 October attacks, it doesn’t want to reoccupy Gaza – a move being made under American pressure and maintain a permanent presence against Palestinian resistance movements there short of getting rid of Hamas.

Belts of fire

But the redeployment is not for the sake of Palestinians. Israeli warplanes continue to target housing areas in Gaza without the slightest compunction. And it does that on all hours of the day but their war pilots prefer to strike at night in what they call “belts of fire” when women and children are sleeping.

The recent massacres have been in the south, although the strip is subject to bombardment with American-made bombs. This time however, it was the camps of central Gaza of Al Nuseirat, Al Burej and Al Maghazi, all  next to each other.

These were subject to 50 strikes and resulted in 70 deaths, mostly women and children, as to the latest count and countless injured as well as people under the rubble. Getting to the injured was a major problem because of the Israeli twisted mentality. The Gaza Ministry of Health said Israeli warplanes bombed the roads leading to the camps to prevent ambulances from getting there and picking up the injured and dead.

War to continue

So, it would appear as Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu keeps saying the war on Gaza is set to continue regards of the facts about more Israeli dead  and more army repositioning. The Israeli army, is just changing its tactics and strategies. If more ground troops death continues, which is likely, their presence will be “shrunk”, ie., moved backwards in favor of missiles and bombs from the air, after all the Israeli army has plenty of those thanks to their American military suppliers paid through the US tax-payer.

Marwan Asmar is a journalist based in Amman Jordan

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