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Israel’s ground offensive in Gaza may not be a ‘full invasion,’ says ex-U.S. ambassador

An Israeli tank at an undisclosed location on the border with the Gaza Strip on Oct. 15, 2023

Israel’s ground offensive into the Gaza Strip may not be a full scale invasion, but will likely unfold in phases, according to a former U.S. ambassador to Israel. Israel has been preparing for a ground operation into the Gaza Strip after amassing troops at the border last week. The Israel Defense Forces, or IDF, said Saturday it was “preparing to implement a wide range of offensive operative plans” which will include “an integrated and coordinated attack from the air, sea and land” against Palestinian militants Hamas in Gaza. “It could also happen in stages with additional incursions by small groups of Israeli soldiers rather than a full invasion,” Daniel Kurtzer, U.S. ambassador to Israel from 2001 to 2005, told CNBC on Monday.

Kurtzer, who is now the S. Daniel Abraham Professor of Middle East Policy Studies at Princeton University, said there are operational reasons for Israel not to go in right away.

A “major concern” that Israel would face ambushes and fighters emerging from tunnels in Gaza during the ground assault, said Kurtzer.

Despite Israel’s constant air attacks on Gaza, Hamas has continued to fire rockets at Israeli cities — thanks to a labyrinth of elaborate tunnels and bunkers underneath the Gaza Strip.

The rockets are reportedly hidden in underground passageways so they can be moved within the tunnel network, frustrating Israel’s air force.

According to the Israeli Defense Forces, the sophisticated underground system holds electrical generators, intelligence rooms and supplies for Hamas’ underground army.

“These are very challenging issues in an urban environment,” Kurtzer said, adding there is no fixed timetable and the ground attack can happen any moment.

“There’s also a psychological aspect [of] keeping Hamas on their toes and ensuring that Israel will have some operational surprise,” the former ambassador added. On Friday, the IDF ordered the 1.1 million residents in northern Gaza to evacuate to the south for their own safety.

Risks of an expansion

As Israel continues its aerial bombardment campaign of Gaza, some are warning the conflict could conflagrate. Iran’s president Ebrahim Raisi on Sunday warned that the Israel-Hamas conflict could expand if Israel’s siege of Gaza does not cease.

In a call with French counterpart Emmanuel Macron, Raisi said “the situation will be exacerbated and the war will further spread,” if Israel does not stop its attacks, official IRNA news agency reported.

In addition, Iran’s foreign minister on Monday noted that an expansion of the war between Israel and Hamas is becoming increasingly “inevitable.”

“The time for political solutions is running out and the possible expansion of the war on other fronts is approaching the inevitable stage,” Iran’s Foreign Minister Hossein Amirabdollahian said on social media platform X, formerly known as Twitter.

The death toll from the conflict so far has risen to at least 1,400 people killed in Israel, and nearly 2,700 people killed in Gaza.


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