Amid the latest escalation of the Palestine-Israel conflict, the IDF has intensified both its heavy air bombardment of Gaza, and its ground assault on the enclave, including carrying out strikes on civilian infrastructure in densely populated areas that the Israeli military claims is being used by Hamas militants.
If the Israeli military hope to defeat Hamas in Gaza, they need to get all the way down to the underground tunnels, veteran former US Marine Corps intelligence officer, and UN weapons inspector, Scott Ritter tells Sputnik.
But Israel doesn't want to do that, because they want war on the cheap, the geopolitical observer emphasized.
They're fighting above ground. They're doing limited tunnel operations. But they're not succeeding in defeating Hamas. To defeat Hamas, you've got to go all the way underground, and you've got to shut down the entire tunnel network.
Scott Ritter reiterated that all Israel was doing at present was destroying the existing infrastructure" amid the soaring civilian death toll, adding:
The idea still resides that eventually the tunnels would be rebuilt, Hamas will be regrown and Israel will never defeat this idea of resistance.
The Hamas tunnels are three-tiered, pundits have told Sputnik, clarifying that the first level incorporates communication passages that allow for movement of units, transfer of weapons and ammunition. The second level accommodates workshops and factories for making missiles, and the third tier, at a depth of around 40-60 meters underground, conceals headquarters, which are protected by a concrete-reinforced cover.
"Simply trying to navigate the rubble-strewn streets of Gaza will be a nearly impossible task for the Israeli troops. The going will be slow, and the Israeli infantry will have to operate dismounted, exposing themselves to sniper fire and ambushes. Israeli vehicles will find themselves hemmed in without the ability to maneuver, making themselves vulnerable to mines, improvised explosive devices, and anti-tank weaponry. Close air support under these circumstances will be very difficult, effectively neutralizing Israels greatest advantage," Scott Ritter, military analyst and former US Marine Corps intelligence officer, pointed out.
Israel has conducted a series of ground incursions into Gaza over the past week, each building on the last and increasing in scope and scale. This appears to be part of an Israeli strategy to gradually build up to an operation that, when completed, will fall just short of a general assault on Gaza, according to the analyst.
After the surprise Hamas attack on Israel on 7 October, the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) have been pummeling the Gaza Strip with strikes that have gradually gained in strength. The assaults have been wreaking vast destruction upon the enclave, with the civilian death toll soaring. At least 9,488 Palestinians have died in Israels strikes on the enclave so far, according to Gaza health authorities. Hamas' military wing, the al-Qassam Brigades, said on Wednesday that seven hostages, including three foreigners, were killed as a result of Israel's strike on the Jabalia refugee camp on 31 October. The IDF said on Tuesday that it had hit the Jabalia camp in the Gaza Strip, adding that adding that the death of civilians is a consequence of a "tragedy of war". According to the exclaves Interior Ministry, at least 400 people in the refugee camp were killed and injured by the Israeli air attacks.
However, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has ruled out any ceasefire until Hamas releases all of its hostages, seized during that October breach of the border. Israel has also started a sequence of ground incursions into Gaza where Hamas relies on a vast network of tunnels concealed beneath the densely populated areas. We are conducting expanded ground operations in the Gaza Strip. Ground forces, tanks, infantry, and armored forces are maneuvering towards terrorists, said IDF spokesman Rear-Admiral Daniel Hagari on 30 October. On Sunday, the IDF also said that the Israeli army had gained access to Hamas underground tunnels in the north of the Gaza Strip.
Throughout the past weeks, scenes from the bombardment-ravaged Gaza Strip, where Israel had ordered a complete blockade, cutting off supplies of water, food, and fuel, have prompted thousands of protesters to take to the streets of various cities, including the US capital, Washington, DC, to protest against Israeli military activities in the enclave. However, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, as he met with Middle Eastern leaders in Jordan, again rejected calls for a ceasefire. Washington has been voicing its support for "humanitarian pauses". Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu attends the weekly cabinet meeting at the prime minister's office in Jerusalem, Israel, Sunday, July 30, 2023. - Sputnik International, 1920, 24.10.2023 Analysis
Scott Ritter: Israel Failing in Global PR Campaign to Demonize Hamas 24 October, 17:27 GMT
'Myth of Infallibility Shattered'
Looking back at the initial Hamas incursion in October, and the way the militant group was able to breach the so-called iron wall, with its smart technology', Scott Ritter explained that the myth of the infallibility of Israeli intelligence has been busted. Over the years, the Israeli Defense Force has been propped up by American technology, said the pundit. One of our main goals and objectives in supporting Israel is to ensure that Israel sustains technological supremacy over any potential enemy. That's why we give them the most advanced American weapons, etc
But the IDF itself - outside of, for instance, the pilots, some senior officers and senior NCOs - the vast majority of the defense force is a conscript military, clarified Ritter. He went on to explain that this meant that the battalions operating at present in Gaza are composed of 18, 19, 20-year-old kids with no meaningful experience whatsoever.
They're also kids of a nation that is averse to casualties. They don't want their boys and girls coming home in body bags, said Ritter. According to the Sputnik contributor, the IDF does a lot of posturing, using stand-off strikes and hiding behind their technology.
However, the IDF, when you tangle with them... What you find out is they can't win. They didn't beat Hezbollah in 2006. They didn't beat Hamas in 2014. They're not beating Hamas now because you can't win a major conflict with a conscript-based military when you're not willing to let these people die
But, you know, if you're going to kill 50,000 Hamas fighters, understand you need to be prepared to lose 20,000 Israelis, said Ritter.
In his opinion, the IDF is no longer seen as invincible, but rather incompetent and even weak.
And this is bad for Israel because it's a small country. And one of the best tools it had to hold off the forces that are arrayed against it is the mythology of the invincibility of the IDF, and the infallibility of Israeli intelligence. Both those myths have been shattered, the ex-UN weapons inspector and WMD whistleblower insisted.
Taking stock of Israels actions immediately after the initial Hamas attack, when the militant group felt victorious after its breach of the seemingly impregnable border, Ritter suggested that Tel Aviv should have flipped the script, and come out the stronger for it. But it did not. Once you secure the border, I would have taken full advantage of the global outrage, he added.
While everyone was going, Whoa, what happened? Israel should have taken a pause, and then gone to the United Nations, and said We were attacked
Under Article 51, we are coming to you, and we are begging you, what are you going to do about this?.. How do we get rid of Hamas, this organization that attacked us?' said the expert. At that point, the Israeli leadership could have embarked upon a political battle, said Ritter, whereas instead it went forward with the military arm.
They just strengthened Hamas politically. Hamas was never weaker at any time than they were on 8 October. If Israel could have flipped this script instantly, and instead of having the streets full of pro-Palestinian supporters, you would have had the streets full of pro-Israel supporters, people saying 'Hamas must go' ... That's what Israel should have done. And they could have won that war... But they didn't. Instead, Israel did what they're programed to do: commit massive war crimes against the Palestinian people they have no regard for. And now the world has turned against Israel, Ritter sai