What to make of the fighting so far from a military standpoint?
According to the latest reports, it doesn’t seem that Israeli forces are taking heavy casualties. Just 7 according to CNN. So does this mean that Hamas is taking a beating, even “losing?” After all, the Islamic Resistance Movement faces several geographic and other challenges that Hezbollah didn’t. From an excellent article at The National:
there are five important differences between the two conflicts that the Hamas leadership does not seem to have grasped or appreciated.
1. Gaza, only 360 square kilometres in size, lacks the strategic depththat Hizbollah had in Lebanon. So Hamas guerrillas have much smaller and narrower areas of operations than Hizbollah guerrillas had in Lebanon, which gives Israel an advantage.
2. Hizbollah fighters are not members of government, civilian and military institutions such as the police and ministries, so Israeli jets had a limited list of targets. In Gaza they have a large number of easy targetsthat were hit in the first minutes of the attack, killing at least 200 Hamas members in public buildings.
3. Israel besieged Lebanon from air and sea but could never seal off land routes in and out of the country, so Hizbollah had a good supply of arms and supplies. Gaza was completely sealed off fromall sides with the exception of a few tunnels that were mostly destroyed in the first two days of the attack. Now Israeli tanks have cut off Gaza City and the northern part of the Strip from its southern part and completely sealed off all entry points, so Hamas has no access to military supplies.
4. Hamas is much less able than Hizbollah to threaten the Israeli rear. While Hizbollah missile strikes hit dozens of Israeli settlements, towns and cities all over northern and central Israel and can now reach southern Israel, Hamas’s missiles can reach only up to 45km and are mostly ineffective. Missiles fired from Gaza in 2008 killed ten Israelis, while Hizbollah missile attacks on Israel in the 33-day war killed more than 100 and inflicted serious damage to property. So Hamas missile strikes will not be enough to force Israel into new ceasefire talks. Moreover, Hamas’s anti-armour capabilities seem to be ineffective against Israeli tanks and armoured personnel carriers.
5. Hizbollah had much better information, intelligence and counter-intelligence than Hamas. This has been made clear by Israel’s ability to hit many sensitive targets and to dominate the battlespace from the air. Hamas has failed to spring any surprises on the battlefield in the way that Hizbollah did in 2006, confusing the Israeli military command.
Or is HAMAS merely waiting to set up a strategic ambush or “spring the street warfare trap?” If I was the Hamas military leader, recognizing that the IDF has insurmountable advantages in face-to-face normal fighting, I would tell the foot-soldiers to sit back, put up minimum resistance, and wait until IDF extends itself all over Gaza. And then go all out in a Stalingrad-type last stand with a blaze of martyrdom.
If Hamas is going to go down, then their strategy might be to try and bring down as many Israeli soldiers as possible. There isn’t any question that Hamas would have the full weight of Arab public opinion behind it in such a battle. And if Israeli public opinion, suddenly faced with lots of their boys dying combined with a newly inaugurated Barrack Obama under enormous pressure to get involved…. momentum might start swinging Hamas’ way.
Anyway, if Hamas supposedly has 15-20 K fighters and the IDF claims to have killed just 150 than these guys are somewhere. Probably waiting.