Israel poised for 'second phase' of war – but sympathy is waning | Sean Bell

By Isaac M November 18, 2023

Israel’s response to Hamas’s brutal attacks last month was immediate.

However, it appears that Israel‘s military offensive was primarily motivated by anger and a political imperative to “do something, and get on with it”, rather than evolving clear military objectives, and how to enable post-conflict peace.

Historically, Israel’s response to Hamas aggression is tolerated by its international partners; indeed, it received strong messages of support from the US, UK and numerous Western allies for its robust military response after the 7 October attacks.

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IDF footage reviewed by analyst Sean Bell

However, on this occasion Israel knows that time is not on its side; as casualties mount international support and sympathy for Israel’s cause starts to ebb away, until eventually diplomatic pressure upon Israel will force its hand.

But, as casualties mount, what are Israel’s military objectives, are they achievable, and by when?

Israel’s stated aims were to seize Gaza City, destroy Hamas, and free the hostages. These goals are yet to be achieved.

Earlier this week, Israeli forces took over the Gaza parliamentary building. Highly symbolic pictures served to demonstrate that the Israel Defence Forces (IDF) was “in control” – but of what?

Above ground the IDF might dominate, but it appears highly unlikely that they are in control of the “Gaza metro” – the labyrinth of tunnels under the city controlled by Hamas.

Israel’s second phase of ground operation

Israel has now declared that the second phase of its ground offensive is about to start – and has warned residents to leave southern Gaza.

Relocating beleaguered Palestinians from southern to northern Gaza might isolate the Hamas fighters in the south to enable phase two of the battle to commence; however, is this remotely feasible?

And, such a strategy will inevitably compound – perhaps exponentially – the humanitarian crisis. Support for Israel is ebbing away.

Read more:
IDF warns Palestinians to flee parts of southern Gaza
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Palestinians queue as they wait to buy bread from a bakery, amid shortages of food supplies and fuel  in Khan Younis in the southern Gaza Strip
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Palestinians in Khan Younis, southern Gaza, queue for bread as food shortages take hold

Soldiers of Israel's Paratroopers Brigade take part in an operation at a location given as Gaza, in this screen grab obtained from a handout video released on November 16, 2023. Israel Defense Forces/Handout via REUTERS THIS IMAGE HAS BEEN SUPPLIED BY A THIRD PARTY
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Israel’s stated aims were to seize Gaza City, destroy Hamas, and free hostages

With the Hamas-controlled Gaza Health Authority now reporting a death toll of more than 11,000 Palestinians, and the humanitarian situation in Gaza out of control, how much longer will the West tolerate Israel’s aggression?

Already, the international diplomatic language has become far more measured, qualified and reserved.

The clock is ticking and time is running out for Israel’s military offensive. But even when it ends, what will have been achieved?

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Hamas will not have been destroyed – indeed, many would argue that the IDF offensive has been a great recruiting tool for Hamas.

Tens of thousands of lives will have been lost and the full repercussions of the humanitarian disaster have yet to unfold.

And, to date, the IDF military strategy has not solved the hostage crisis.

An Israeli flag stands on the top of a destroyed building in northern Gaza
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More than 11,000 Palestinians have been killed in the conflict, says Gaza’s Hamas-run health ministry

No military solution to unique situation

Israel might well have thought they had little choice but to mount an aggressive military response to the Hamas attack, but to what end?

All parties know there is no military solution to this unique situation, yet violence has become the default setting for each side’s political masters.

Growing international pressure will – inevitably – lead to a cessation of hostilities. However, for how long?

How will Gaza be rebuilt and a new model for co-existence be forged?

Will any lessons have been learned or is the vicious cycle of violence destined to be repeated at the hands of senior statesmen who, despite their age and experience, appear to ignore their moral obligation to work tirelessly to secure a long-term peaceful solution.

Surely the civilian population – on both sides – deserve better?

“Those that fail to learn from history are doomed to repeat it” – Winston Churchill

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