Israel must avoid collateral damage during Gaza land offensive - Hindustan Times

Israel must avoid collateral damage during Gaza land offensive

Oct 16, 2023 09:18 AM IST

Hamas supporters tying the Oct 7 pogrom to the Palestinian cause risks perpetuating global violence due to the Islamic world's failure to denounce terrorism.

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas' statement that the actions and policies of the terrorist group Hamas do not represent the Palestinian people and the subsequent removal of reference to the Sunni jihadist group in the published version shows the clout of extremists within the PLO and in the highly radicalized Middle-East.

A Hamas terrorists with toddlers as hostages in Gaza.
A Hamas terrorists with toddlers as hostages in Gaza.

While the D-hour is fast approaching for Israeli forces to land a land attack in Gaza, the inability of states like Iran, Qatar and Turkey to separate terror from political Islam will ensure that the cycle of violence and terror continues in the region with economic development now taking a back seat. The support for Hamas and Hezbollah under the pan-Islamic umbrella of the Muslim Brotherhood comes even after it is now evident that Hamas terrorists raped, tortured and even mutilated the bodies of non-Muslims in October 7 attack with infants, toddlers and teenagers gunned down. The legitimizing of Hamas terror in the name of the Palestinian cause by these countries particularly Iran will ensure that the Middle East will be on the boil for years to come with a never-ending retribution cycle of violence.

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With Israel deciding to wipe out Hamas terrorists in Gaza and their leadership currently parked safely in Lebanon and Qatar, the land offensive will be more like a house-to-house search for Sunni jihadists in north Gaza first based on actionable intelligence. This involved usage of tanks, shoulder fired missiles and armoured personnel vehicles as the holed-up Hamas terrorist will counter-attack as he has nowhere to escape. This means that the land offensive will take time even as Israel will have to monitor its northern borders with Iran-backed Hezbollah sharpening its knives.

While India has been informed at the institutionalized level about the impending land offensive, the positioning of the second carrier strike force of the US Navy will determine the location of threat to the Israeli offensive against Hamas. Although the Biden administration has sent USS Dwight Eisenhower aircraft carrier along with destroyers to the war theatre, there is a strong possibility that the nuclear-powered mega ship may be deployed in the Straits of Hormuz or on the mouth of the Persian Gulf to ensure that Shia Iran does not open a third front against Israel. This stands to reason as the world's biggest aircraft carrier, USS Gerald Ford, is already deployed in the eastern Mediterranean and is protecting Israel from any counter coming from Arab countries in North Africa or Syria or Turkey.

With Israel stating that it has no intentions of occupying Gaza and US President Joe Biden committed to Palestinian state, the war theatre should be confined to Gaza and will not spill over unless Iran decides to intervene on behalf of Hamas terrorists. Despite Saudi Arabia, UAE and Egypt’s public support for Palestinian cause and criticism of Israel for use of excess force against Gaza, these three pillars of the Middle East have no love lost for Muslim Brotherhood and their proxies. But the political game can change if Israeli forces inflict unacceptable collateral damage and behave like Hamas terrorists in their retribution for October 7.

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    Author of Indian Mujahideen: The Enemy Within (2011, Hachette) and Himalayan Face-off: Chinese Assertion and Indian Riposte (2014, Hachette). Awarded K Subrahmanyam Prize for Strategic Studies in 2015 by Manohar Parrikar Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses (MP-IDSA) and the 2011 Ben Gurion Prize by Israel.

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