In the wake of a massive terror attack launched by the Hamas group, Israeli ground forces have been placed on high alert, ready to enter the densely populated Gaza Strip, one of the world’s most crowded areas. The devastating attack resulted in the loss of over 1,200 Israeli lives, and Israel has responded with a counterattack that has reportedly led to the deaths of around 1,500 Hamas fighters and over 1,300 Gaza Strip residents.
Despite the readiness of Israeli ground forces, the final decision regarding a ground incursion into Gaza Strip is pending, subject to the direction of the country’s political leadership. Army spokesman Richard Hecht has conveyed this uncertainty to the public and the media.
Should the Israeli military proceed with a ground incursion, they will face the daunting challenge of urban warfare within the narrow streets and alleys of the densely populated Gaza Strip. The area holds a staggering population density of approximately 5,500 people per square kilometer, a sharp contrast to Israel’s 400 people per square kilometer.
Tactical challenges for Israeli ground forces in the Gaza Strip include navigating the tight urban landscape marked by narrow streets and buildings clustered closely due to limited available space. Debris from the destruction of bombed buildings will further hinder the movement of armoured personnel carriers (IFVs), infantry fighting vehicles (IFVs), and tanks.
One significant concern involves the presence of booby traps within the confined spaces, posing considerable risks to Israeli troops. Clearing Hamas-occupied buildings will necessitate a meticulous process of entering, verifying, neutralizing, and ultimately clearing structures one at a time. Sniper attacks could potentially emerge from any direction within Gaza Strip’s complex network of tall buildings, characterized by small, dark windows.
Lessons learned from conflicts in Syria and Ukraine have demonstrated that larger mechanized infantry forces can be vulnerable to small teams utilizing anti-tank guided missiles and rocket-propelled grenades (RPGs).
The use of helicopters for troop insertion adds another layer of complexity and risk. Hamas may possess man-portable air defense systems (MANPADS), and even unguided RPGs can pose a threat if troop-transport helicopters fly too low. Notably, the Battle of Mogadishu in 1993 witnessed the downing of two US helicopters during a low-altitude, high-speed flight over the densely populated city, an event widely known as “Black Hawk Down.”
Additionally, minimizing collateral damage and civilian casualties will be a paramount concern if Israeli ground forces are deployed for an all-out assault on Gaza Strip.
The situation has raised growing concerns for Gaza’s 2.4 million residents, who are now enduring their fifth war in 15 years in the long-blockaded territory. Israel’s actions have resulted in the interruption of essential supplies, including water, food, and power, further exacerbating the humanitarian crisis.
Israeli Energy Minister Israel Katz has asserted that the blockade of Gaza will continue until nearly 150 Israeli hostages are released, highlighting the multifaceted challenges surrounding the current crisis.