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ANALYSIS: Will there be a ground operation in Gaza?

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Picture: Jack Guez / AFP / Taken October 11, 2023 – An Israeli army M109 155mm self-propelled howitzer fires rounds near the border with Gaza in southern Israel on October 11, 2023. Israel declared war on Hamas on October 8 following a shock land, air, and sea assault by the Gaza-based militant group. Despite earlier threats of a massive land invasion, Israel has delayed so far, the writers say.

By Palestine Chronicle Editors

The official Israeli political discourse on the Gaza land invasion in the last 17 days of war has progressively shifted.

Since October 7, political statements made by top-brass in the Israeli government and military did not deviate from the line that: only a massive land military operation in Gaza will destroy the Hamas movement and its military wing, Al-Qassam Brigades.

This line is, in fact, still repeated. Israeli media, cited in Aljazeera Arabic channel on Monday, reported that the Israeli army has told the government that there is no escaping the fact that a ground invasion is required to defeat Hamas.

That said, the consistency in the initial message is no longer there.

Why the Delay?

Yes, the Israeli army continues to amass near the fence of besieged Gaza and has repeatedly signalled its ‘complete readiness’ to go in. This signal has been communicated to those in government repeatedly, and almost daily.

The initial delay was explained by the army by the supposed ‘bad weather conditions’, although the weather in Gaza seemed fine then and is, in fact, still fine now.

Not Bad Weather, US Pressure: Reasons behind Delay in Ground Invasion, according to Al-Qassam

Later, we were told by US media that, indeed, the delay was caused by pressure from Washington. Israeli army radio confirmed the ‘pressure’ theory on Monday, October 23, going as far as reporting that Israel has indeed accepted the American request to postpone the operation.

For its part, a Hamas source, reported in Arabic media, along with The Palestine Chronicle, said that the real reason behind the delay is in fact directly related to Israel’s failure to find a solution to the anti-armour missiles used by the Resistance.

Invasion or No Invasion?

Regardless of the reason behind such postponement, there is no denial that the official Israeli language on the much-touted land invasion has begun to shift.

At times, Israelis seem to discuss a limited manoeuvre as opposed to a complete re-occupation of Gaza.

But recent comments by Israeli army spokesperson Lieutenant Colonel Jonathan Conricus are particularly interesting.

In an interview with the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) on Monday, Conricus initially dodged a question as to why Israel appears to be delaying its ground operation.

Instead, he simply vowed that the Israeli military would “dismantle Hamas totally” and “bring our people home”.

Then, he said this:

“If Hamas were to come out of their hiding places that they hide underneath the civilians … and return our hostages, all 212 of them, and surrender unconditionally, then the war would end.”

Aside from Conricus’ deflection of Israel’s responsibility for the murder of thousands of Palestinian civilians, the Israeli military official seemed to suggest that Israel is willing to consider alternatives to the ground military operation – although, in this case, it is far-fetched.

Conricus Vs Gallant

It could be argued that Conricus’ statement is, essentially, consistent with that of Israeli Defence Minister Yoav Gallant’s remarks a day earlier that “this needs to be the last (ground) manoeuvre in Gaza, for the simple reason that afterwards there will be no Hamas”.

On the other hand, it is worth noting that the mere suggestion that a ground invasion is no longer inevitable is a new addition to the Israeli political discourse on the war.

If combined with recent statements by Gallant himself, also on Sunday, that the ground operation in Gaza may take up to three months, Conricus’ remarks in the ABC interview become even more pertinent.

Regardless of whether Israel carries a major, a limited or no ground invasion at all, it is almost certain that the delay is related to the Gaza Resistance on the ground, and not to any other reason.

This article was first published in The Palestine Chronicle