What are Israel and Hamas working on in the face of a brutal war in Gaza?
A ground operation in Gaza has been considered a costly scenario with low rewards for Israel. It is expected to lead to escalation and prolongation of the conflict, making it even more destructive for both sides and resulting in significant civilian casualties.
"There is no suitable ground option in Gaza. Period. And that's it," said Rafael Cohen, the head of the American analytical center RAND Project Air Force. "It's going to be very, very dirty and bloody."
While Israel boasts one of the world's most technologically advanced armed forces, it has spent decades developing its defensive capabilities and has access to top-of-the-line American weapons systems. The United States also provides military aid to Israel, amounting to around $3.8 billion annually.
On the other hand, Hamas militants are well-armed and have received weapons and technological assistance from Iran, but, as Marcus Hellier, the head of the Strategic Analysis Research Department of Australia, stated, these weapons are relatively basic.
However, despite Israel's advanced technology, urban warfare can completely change the dynamics. Dr. Hellier noted, "Urban warfare is a great equalizer. Hamas forces Israel to fight the way Hamas wants."
We have already seen how Hamas employs an asymmetric, unconventional approach, flying over fences equipped with modern sensors using paragliders and breaking through border fences with bulldozers.
Analysts expect that local factors in the Gaza Strip will play a significant role, emphasizing rapid improvisation and adaptation, ultimately leading to "messy" fights between Hamas fighters and Israeli defense forces.
Israel claims that its war with Hamas has entered a "second stage." While Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu did not use the term "invasion," he stated that the ground operation in this territory is the "second stage" of a "long and difficult" war with Hamas.
Regarding the number of ground troops entering the Gaza Strip, it has not been disclosed, but Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) spokesman Rear Admiral Daniel Hargi stated on Sunday that they are "gradually expanding ground activity and the scale of our forces in the Gaza Strip."
In preparation for the ground operation, the Israeli military has called up approximately 360,000 reservists in addition to around 170,000 active defense forces.
For comparison, when Russian President Vladimir Putin invaded Ukraine, he concentrated about 100,000 soldiers along the border.
Hamas is estimated to have about 30,000 fighters who often travel in trucks and motorcycles equipped with machine guns and small arms. In contrast, Israel has armored personnel carriers and about 1,700 combat-ready tanks to support any street battles.
However, in densely populated environments like the Gaza Strip, where threats are harder to detect, size does not always matter.
Close combat conditions can often favor guerrilla groups. Dr. Hellier believes that Hamas aimed to push the IDF into ground battles.
"One of the peculiarities of urban conflict is that defenders can continue to operate in unfinished ruins," he told ABC. "If you look at any urban conflict, defenders can hold out for a very, very long time and continually inflict casualties."