Sunday, October 8, 2023

The Next Phase of the War Will be Under Ground

The world awaits a meaningful Israeli response to the surprise attack by Hamas, to its brutally vicious effectiveness, to the incomprehensibly horrific reality of more than 600 Israeli deaths. Toppling large and small buildings in the Gaza Strip with Israeli air power destroys offices and homes but does little to engage Hamas fighters, much less their leaders.

It does not take a military genius to know that under the surface Gaza is an interconnected series of tunnels where Hamas terrorists hide from missiles and bombs dropped from the sky. 

Any attempt to wipe out or severely cripple Hamas would require a massive ground assault and an even more dangerous underground mission to infiltrate and destroy the terrorists’ ant colony-like subterranean maze. 

It would be a painstakingly slow endeavor with a level of military casualties Israel rarely encounters. 

For history buffs, for movie buffs, the situation parallels what American ground forces in World War II encountered in Iwo Jima, as depicted in Clint Eastwood’s film “Letters from Iwo Jima,” miles upon miles of tunnels that shielded Japanese soldiers from naval and air bombardments.

What comes next must be said, because ignorance of the consequences is not acceptable: 

An even bigger decision involving an underground campaign concerns the fate of the unknown number of hostages, estimated to be at least 100, kidnapped by Hamas. No doubt they will be used as human shields. 

In any combat, casualties—deaths— are a factor in pursuit of a objective. If the goal is the eradication of Hamas, a steep price in more Israeli lives would be inevitable. Will the government and the Israeli people accept the possibility that no hostage would return alive? 

Bibi Netanyahu and his government’s fate is not tied to the decision. Security and intelligence failures that enabled the breach of the border by Hamas probably have doomed their continuation in office once the war campaign has concluded. 

It will take a long time to overcome the trauma of October 7. But a nation that was built with the remnants of the Holocaust, which rebounded from the early setbacks of the Yom Kippur War, that has time and again sustained itself from decades of terrorist attacks, will surely find the inner strength to move forward, never forgetting what happened and resolving to never let it happen again.