USA Today reports that “[t]he Israeli military announced a ground offensive in the Gaza Strip late Thursday after 10 days of fighting between Israel and Hamas militants.” The Israeli incursion is not likely to lead to expansion of the conflict. More likely, it will be a limited operation targeted on further crippling Hamas. When all is said and done, the militants’ grip on Gaza and the West Bank will be much more tenuous than when the fighting started.
Hamas committed the serious error of strategic overreach. After cutting a deal with Fatah, establishing a “unity” government, emboldened Hamas began a new round of intimidation culminating with the murder of three Israeli teenagers. That started a spiral of tip for tat violence.
This was a war where Hamas had no chance of coming out on top. That mattered little. Hamas saw the fight as an opportunity to highlight their narrative of resistance against the occupation.
But Hamas’s losses may wind up being much bigger than they thought. They have garnered little outside support from the Arab community. The post-Muslim Brotherhood government in Cairo has shown to be no friend at all. Rebuffing calls for a cease fire and ending a humanitarian “pause” in the fighting with a flight of rockets has somewhat muted criticism of Israel. Meanwhile, Hamas is running out of money and goodwill in its own communities.
Israel is going to put Hamas in an even worse place by gutting its military capabilities even further.
Likely as not, the military incursion will be limited going after tunnels along the eastern border and more than likely tunnels in the south, to and from Egypt. Then the Israeli forces will likely quickly pull back.
What will be left is a Hamas in far worse shape than when the fighting started. Indeed, its grip on Gaza could well be threatened.