“Reconnaissance by fire” – What Israel’s Gaza raid tells us

The overnight raid into the Gaza Strip by Israeli tanks, infantry, and armored engineering units was not the first since the 7 October Hamas attack on southern Israel, but it was certainly the largest.

It had several stated purposes.

“Through the raid, we eliminated terrorists, we neutralized threats, dismantled explosives, neutralized ambushes,” said Israeli military spokesman Daniel Hagari.

This has been described as “a tactical operation,” meaning it was limited in scope, lasting only a few hours, with all Israeli forces returning unharmed back into Israel, according to their spokesman.

The Israeli government has repeatedly said it intends to launch a full-scale military incursion into Gaza to permanently destroy Hamas’s military capability. Many analysts have questioned whether this is achievable, given Hamas’s historic ability to replace both its lost commanders and weaponry.

The overnight raid will have provided Israeli planners with some intelligence, but the longer Israel waits to launch its incursion, the more time Hamas has to prepare for it, including rebuilding some of the very defenses Israel says it destroyed overnight.

How delay to Israel offensive benefits US Bowen: Israelis and Palestinians fear worst is yet to come In what, in military jargon, is known as a “shaping operation,” the footage released by the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) shows an armored column breaking through the border wall and advancing across open sandy ground on the northern outskirts of Gaza.

The grainy black and white footage, taken from thermal imaging cameras mounted on both aerial drones and vehicles, then shows tank fire engaging unidentified targets in the middle distance. There is no footage showing any tanks maneuvering in the closely packed residential areas of Gaza City.

The tanks involved are Merkava Mark IV’s – said to be among the most advanced in the world – although this did not prevent Hamas fighters from disabling and capturing one of them on 7 October.

“Uniquely,” says the former British Army tank commander Hamish de Bretton-Gordon, “the Israeli Merkava tanks can carry four Special Forces soldiers in the back, so this raid was to take out key locations, anti-tank positions and is what we call ‘reconnaissance by fire’.”

He adds that because of Israel’s superior night equipment, he would expect them to operate more effectively than Hamas in the dark.

Another vehicle that features in the footage released by the IDF is the D9 armored bulldozer.

Ironically, it was an ordinary civilian bulldozer that was shown in Hamas footage breaking down the Gaza border wall ahead of their raid into southern Israel on 7 October.

But the vehicles used by the IDF have a specialized military purpose: to clear away obstacles, rubble, and booby traps ahead of advancing troops. Operated by the IDF’s Combat Engineering Corps, they have the Hebrew nickname “Doobi,” meaning “teddy bear,” and have been used in previous urban operations.

The engine, hydraulics, and cabin all have armored protection, and the bulldozers can be fitted with machine guns, grenade launchers, and what is known as an “Active Protection System” to fend off explosive drones.

If and when a full-scale Israeli incursion into Gaza begins, then these armored bulldozers will likely play a key role. But they are not indestructible, and one of the many threats the Israeli troops are expected to face will come from lethal off-route mines called Explosive Formed Projectiles (EFP), which can fire a bolt of molten metal at supersonic speed into the side of a tank or other armored vehicle.

Israel’s Merkava tanks will likewise be vulnerable to mines buried in the road, and their turrets vulnerable to rocket-propelled grenade fire from rooftops.

Much of the fighting, if it occurs, will be below ground in the many hundreds of kilometers of subterranean tunnels Hamas has built beneath the Gaza Strip.

Casualties here are expected to be high, and there is the added complication that this is where Hamas is believed to be holding most, if not all, of its more than 200 hostages.

Afonso Alcântara

CEO of Walerts is an expert in Digital Marketing and Artificial Intelligence. CEO of Wproo, an international Web Software Development company.

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