When Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman tells the Al-Quds newspaper that the next conflict with Hamas will be the last, he is talking about destroying the government in Gaza. Such a statement should be backed by a military plan, otherwise it is worthless. In order to get rid of Hamas, the army must present plans for conquering Gaza City – the beating heart of the strip and of Hamas – and remaining there until the regime change, and Mosul is a practical model to learn from.
While the IDF did “reoccupy” Palestinian cities in the West Bank in 2002 as part of Operation Defensive Shield, and has gained experience in fighting semi-military and jihadist organizations, it has not dealt with the occupation of a city as large as Gaza City. The city has of thousands of gunmen driven by a jihadist ideology and defense systems which were prepared for years in accordance with the combat perceptions of the “moqawama” (the resistance movement) used by ISIS on Mosul.
The idea of the “moqawama,” which talks about a total sacrifice in the battle against the heretics and those who cooperate with them, developed in Khomeinistic Iran and captured not only the radical Shiites but also extreme Sunni movements such as ISIS and Hamas.
Israel’s ground warfare in Gaza in the past decade focused on the margins of the urban area. It is clear to the IDF that the strategic traps and killing zones prepared by Hamas are not necessarily the offensive tunnels but the big cities, and mainly the underground cities established beneath them. In all the major conflicts, Hamas expected the IDF to enter the big cities, but defense ministers like Ehud Barak and Moshe Ya’alon, and the chiefs of staff under them, did not let that happen despite political pressure.
Mosul has been in a blackout for a month now. A black cloud of smoke and soot has been covering the city since ISIS set fire to oil wells in order to disrupt the UAVs’ activity. The Tigris river and its tributaries, which cross Mosul, have been flooded with fuel which will be ignited as soon as the Iraqi army enters the city. There are fuel reserves in Gaza as well, and Hamas will set fire to them in the last battle in order to disrupt the Israel Air Force’s activity.
In the suburbs of Mosul, the fighting forces have already encountered different types of tunnels – from booby-trapped tunnels, abduction tunnels and offensive tunnels to tunnels for intelligence purposes – alongside suicide bombers, car bombs, roadside charges, mines, remote-control bombs and snipers firing from mosques.
There are about one million people in Mosul right now, including 5,000-6,000 ISIS fighters. In Gaza, which has 700,000 residents, there are more than 10,000 gunmen today. Hamas’ defense perception in Gaza is quite similar to the ISIS defense perception in Mosul. In both cases, the goal is to claim unreasonable prices from the attacking side. In both cases, their weak spots are dealing with the accurate guided weapons and the airstrikes.
The Americans are operating special forces in the Mosul area to secretly tackle the weak points of ISIS and provide the Iraqi army and the Kurdish forces with aerial covering fire and fire accurate rockets from the ground. At the same time, they are using extremely advanced means to deal with obstacles through teleprocessing, robotics and electronic and psychological warfare. If the IDF is indeed preparing to occupy Gaza, it must be updated on the effectiveness of these means.
The Americans have been preparing the Iraqis for this battle for nearly two years, and they have time. Granted, they would rather see the occupation of Mosul completed before the US presidential elections, but that won’t happen. The cannon fodder in the fighting is the Kurdish Peshmerga forces and the Iraqi army units, and that’s what makes the whole difference between Gaza and Mosul. Israel doesn’t have Kurds and Iraqis to send to Gaza. The cannon fodder is ours.