The Israeli operation in Gaza promises to be long, there is an unknown “hostages”. Here are the many possibilities


By John

The entry of the Israeli military into the Gaza Strip it will probably not be decisive for the release of the hostages or for the elimination of Hamas. Especially since in a house-to-house war the army would lose the advantages due to technology. The objective could therefore be more ambitious: to gain Israeli control over the only portion of territory still completely under Palestinian control, evicting part of the population towards Egypt.

But it would be about a “biblical exodus” towards the South and the wound thus opened would then be difficult to manage. The analysis is by parachutist general Marco Bertolini, who in the past led the Joint Forces Top Operational Command and was the commander of the Joint Special Forces. The hostages are naturally of central importance in the conflict. «And they cannot be freed – the general specified – with a military operation given that they will presumably be detained in different locations, which prevents a blitz like that of the Entebbe airport (Uganda) on 3-4 July 1976. The people seized will be scattered throughout the territory, inside buildings, houses, in tunnels and as much as it is possible for the Israelis to obtain information on the places of detention it is unthinkable to know them all and any blitz would have to be carried out at the same time to be successful. There are therefore too many forces needed.” Even the elimination of Hamas seems an unrealistic target, according to Bertolini.

«The Strip – he recalled – is an extremely populated area and it is difficult to distinguish civilians from Hamas militants. It would take intensive bombing like the one we are witnessing, followed by a conventional operation with tanks and infantry but in this case it is difficult to distinguish the ‘bad guys’ while preserving the ‘good guys’. Civilian victims, as is happening, could cause severe stomach aches in Western and Arab public opinion. Israel must therefore be careful.” A more coherent objective, Bertolini continued, «could be to push part of the population southwards through the Rafah crossing to arrive at a situation that is easier to control, effectively removing the Strip from Palestinian “sovereignty”. It would be a biblical exodus (there are two million people in that area) which however finds a limit in Egypt’s willingness to receive an enormous quantity of refugees”.

An intermediate objective, he continued, «could be to occupy the northern part of the Strip which is not desert but a densely populated area already hit by bombing. In this case there could be a resurgence of hostilities with the fate of civilians at the center which can be exploited by Hamas and which would not be convenient for Israel.” And the systematic combing of an urban area like that of Gaza “is a slow and costly action from the point of view of the losses of those who attack”, underlined the general. “If Israel has superiority from the air, with the army and with technologies,” he added, “in a house-to-house, tunnel-to-tunnel battle, these advantages are lost.”

Whatever the Israeli plans, an “essential condition” they are the over 200 hostages in the hands of Hamas. “It could decide – it’s a hypothesis – to release those with Russian passports after recent contacts with Moscow which, busy with Ukraine, is reluctant to open another front. In any case they are an important weapon and it will try to sip their release to prevent decisive action on the Israeli side.” The consequences of October 7, in the official’s opinion, “will not be short-lived. Time is needed and it is necessary to keep in mind the advice of US President Joe Biden: not to repeat American mistakes after on September 11th with reactions like those that led to the current situation in Iraq and Syria. If on the Israeli side there is a need for a tough response after the blow suffered, without the path of negotiation and the two-state solution it will not not even the decapitation of the Hamas Hydra will be a victory: other similar groups will take its place and the Palestinian question will remain a flag to wave for the entire Arab world. And not only that.”