Hezbollah, hostage situation prompt Israel to rethink ground war: Report

US thinks Israel lacks a 'plan that can work' with regard to ground incursion

miliraty-obilisation-(5) Israeli Defence Forces mobilised near the Gaza border ahead of the ground invasion | Bhanu Prakash Chandra

Despite the Israeli Defense Force (IDF) declaring its readiness to launch the ground offensive in the Gaza Strip to topple Hamas, there is reportedly "a growing call inside the country to rethink the scope of a ground invasion."

It is the threat of Hezbollah in Lebanon and the fate of the over 200 hostages that prompt the government to stall the ground war, reported Bloomberg. The report quoted people familiar with the discussions of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s war cabinet.

There are also reports that the Biden administration is concerned about Israel's lack of "achievable military objectives" in Gaza. 

Security veterans are reportedly urging caution, insisting that the state reconsider the nature of its operation as they believe "Israel should respond methodically rather than in a rage" to avenge the Hamas attack.

"No harm is done by waiting with a ground operation," Yaakov Amidror, a former national security adviser, told state television on Sunday. "Every day that passes benefits us and hurts Hamas, and the more time passes, the less the air force will be needed in Gaza, so it will be possible to move it up north." 

Besides, the over 200 hostages in the custody of Hamas and other militant groups are a matter of concern. Even the US is advising caution in conversations with the Israelis despite stressing in public Israel's right to defend itself. The US reportedly advised Israel to hold off on a ground assault in the Gaza Strip and is keeping Qatar - a broker with the Palestinian militants - apprised of those talks. 

A U.S. priority is to allow more time for negotiations for the release of hostages. However, President Joe Biden has made it clear that Hamas had to release the hostages before the ceasefire can be discussed. Hamas has so far released four hostages, two Americans and two Israeli elderly women.  

The risks of a ground invasion are also stopping Israel from rushing to it. Many believe a ground war could take a long time and it would be difficult to fight Hamas in urban warfare, with Gaza's network of underground tunnels. There could be a lot of military casualties for Israel.

The presence of Hezbollah in the northern borders is another factor. Itzhak Brik, a reserve major general and fellow in counter-terrorism at Reichman University north of Tel Aviv,  had earlier predicted that Israel is unprepared for the challenges ahead. Brik, in a video, argued that Hezbollah would rain 5,000 missiles per day on Israel and send 8,000 troops to occupy the north. 

Israel continues to be hit by Hezbollah targets on the Northern border while the IDF retaliated with air strikes on Hezbollah strongholds in southern Lebanon. 

US stance 

The Biden administration believes that Israel lacks "achievable military objectives in Gaza" and the IDF is not yet ready to launch a ground invasion "with a plan that can work," The New York Times quoted senior administration officials. 

In phone conversations with his Israeli counterpart, Yoav Gallant, Defense Secretary Lloyd J. Austin III has stressed the need for careful consideration of how Israeli forces might conduct a ground invasion of Gaza. 

Austin also briefed about the situation in an interview with a US channel, stating that the operation would not be easy. "The first thing that everyone should know, and I think everyone does know, is that urban combat is extremely difficult," Austin said while referring to the US operation to clear the Iraqi city of Mosul of Islamic State fighters in 2016 and 2017. 

The Biden administration is also concerned that the Israel Defense Forces do not yet have a clear military pathway to achieve Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s goal of eradicating Hamas. 

The US stance is similar to the one voiced by Senator Jack Reed, a Rhode Island Democrat who heads the Armed Services Committee. Reed on Sunday urged Israel on Monday to delay a ground invasion of Gaza to buy time for hostage negotiations, allow more humanitarian aid to reach Palestinian civilians and give Israeli commanders more opportunity to fine-tune their urban combat planning. 


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