Israel Defense Forces restarted airstrikes in Gaza on Friday morning following the conclusion of the weeklong truce that paused their military operation for the first time since the outset of the war following the Oct. 7 terrorist attacks.
During Israel’s initial ground invasion of Gaza, Israeli forces effectively bisected the enclave with a majority of their operations coming in the north. Israel also urged more than 1 million Palestinians in northern Gaza to move south prior to its invasion, but they are now potentially in the new battlefield as Israel looks to continue its operations against Hamas, which intentionally embeds itself within civilian communities.
The IDF dropped leaflets in the southern Gaza city of Khan Younis on Friday, telling residents to “evacuate immediately,” adding, “To the residents of Al Qarara, Khirbet Khaza’a, Abadan and Bani Suheila. You have to evacuate immediately and head to the shelter in [the] Rafah area. Khan Younis city is a fighting zone.”
“It’s incredibly difficult when you have such a dense urban environment and you have a terrorist adversary that has systematically developed a campaign of using their own citizens as human shields, so that makes it much more difficult,” Bradley Bowman, a defense expert with the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, told the Washington Examiner. “And when you have a lot of displaced people into small areas, and with Hamas cynically hiding behind them, it creates real difficulties for the IDF.”
An overwhelming majority of Gaza’s 2.2 million people are in the south, which will complicate Israel’s ability to carry out its stated goals of eliminating Hamas’s military capabilities and removing them from power in the Gaza Strip. The result will likely mean that Israeli forces are put in harm’s way carrying out operations.
“You do it with precise operations. In some cases, you’re going to have to put your soldiers at greater risk to achieve that,” former CIA Director David Petraeus said on Friday during a Washington Post event. “I think we’ll see as this does continue, that there will be [an] increase in use of precision munitions, the way the operations are carried out and so forth. But it will mean that there may be greater risk to the Israeli soldiers than otherwise would be the case.”
U.S. officials have urged Israel to carry out future operations with more precision to prevent civilian casualties. Gazan officials have said more than 10,000 people have been killed since Israel started its military operations, though those officials, whom Hamas has influence over, do not differentiate between civilian and combatant. Thousands of children are believed to be among the casualties.
“At the end of the day, there really aren’t that many ways to skin the cat when it comes to achieving the objective inside of Gaza, which is the demilitarization of Hamas. You either have to carpet-bomb the place and you have no regard for anything and kill everybody there to destroy all the weapons and infrastructure, which is simply not feasible from a legal perspective,” Alex Plitsas, a fellow with the Atlantic Council, told the Washington Examiner. While the alternative “will then increase the risk to ground forces because they don’t have that type of cover. And that’s the reality of war not permanently displacing the Palestinians, which I don’t think they have a choice over.”