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Israel's cruel dilemma as it embarks on ground operation in Gaza

With two former generals, leaders of the opposition, now inside the cabinet, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu may soon launch a ground offensive.
An Israeli Merkava battle tank moves in a convoy along the border with the Gaza Strip in southern Israel, October 13, 2023.

TEL AVIV — Israel faces a cruel dilemma as it mulls its next steps in the war forced upon it by the Oct. 7 Hamas onslaught against it. 

The order issued by the Israeli military command late Thursday to an estimated 1.1 million Palestinian residents of northern Gaza to leave their homes and relocate to the south of the enclave, suggests that a decision has been made to move ground troops into the enclave. Such an incursion is fraught with danger given that Hamas may have booby trapped areas where they think Israel will invade and that an incursion risks the lives of hostages — mainly civilians, including children, the elderly and the sick — who were seized in Israel and taken to Gaza by Hamas.

The incessant Israeli bombing of homes suspected to be those of Hamas leaders in Gaza, as well as the organization’s weapons caches and other facilities, could also bear tragic consequences.

“Imagine that at every site where Israel bombs, and we are talking about hundreds of sites, there might be Israeli civilians,” a senior Israeli military source told Al-Monitor, speaking on the condition of anonymity. He noted that the 2006 abduction of the Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit and his five-years in captivity by Hamas in Gaza had made it hard to launch military action in the area where Shalit was thought to have been held. 

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