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Israel prepares for long Gaza battle, but diplomatic clock ticks

The IDF is advancing more rapidly than expected in Gaza City, but international pressure for humanitarian pauses and possible cease-fire continue to increase.
A convoy of Israeli military vehicles drives down a road at an undisclosed location on the border with the Gaza Strip on October 15, 2023.

TEL AVIV — For Israel's ground offensive in Gaza, the army has opted for a slow-moving operation, advancing prudently in densely populated areas. Israel Defense Forces officers are finding that troops are advancing faster than predicted, but they remain aware that eliminating Hamas will take weeks, if not months — time that the Israeli leadership does not necessarily have.

Rather than a massive, rapid run over wide-open spaces to beat back the combined attack by the Soviet-backed Egyptian and Syrian armies as in the October 1973 war, in the October 2023 war against Hamas, the Israeli army is advancing in short distances through urban environments, where attackers lie in wait. 

To pave the way for ground forces and to minimize troop casualties in Gaza, the Israeli Air Force bombs and strafes areas in advance, helping the armored and engineering units locate and dismantle infrastructure inch by inch, exposing the extent to which Hamas uses homes, schools and mosques as cover for weapons caches and rocket attacks.

Following the war’s grim onset — after the IDF’s colossal failure to detect the Oct. 7 Hamas onslaught and defend the border communities against the marauding Gazans — the military appears to have bounced back. Its achievements in Gaza are described as impressive militarily, and its pace is reportedly running ahead of schedule. Israel's top brass is particularly satisfied with the unprecedented coordination among the ground, air and naval forces. 

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