Aerial bombing absolutely can pave the way for an earlier invasion, but it does not eliminate risk or ground troops’s losses.

IDF soldiers inspect the remains of a police station in Sderot, which was the site of a battle following a mass infiltration by Hamas gunmen from the Gaza Strip, on October 8. (photo credit: RONEN ZVULUN/REUTERS)

There were strong arguments for Israel starting its counter-invasion of Gaza as early as a few days after Hamas’ October 7 invasion of the South as well as delaying it to around a week after that event, but those same reasons being cited now are quickly becoming obsolete.

Many IDF commanders would have liked to invade Gaza already in the early days of the war, but there were definitely top IDF commanders at the time who were with the government’s political echelon’s desire to delay.

A variety of reasons were cited when the Gaza invasion was delayed into at least the second week of the war. Three that are still being flagged have lost or are speedily losing their logic.

The most obvious one was that in the first week of the war not all of the 360,000 IDF reservists were in the right places, with the right gear, and they were not all fully updated and trained for their disparate missions.

This is no longer true. Yes, troops can always improve their readiness, but like in many sports, there is also a crossover point where waiting and training too long without acting creates skittishness, uneasiness, and negatively impacts morale.

IDF Artillery Corps seen at a staging area near the southern Israeli border with Gaza, October 15, 2023. (credit: TOMER NEUBERG/FLASH90)

Although on Sunday the IDF was still citing more training as being a justifiable reason for delaying the invasion through the second week of the war and now into the third week, an honest look would reveal that more time to train is likely neutral and even potentially negative at this point.

A second reason cited last week, at which time it arguably made sense, and which the IDF is still citing (unclear how many commanders really believe this or if just military officials talking to the media are taking this line to be seen supporting the government) is to give more time to civilians to evacuate.

Around the end of the first week of fighting, around 500,000 Palestinians, or around 50%, had evacuated northern Gaza following warnings from the IDF.

By the start of this third week, the number was up to above 700,000 and close to 70-75%.

That is a big improvement and it could be argued leaving more time for those additional civilians to leave was worth the delay.

But the vast majority of Palestinian civilians who have not left by this third week are not going to leave.

Those left will not leave

Whether Hamas is forcing them to be human shields, they are afraid to move, they are non-violent Hamas supporters voluntary human shields, or elderly persons who have not figured out how to make the move, is mostly now inapposite.

The IDF is going to be stuck fighting an urban battle against Hamas with many civilians around. It was always going to be this way, and further delay now is not going to change the percentages a huge amount.

And yet the third reason is probably the most decisive for the government and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and is probably the reason which most sinks further delay as an unprofessional military move.

Basically, the IDF is saying that the more air force attacks there are, the fewer IDF soldiers will be lost once the ground invasion begins because the remaining Hamas forces will be degraded.

Once again, this was true for delaying from week one to week two, but it has been almost impossible to decode any new progress by the Air Force in the last several days, other than hitting a higher quantity of targets.

After each additional day of hundreds of strikes, the fact is that Hamas has thousands and thousands of more rockets to keep firing, some tens of thousands of fighters, a majority of whom will not be killed or arrested without troops on the ground, and Hamas’ ability to maintain some level of fighting will not stop without a long ground invasion.

Once the ground invasion starts, a large number of IDF soldiers will die, larger than in the rounds of conflict we have seen in recent decades. There simply is no other way to subdue Hamas.

Aerial bombing absolutely can pave the way for an earlier invasion, but it does not eliminate risk or ground troops’s losses.

So whether we are talking here about political fear or authentic concerns of guilt about ordering a significant number of young troops to their deaths, the concern cannot justify a further delay of the invasion from a professional military perspective.

It just delays the inevitable, reduces morale, and reduces the amount of time the world will probably “allow” Israel to spend in Gaza to topple Hamas.

As Thomas Jefferson said, “The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants.” No one should rush into such a scenario, but Israel and the IDF are long past the point of rushing, and into the stage of dwindling returns. 

As reported by The Jerusalem Post