Lehren für Gaza, KI- „Gospel“ und Oktopus Iran

Lehren für Gaza, KI- „Gospel“ und Oktopus Iran

Angesichts anhaltender internationaler Kritik an der „unverhältmäßigen Kriegsführung“ Israels im Gaza, nun auch gepaart mit „Genozid“-, und „Gaza Holocaust“-Vorwürfen, Warnungen vor Massenhungertod und auch einer „humanitären Katastrophe“, auch seitens der USA, die nun auch auf eine Feuerpause drängt, wie auch um eine Verschiebung der Rafah- Offensive, versucht ein Kommentator der TImes of Israel, scheinbar vor allem eine US- amerikanische Audienz zu erinnern, dass die Anti- IS- Koalition im Irak, we auch die USA im Irakkrieg auch wenig Rücksicht auf die Zivilbevölkerung oder „domicide“ genommen hätte- will sagen: Quod licet Jovi, licet Bovi. Also, wenn die USA und die anderen das so machte und unkritisiert durften, dann darf da auch wohl Israel und sind alles andere Doppelstandards:


The devastation of Gaza was inevitable: A comparison to US operations in Iraq and Syria

Urban warfare has always been brutal for civilians — and the war against Hamas was designed by the terror group to be an extreme case

By BARRY R. POSEN2 March 2024, 3:50 pm

A view of the destruction in Gaza, February 22, 2024. (AFP/ Said Khatib)

FOREIGN POLICY — As of the middle of February, the Gaza Health Ministry had reported more than 28,000 Palestinians dead in the war precipitated by the murder, rape, and kidnapping conducted during Hamas’s raid on Israeli border settlements and towns on October 7, 2023. Press accounts estimate that in the northern Gaza Strip, almost 80 percent of buildings may be damaged or destroyed. To avoid being caught up in the most intense fighting, according to the United Nations, as many as 85% of the 2.2 million people in Gaza may have left their homes as of mid-December. The scale of death and destruction arising from Israel’s legitimate counterattack has precipitated charges of war crimes and genocide against Israel in the International Court of Justice.

The Israeli government has claimed that it is adhering to its well-developed system for assessing combat in light of the laws of war. But if that is the case, then why has the Israeli offensive produced so much damage and death?

One answer is simple. When war is fought among civilians, civilians are killed. Among the most poignant examples is from World War II: the number of French citizens killed by Allied bombing in the months prior to the June 1944 Normandy invasion. The Allies bombed lines of communication heavily to prevent the Germans from reinforcing their coastal defenses along the English Channel. Historians suggest that some 20,000 French civilians who had the misfortune of living near ports, bridges, roads, or railroad infrastructure were killed in these attacks and during the subsequent two months of ground and ai

Some would say that this is ancient history; we would never do that again. But more recent history suggests that, though modern weapons are considerably more accurate and procedures in Western militaries to avoid collateral damage are more formalized, fighting among civilians, especially in urban areas, always means hell on earth for the civilians who may be trapped there.

In 2016 and 2017, a US-led counterterrorism coalition and its Iraqi and Syrian (mainly Kurdish) allies aimed to destroy the Islamic State terror group and eject it from the larger cities that it held in Iraq and Syria — first Mosul, and then Raqqa. These battles were immensely destructive, despite coalition efforts to mitigate civilian harm and the United States’ possession of a lavish supply of the most accurate weapons ever produced.

Like the US and its allies in Iraq and Syria, Israel chose as its objective the destruction of its adversary. That’s why those earlier wars provide important insights into what Israel knew it would face in Gaza, and they help to explain its military strategy, tactics for the campaign, and the level of death and destruction that we have witnessed.

The campaign to destroy Islamic State in Mosul lasted from October 2016 to July 2017. Nearly 94,000 Iraqi troops attacked an estimated 3,000 to 5,000 Islamic State fighters. As many as 29,000 aerial munitions may have been employed by the United States and its partners during the fight, plus uncounted artillery shells fired mainly by Iraqi security forces. Of a pre-battle population of roughly a million people, an estimated 9,000 to 11,000 civilians died, at least a third of them from coalition fire, a third due to Islamic State actions, and a third from causes that are impossible to attribute. Roughly 9,900 structures were damaged or destroyed, including some 65 percent of residential construction.

Fleeing Iraqi civilians walk past the heavily damaged al-Nuri mosque as Iraqi forces continue their advance against Islamic State militants in Iraq’s Old City of Mosul, July 4, 2017. (Felipe Dana/AP)

The Raqqa campaign, which lasted from June to October 2017, is particularly instructive because it was conducted almost entirely under US control. Between 30,000 and 40,000 Syrian and Kurdish militia members fought between 2,900 and 5,600 Islamic State fighters. The militias that did the ground fighting had all been organized and armed by the United States. Most of the air and artillery support was provided by Washington, with some assistance from allies, and the United States attempted to hew closely to the laws of armed conflict.

To somewhat reduce the destructiveness of the campaign, the largest bombs employed were in the 500-pound category. US Air Force figures suggest that as many as 15,000 aerial munitions were employed against targets in Raqqa during those five months, with US Marine Corps artillery adding 35,000 155 mm artillery shells (perhaps 1,750 tons of shells) to the mix.

Raqqa was also bombed and shelled heavily prior to the 2017 offensive. But after the campaign was complete, the bodies of roughly 4,100 civilians were found under the rubble, along with those of some 1,900 individuals wearing “military gear.” Nongovernmental organizations estimate that somewhere between 774 and 1,600 of the civilian casualties were caused by coalition fire. And approximately 11,000 building structures were damaged or destroyed, rendering 60% to 80% of the city uninhabitable.

In Raqqa and Mosul, most civilians seem to have perished due to building collapses caused by bombs and shells, but in Mosul, the ratio of damaged buildings to civilian deaths was about 1-to-1, whereas in Raqqa, it was about 3-to-1.

Though they are cautious in their conclusion, analysts at the Rand Corp. — a US-funded think tank — attribute the lower rate of civilian casualties per building in Raqqa relative to Mosul mainly to one simple factor — a very high percentage of Raqqa’s pre-battle civilian population of roughly 300,000 people left the city, some prior to the battle and some during it.

Hamas presented Israel with a very difficult military problem, even more difficult than Mosul or Raqqa. The degree of difficulty explains a lot about the terrible trajectory of the Israel-Hamas war. (Reasonable questions have also been raised about the impact of how IDF military lawyers interpret provisions about civilians in the standard international treaties on the conduct of warfare — while there is not much evidence that the IDF deliberately targets civilians, some of the destructiveness may be explained by an overly broad interpretation of proportionality and precaution measures.)

Whatever else one can say about Hamas, it is a capable and ruthless adversary. The IDF faced four main problems in starting its operation — the size and quality of the Hamas military force; the urban environment; Hamas’s comprehensive preparation of the terrain, especially including hundreds of miles of tunnels and deeply buried bunkers; and Hamas’s systematic integration of its troops and prepared defenses with the civilian population.

The size and quality of the Hamas military force creates a major problem in its own right. Observers estimate that at the outset of the fighting, Hamas had between 15,000 and 40,000 soldiers, with its actual combat power reportedly concentrated in five brigades. At minimum, this is three times the combat power that Islamic State had in either Mosul or Raqqa — on the higher end of the estimate, more than 10 times Islamic State’s combat power. This alone would produce a significantly more difficult and destructive offensive campaign. (As another point of comparison, it is estimated that 8,000 Ukrainian troops, in perhaps four small brigades, defended Mariupol from a much larger and better-equipped Russian force for three months in early 2022.)

Hamas troops also appear to be well trained, and they benefited from advice by more experienced military experts, both from Hezbollah in Lebanon and from Iran. Hamas’s forces, so far as can be known, are well equipped with light and heavy infantry weapons — such as assault rifles, sniper rifles, machine guns, shoulder-fired anti-tank rocket launchers, mortars, and anti-tank guided missiles. Hamas has manufactured and imported hundreds of artillery-type rockets, most of them unguided, and some with ranges as long as 150 kilometers (93 miles). Hamas also avails itself of commercially available off-the-shelf surveillance technology, including drones and digital cameras.

If the well-equipped, armored forces of the IDF met these Hamas troops on a flat plain, they probably would make short work of them. But a well-trained and well-armed infantry force becomes formidable in an urban environment.

The urban environment favors the tactical defense because it provides the defender with concealment, cover, and canalization. The US military concluded as much following its experiences combating Islamic State; one report released in September 2017 states that “[e]xperiences in Mosul reaffirmed that urban terrain strengthens the defense.”

Buildings provide multiple hiding places. Basements offer not only hiding spots, but also natural bunkers, which can be used to shelter from enemy weapons and protect one’s own fighters so they can shoot effectively. Where there are tall buildings, upper floors provide firing positions and unobstructed fields of fire for long shots down city streets, and they also enable observation of enemy movements. Streets and roads channel the movement of adversary forces; they are natural positions for an ambush.

These attributes can easily be improved by defenders. Holes are knocked in walls within buildings to permit movement from room to room and building to building, obscured from view. Tunnels and trenches are also dug from building to building. Basements and upper floors can be reinforced with sandbags to protect against bullets and shrapnel, as well as with vertical steel and wooden beams to prevent ceiling collapse. Bunkers and firing positions are often built in the interior of buildings, with weapons sighted through holes cut in several layers of interior and exterior walls to confuse the targets about the source of fire. Entrances and stairways are mined and booby-trapped against infantry assault.

Because of the urban environment and the ease with which it can be improved, the defender usually has another line of defensible positions to which it can retreat under pressure, starting the whole process of attack and defense over again.

There was no shortage of materials available to Hamas to improve its defenses despite an ongoing Israeli blockade. United Nations statistics show that significant quantities of construction material were imported into Gaza in the past nine years— 50,000 truckloads permitted in 2022 alone, making up 50% of supplies arriving in the enclave, whereas only 25% of deliveries contained food and 4% contained humanitarian supplies provided by international organizations. Given the group’s administrative control over Gaza, it would be surprising if the construction efforts thus supplied were not influenced by Hamas, and that materials were not skimmed from civilian projects to support underground construction of bunkers and tunnels.

The effect of an urban environment on offensive operations is almost always an increase in the attacker’s reliance on firepower. In Raqqa, the United States and its partners relied heavily on precision-guided weapons, bombs, missiles, rockets, and artillery. They paid careful attention to the rules of war and often employed the smallest practical weapon to the target. (There seems to have been a hidden cost to this practice, because in Raqqa, three weapons were dispatched against each target on average, presumably to ensure that it was destroyed. Thus, the use of less destructive munitions seems to ensure that more munitions are fired to achieve the desired effect.)

In these battles, the nature of the urban environment — coupled with an experienced, committed, and well-armed adversary — were enough to require the coalition to conduct a locust-like offensive in which these munitions, fired in support of advancing ground forces, gradually consumed Raqqa, just as they did Mosul.

It should not be a surprise, therefore, that the IDF now finds itself destroying a great many structures in Gaza.

Hamas further improved the urban environment with a vast subterranean construction project — a deeply buried tunnel network that seems to serve both tactical and strategic purposes. Some tunnels link together fighting positions to support tactical maneuvers, surprise counterattacks and ambushes, and resupply efforts. Others permit leaders to move from their residences to their offices. Some lead to bunkers, which allow command and combat groups to work and rest underground. Presumably, other bunkers contain reserves of ammunition, including long-range rockets. And little has been said about where Hamas builds its weapons, but it seems likely that there are small fabrication facilities underground.

As there are hundreds of miles of tunnels according to most sources, and the Israelis only show snippets of what they find, it could be that much of the network is pretty basic. But most of the videos and photographs that have emerged show what appear to be narrow but well-constructed, usually steel-and concrete-reinforced single file passages, while some tunnels are much wider. Living quarters and possible prisons have also been discovered. The tunnels have numerous camouflaged, vertical shafts for entrance and egress. It also appears that electric cables are strung along the ceilings, which provides power, but presumably also landline communication, allowing Hamas leaders to evade detection by Israeli intelligence.

The inherent defensive possibilities of the urban environment, combined with a significant subterranean component constructed over many years, produced a vast fortress system. Though they certainly dug tunnels, a complex subterranean network like that built by Hamas fighters was unavailable to the Islamic State defenders of Mosul and Raqqa, creating vast new problems for the IDF beyond those experienced by the US-led counterterrorism coalition.

To try to take buildings and more importantly take the tunnel system solely through a series of tactical ground force engagements would not only take a great deal of time, but it would also immeasurably add to the ground force casualties Israel would have been likely to suffer. No military would embrace this prospect. Moreover, even a direct attack would be very destructive insofar as it would ultimately require the demolition of the tunnels from the inside out using large quantities of high explosives.

Israeli soldiers operate at the entrance to a tunnel in Khan Younis in the southern Gaza Strip in an undated photo released by the military on January 30, 2024. (Israel Defense Forces)

We cannot know exactly how the IDF chooses which portions of Hamas’s tunnel system to attack from the air, but any sustained attack would depend on bombs of great penetration capability and explosive power. (Western media has been critical of the IDF’s use of one-ton bombs; CNN has analyzed more than 500 large craters in Gaza and found them consistent with those produced by underground explosions.) Because Hamas routes these tunnels under and into buildings throughout Gaza, Israeli attacks inevitably also produce damage on the surface. Though tunnels and underground bunkers are not the only target for the Israeli Air Force, their importance and ubiquity likely induce many of its strikes.

The US military, for example, encountered a large tunnel system near Saigon, called the “tunnels of Cu Chi,” during the Vietnam War. After years of indecisive attacks by ground forces, artillery, and tactical aircraft, Washington loosed B-52 strategic bombers on the tunnel network in 1969 and finally destroyed most of it.

Observers can understand Israeli choices without endorsing them, or more importantly, supporting them. But they should understand the reasons for their opposition. Individuals can oppose Israel’s war on the basis of their own morality, but the United States as a nation, given its own military history, including recent history, does not have much ethical ground to stand on in decrying Israeli strategy.

Neither, for that matter, do Arab governments. Israel is not doing anything that the United States and its Arab allies have not done — and done recently. Some may claim that Washington has had an epiphany and would never do this again, but such a claim is not credible. When the United States is provoked, it is historically quite ferocious. So-called collateral damage results.

Hamas, for its part, appears unconcerned about putting Palestinian civilians in harm’s way. Indeed, this is a feature, not a bug, of their political and military strategy. Some use the term “human shield” for this strategy, but that is incomplete. This element of Hamas’s strategy could also be described as “human camouflage,” and more ruthlessly as “human ammunition.”

On a daily basis, the activities of civil society obscure Hamas’s activities. More importantly, Hamas understands that civilian casualties are an Achilles’ heel for Western military operations. Liberal democracies put a high value on the individual, and hence on every human life. Lawyers have developed an elaborate legal structure to regulate the conduct of warfare because of this respect for the individual, which is enshrined in international treaties.

Western militaries, including the IDF, try to live by these laws, though the law of armed conflict does not proscribe them from waging war. They try to follow these rules in part because they reflect the values of the societies that they serve and in part because of an expectation of reciprocity, but also because pragmatically, they know that lots of civilian casualties can become a political liability at home and abroad. Hamas spends the lives of Palestinian civilians as ammunition in an information war. They are not the first to do so, and they probably will not be the last.

The course of every urban campaign will be influenced by unique factors, but at the same time, they share similarities. When a capable defender, even in small numbers, has time to prepare a defense in an urban environment, the attacker will meet serious difficulties. The attacking force will always be interested in doing as well as it can at the least cost to itself, especially in terms of its own casualties. This means that it will bring not only all of its cunning to bear on the problem, but also that it will, as has generally been the case in modern times whenever the defense proves strong, bring lots of firepower to the fight.

Urban offensives will therefore generally do very serious damage to buildings and infrastructure. If civilians are constrained to remain in these areas of intense combat, for whatever reason, they will suffer immensely, as have the civilians of Gaza.

Cities have grown in size and density as the population of the planet has grown and as more and more people move to cities to be a part of the modern economy. The Israeli offensive in Gaza, the US-led coalition offensives in Mosul and Raqqa, and even the bloody and clumsy Russian siege of Mariupol may not be anomalies.

Instead, they are a window into future war. Rather than imagining pristine military operations, analysts and strategists should better understand the implications of failed diplomacy, or of conflicts simply left unsettled because diplomatic engagement is politically inexpedient.

Few political disputes will be settled by invitational armored battles in empty plains and deserts. War is an extension of politics, and politics happen among people.

The devastation of Gaza was inevitable: A comparison to US operations in Iraq and Syria | The Times of Israel

De wesentliche Unterschied ist nur, dass es eben im Gaza anders als in Mosul und Raqqa keine Fluchtmöglichkeiten gibt, das Gebiet zu den Grenzen abgesperrt ist, das Gebiet hermetisch abgeschlossen ist, zumal mit gigantischem Tunnelsystem durchzogen.

Eine kriegserprobte US-Autorin meint, nun, dass Israel und die IDF im Gazakrieg die wesentlichen Lehren des War on Terrors und der Erfahrungen im Irak und Afghanistan nicht berücksichtigt und gelernt hätten, wobei diesmal auch der ungecheckte Einsatz von KI erschwerden dazu komme. Bei der Gaza-Spezialoperation wurde die KI-Plattform Gospel zur Zielbestimmung eingesetzt. Laut Autor führte dies zu recht unintelligenter, wahrloser Inflationierung von Zielen und zivilen Toten, zumal ohne menschliche Prüfung mehr. Sounds like autonomous and automatic killing und body count.



MARCH 21, 2024



At the height of the “Global War on Terror,” I spent over 10 years as an intelligence analyst. My work informed military counter-terrorism operations in Iraq and Afghanistan and supported the development and implementation of counter-terrorism policy at the Pentagon.

As I watched Israel’s operations in Gaza against Hamas — designated as a terrorist organization by not just Israel, but also the United States, the European Union, Britain, and NATO — I couldn’t help but be stunned. The invasion of Gaza proceeded as if combatting a terrorist group in an urban environment was a novel experience. Frank Sobchak recently pointed out in these pages how Israel’s war echoes the U.S. failure to plan how to manage Iraq after the fall of president Saddam Hussein. My perspective is similar, but I might go further: What’s been happening in Gaza suggests none of the lessons from 20 years of global counter-terrorism conflicts were implemented.

After almost six months of military operations in Gaza, the lessons below are relevant whether a ceasefire is eventually reached between Hamas and Israel or not. (The latest reporting indicates negotiations are stalled.) In the event of a pause in fighting and hostage release, Israeli forces can review operations in Gaza and revise military strategy and doctrine using the lessons learned in two decades of the Global War on Terror. If hostilities continue, Israeli forces should learn from these same lessons and prioritize reducing civilian harm — which includes limiting civilian casualties and destruction of civilian infrastructure — in their operations.

Lessons Learned from the Global War on Terror

If lessons from the Global War on Terror were learned, Israel wouldn’t have commenced military operations in Gaza without a firm strategy and clear objective. “Destroy Hamas” was not, and is not, a sound military objective.

“Destroying” a terrorist organization through military force alone is impossible. The most common way for a terrorist group to be defeated, according to research, is through a transition to the political process. In 43 percent of the cases between 1968 and 2008 where terrorist groups were brought into the political process, political goals were achieved and the groups ended. Another 40 percent of the time, the arrest or killing of key leaders by law enforcement or intelligence agencies led to the end of terrorist groups. The self-proclaimed Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant was territorially defeated in Syria in 2019 using military force, but its members are still carrying out attacks in Iraq and Syria. Likewise, Israel conducted four major military operations in Gaza in the last 15 years but never eliminated Hamas or even permanently reduced its military capabilities. Religiously motivated terrorist organizations are particularly persistent; only 32 percent of religiously motivated groups ended between 1968 and 2008, a rate half that of secularly motivated groups.

Hamas is a designated foreign terrorist organization, but it has also governed the Gaza Strip for over a decade. It is intertwined in the local economy, governance, and society. Thus, the group’s defeat calls for a military campaign with multiple, complementary lines of effort. One line is a direct targeting effort focusing on the capture or killing of Hamas leadership, such as the one conducted against al-Qaeda and the Islamic State throughout the Middle East and East Africa. While this can certainly cause splintering and decentralization of groups, the deaths of charismatic leaders such as Osama bin Ladin and Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi also precipitated the overall decline in effectiveness for their groups. However, fully eradicating Hamas’ influence and presence will require a multifaceted effort, more akin to a counter-insurgency operation — Hamas is integrated into society in Gaza as many insurgent groups like the Taliban and the Tamil Tigers in Sri Lanka were. This effort would place a higher emphasis on reducing civilian harm and preserving and protecting local societies and economies, while also looking beyond the immediate stage of fighting.

If lessons from the Global War on Terror were learned, operations in Gaza would be precise, supported by detailed intelligence and precision weapons.

Instead, in just the first week following Hamas’ Oct. 7 attack on Israel, the Israel Defense Forces said it dropped 6,000 bombs on Gaza. (For comparison, the U.S.-led coalition fighting the Islamic State dropped 10,000 bombs in Raqqa, Syria, over a four-month period. Even that, using precision weaponry and targeting, left 60 to 80 percent of the city uninhabitable.) Despite the Israel Defense Forces’ public insistence that it was using precision weapons, 40 to 45 percent of the munitions it fired in the first two months of the war had no guidance system. Fighting in a densely populated urban environment against an adversary that uses civilians and their infrastructure as shields demands accuracy, as seen in Mosul and Raqqa against the Islamic State. This is the only way to limit civilian harm to humans and infrastructure and is required by international law, as previously noted by Amos Fox.

If lessons from the Global War on Terror were learned, the Israel Defense Forces also would take the time necessary to precisely target Hamas’ senior leadership. Establishing a pattern of life for such targets requires significant time and intelligence, but it is also the best way to correctly identify locations and targets and to limit civilian harm, including hostages.

The Israel Defense Forces’ continued use of the AI-enabled target-creation platform called “the Gospel” led to an unprecedented number of bombings in a short period of time. During the first month of operations, the Israel Defense Forces hit more than 12,000 targets. In a quickly changing environment, in which civilians, aid workers, and Hamas fighters and leadership are all on the move, it is difficult for humans to spend enough time verifying AI-recommended targets to ensure accuracy. Moreover, excessive reliance on AI removes what little human culpability and morality currently remains in the execution of war. In contrast to the widespread violence carried out in Gaza in the first weeks after Oct. 7 is the Jan. 2 targeted killing of senior Hamas official Saleh al Arouri in Beirut. Israeli officials refused to confirm or deny responsibility for the attack, but damage to civilians and infrastructure was minimal and proven to be within presumed Israeli military capabilities.

Israeli military and intelligence forces should review targeting processes and procedures to ensure they are allowing ample time to develop a pattern of life and prioritizing reducing civilian harm. Ryan Evans previously discussed how the Israel Defense Forces are not doing this in Gaza. During operations against the Islamic State, the U.S.-led coalition typically had a threshold for acceptable number of non-combatant deaths of zero or one. If any civilian could potentially die as a result of a military strike, the local commander was required to seek higher approval to conduct the operation. After U.S.-led coalition operations in Raqqa, military officials highlighted that they prioritized unplanned, dynamic airstrikes to support ongoing military operation. This placed primacy on the protection of the coalition-supported ground forces and reducing Islamic State capabilities, which reduced the amount of time to properly and effectively establish a pattern of life to reduce civilian harm.

If lessons from the Global War on Terror were learned, maintaining public accountability for military operations would be seen as a critical foundation and building block for long-term security in Gaza.

At several junctures during operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, the U.S. military launched investigations into allegations of misconduct and civilian casualties. Following events such as the detainee mistreatment at Abu Ghraib in Iraq or the accidental bombing of a civilian hospital in Kunduz, Afghanistan, the United States investigated the incident, prosecuted perpetrators as appropriate, and updated training or processes as required. Demonstrating a culture of adherence to the rule of law and rules of armed conflict was a critical step in rebuilding trust with Afghan and Iraqi partners. In early February, the Israel Defense Forces began to investigate claims of possible violations of international law concerning civilian casualties. This is a tentative first step toward demonstrating accountability, which may begin to ease global concerns over Israeli operations, including the case brought to the International Criminal Court by South Africa. Behaving in accordance with international laws and norms would also reduce the potential for retaliatory violence within Israel or the Gaza Strip by Hamas or other Palestinian terrorist groups.

Israel can and should do more to increase transparency. International press should be allowed to independently document military operations and communicate with Palestinian civilians in the Gaza Strip, in real time. To supplement Israel Defense Forces investigations, Israel should provide unimpeded access to Gaza by international human rights organizations like Human Rights Watch, Airwars, and Amnesty International so that they can investigate allegations of civilian harm and publish the results. Cooperation between the U.S. military and international human rights organizations during operations in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Syria pushed the United States to reduce civilian harm, to improve U.S. military investigations into civilian casualties, and to acknowledge higher numbers of civilian deaths.

If lessons from the Global War on Terror were learned, Israel would have recognized that protecting civilians is the only way to ensure its long-term security and counter support for Hamas.

The Gaza Ministry of Health data indicates that over 100,000 residents of Gaza have been killed or injured — about 4 in 100 Palestinians in the territory. The United Nations estimated in December that 60 percent of homes have been destroyed; others suggest that the war has destroyed more than 80 percent of all structures in northern Gaza. U.S. Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin, drawing on his experience as a four-star general overseeing the battle against terrorist groups in Afghanistan and Iraq, summed up the risk that this kind of violence toward civilians presents on Dec. 12: “In this kind of a fight, the center of gravity is the civilian population. And if you drive them into the arms of the enemy, you replace a tactical victory with a strategic defeat.”

Polling indicates that more Palestinians now support Hamas than did before the Oct. 7 attack on Israel. But support for the terrorist organization still remains below 50 percent in both Gaza and the West Bank. To decrease support for terrorist and insurgent organizations, civilians should be given effective political and social options. They need homes, businesses, educational facilities, and communities to rebuild. Uneven and insufficient reconstruction efforts in northeastern Syria since 2017, coupled with the ongoing Syrian civil war, have provided the Islamic State an opportunity to maintain insurgent activities and pressure against civilians and local governing authorities.

Instead, 85 percent of Palestinians, almost 2 million people, have been displaced since Oct. 7. Many have moved multiple times. They have been pushed into areas of southern Gaza that have no humanitarian infrastructure. Evacuation routes are not safe and secure. Aid organizations say continued fighting and slow border crossings are producing a severe hunger and public health crisis. Over 90 percent of children under the age of 24 months as well as pregnant and breastfeeding women eat food of the “lowest nutritional value and from only two or fewer food groups,” a result of severe food insecurity. According to the same United Nations Children’s Fund report, 90 percent of children are suffering from one or more infectious diseases.

The current and next generations of Palestinians are at risk of disease, starvation and malnutrition, under-education, and generational trauma. The Gaza Strip is facing an imminent famine. Despite warnings that it would cause long-term environmental damage to local agriculture and the water table, Israel began pumping seawater to flood some of the tunnels under Gaza in early February. This will limit Gazans’ ability to restart the economy and maintain public health.

If lessons from the Global War on Terror were learned, Israel and its Western partners and allies would work with trusted and vetted aid organizations to create safe zones for civilians. These areas would remain as demilitarized humanitarian evacuation zones so Palestinians would not have to move again until they can return home. The safe zones would contain adequate housing, water and food supplies, sanitation and hygiene, and medical resources. Israel should also provide international aid organizations consistent and secure daily access to the Gaza Strip to support humanitarian aid deliveries. Humanitarian aid to Gaza prior to Oct. 7 was already insufficient, and now the situation is even more dire. Instead, the Israel Defense Forces plan to conduct military operations in Rafah, where almost half of Gaza’s population has sought refuge, having been told by Israeli authorities to evacuate there from northern and central Gaza.

If lessons from the Global War on Terrorism were learned, Israel would already be working with international and local partners to prepare for future governance, stabilization, and reconstruction in Gaza.

Planning for what happens after the end of hostilities should begin now. Reconstruction of Gaza is critical for the future stability and safety not only of Palestinians, but also of Israel. Ensuring that Gaza has a viable economy, government, and civil society respects the humanity of Palestinians, will provide them a future, and will help ensure the security of Israel. Both Israelis and Palestinians should be involved in any post-conflict stabilization planning, but this planning should not occur along separate paths. The United States and European partners, regional Arab countries, and trusted nongovernmental organizations and commercial partners should also be included in the planning to ensure success. Provincial reconstruction teams in Afghanistan and Iraq could provide a template for integrating multiple stakeholders into stabilization and reconstruction processes, especially local leaders. Plans for the reconstruction of UkraineYemen, and Mosul could also provide roadmaps for Gaza.

Unfortunately, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s latest plan for post-conflict Gaza does not provide for stabilization or reconstruction. It prioritizes Israeli security control, access, and demilitarization — at the expense of Palestinians — of the Gaza Strip. It does not give Palestinians agency or a voice in their own future, which will likely undercut long-term security in Israel, the Gaza Strip, and possibly the West Bank. Credible Palestinian political representatives, identified by Palestinians themselves, should also be involved in crafting a reconstruction and governance structure following the end of hostilities. In Afghanistan and Iraq, U.S.-led coalitions appointed interim, mostly formerly expatriate, leaders, prior to national elections, which did not provide accurate or effective representation. There should be free and fair elections in Gaza — the first since 2006 — which would provide Palestinians a voice in their leadership.

In Syria, local partners to the U.S.-led coalition prioritized protecting civilians and pushed the military to do the same during counter–Islamic State operations. This partnership with the Syrian Democratic Forces brought together local Arab and Kurdish leaders and fighting forces. While combatting the Islamic State was the priority, these coalition forces also were concerned about stabilization and reconstruction upon the territorial defeat of the terrorist organization. Unfortunately, in Gaza, Israel has few local partners of the same stature. Palestinians in the Gaza Strip also lack a government that prioritizes their interests, welfare, and security. And yet, local support is the only way to achieve long-lasting security. After the end of fighting and during the reconstruction of Gaza, the establishment of a truth and reconciliation committee could help achieve peace and identify local partners committed to stability. These have been successful globally, such as in South AfricaCanada, and throughout Latin America.

If lessons from the Global War on Terror were learned, warnings by veteran soldiersintelligence officersdiplomats, and humanitarian workers about these and other issues with the war in Gaza would have been heeded. Their calls for a ceasefire would have been answered. These experts — including myself — have 20 years of experience trying to keep the world secure. In addition to the needless destruction and tragic loss of life in Gaza, from a military and intelligence perspective, all the hard-gained lessons from the Global War on Terror have been wasted.


Karen M. Sudkamp is a national security researcher at RAND, a nonprofit, non-partisan policy think tank, with a focus on how to limit the impacts of conflict on civilian populations. She spent over a decade in the U.S. intelligence community supporting political-military and counter-terrorism analysis, operations, and policy focused on the Middle East.

Image: Fars News

Learning from the War on Terror – War on the Rocks

Jedoch will sich Israel da nichts vorschreiben lassen und so erscheint nun in der Jerusalem Post ein eigener Beitrag, welche Erfahrungen des IDF- Kriegs im Nord- Gaza man jetzt für eine eventuelle Süd-Offensive auch nach Rafah berücksichtigen sollte:

“Invading Rafah: The lessons IDF should take from northern Gaza – analysis

As Israel looks towards a future operation in Rafah, the battle will be overshadowed by lessons learned from other parts of the Gaza operation over the last five months.

 IDF soldiers operate in the Gaza Strip, March 28, 2024. (photo credit: IDF SPOKESPERSON'S UNIT)
IDF soldiers operate in the Gaza Strip, March 28, 2024.(photo credit: IDF SPOKESPERSON’S UNIT)

By SETH J. FRANTZMANMARCH 28, 2024 11:30Updated: MARCH 28, 2024 18:13

As Israel looks toward an operation in Rafah, the battle will be overshadowed by lessons learned from other parts of the Gaza operation over the last five months. The ground maneuver in Gaza began five months ago on October 27, so there is a lot of information that commanders can glean from what they have already seen in the battle against Hamas.

There are essentially three phases of war in Gaza that will provide a backdrop for the Rafah operation. Phase one was the ground maneuver from October 27 to November 24. This was the highest intensity phase of the war, and came in the wake of intense bombing of Gaza in the first weeks following the Hamas massacre of October 7.

This part of the war also received a lot of international attention, with accusations that it was too widespread, led to a lot of destruction, and also caused civilian casualties.

The battle for northern Gaza was led by two large IDF divisions, the 36th and the 162nd. When northern Gaza was mostly taken, 12 Hamas battalions had been defeated. The battles in the north involved tanks and APCs churning up roads and urban fighting in places like Shejaia, Shati, and Jabalya.

Most civilians had been asked to evacuate in October, so there weren’t many civilians in those areas when the tanks went in. The people returned though, in January and February, so that by March some 300,000 people were in northern Gaza and Hamas had returned with them.

The second phase occurred in December and January with the operations in Khan Yunis. The Khan Yunis battle was led by the 98th Division and its legendary commander Brig.-Gen. Dan Goldfus. This was a more focused battle involving more commandos. Civilians were also warned to leave before troops entered and then the troops moved slowly, neighborhood by neighborhood, to try to find tunnels and defeat Hamas. At least four more Hamas battalions were defeated here.

The last phase that provides information for the battle in Rafah is the recent phase, which has seen precision raids into areas such as Shati, Zaytun, and Shifa. These areas were already taken by the IDF in November and December, so it meant returning to clear the areas again.

Some commentators claim that the IDF purposely let Hamas return to these areas to then catch them by surprise later. At Shifa, for instance, around a thousand terrorists returned to the hospital and the IDF raided the place with surprise, without telling people first.

What tactics will be used in Rafah?

Which IDF tactic will be used in Rafah? The 36th Division, which played such a large key role in October and November, was moved to northern Israel in January. It is conducting a training program this week with battalion and brigade commanders. It is focused on the North.

“As part of the program, the commanders delved into professional content and the operational and strategic plans for the northern framework. The program, led by the 36th Division, included professional lectures and learning from the division’s combat lessons in the Gaza Strip, with specific adjustments for the challenges of the northern arena,” the IDF said this week.

The US wants a slow, phased, precision campaign in Rafah. A statement released by the US Department of Defense following a meeting between Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin and Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant said, “regarding Rafah, a significant portion of the meeting focused on Israel’s concept of operations in that city, with [Secretary of Defense Lloyd] Austin expressing that the United States’ goal is to help Israel find an alternative to a full-scale military operation that could potentially endanger the city’s civilian population, according to one senior defense official familiar with the meeting.” The US officials then discussed a plan that involves “sequence and a phasing of activities.”

IT’S NOT always easy to understand the coded language of military speak. “Alternative to full-scale military operation” sound like precision raids by special forces and commandos. “Phasing” and “sequence” sounds like a slow maneuver, moving street by street with lots of time for civilians to move from one area to another, perhaps even moving civilians back and forth as parts of the city are taken.

It’s hard to know if any of this borrows from US experience in backing operations in Raqqa in 2017 or Mosul in 2016, or in battles for Fallujah in 2004 and Ramadi in 2006.

Are there positive lessons to be learned from all those battles? It would appear the levels of destruction in Raqqa and Mosul would not be accepted if Israel were to do the same in Rafah. Things were a bit easier for the Iraqis in Mosul because they had established IDP camps to move people to behind their lines. Israel does not want to do the same. This leaves more complex challenges regarding civilians in Rafah.

The overall issue in Rafah will be timing. The US is sending personnel and ships to build a temporary pier off the coast of Gaza. However, that will not be completed until mid- or late April. Concerns about humanitarian aid entering Gaza will overshadow the operation.

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This is because most aid is now being delivered via Rafah, and thus Hamas is allowed to hijack the aid. Around 250 trucks enter Rafah day, with another 30 or so entering northern Gaza. The goal will be to shift this movement of trucks and aid in such a way that it meets the needs of the civilians who will need to be moved during any campaign in Rafah. Even a “phased” campaign would require phases of moving 50,000 civilians and meeting their aid needs.

The last challenge will be to make the Rafah battle worth it. Hamas will want to move out of Rafah as it moved out of northern Gaza, infiltrating the central camps area or other areas of Gaza, so that it can then return to Rafah. Hamas calculates that Israel does not have time on its side and that all Hamas has to do is “persevere” for another few months and it will win and Israel will not accomplish its objectives.

Toward that end, Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh went to Iran this week and bragged about how Hamas is winning the war. Hamas calculated winning differently than Israel. It “wins” if there is more civilian suffering and if it can maintain its presence.

Israel talks about Hamas “battalions” but Hamas does not mind reducing its battalions and dispersing them into plain-clothes mafia-like groups of men who can control Gaza without needing to carry arms at all times. This is the Hamas model going back to its foundation in the 1980s.

Defeating this will require a lot more than just a phased precision operation going after the operatives that Hamas chooses to leave behind in

IDF must learn these lessons from Gaza war for invasion of Rafah – The Jerusalem Post (jpost.com)

Weitgehend unbemerkt vom Gazakrieg fand scheinbar eine Sabotageaktion gegen iranische Pipelines statt, die in ihren Dimensionen wohl die Sprengung von North Stream 2 herankommt. Ebenso ist der Autur der Ansicht, dass man sich nicht mit Irans Stellvertretern, den Armen des Oktopus abgeben sollte, sondern mit der Wurzel ds Übels, dem Zentrum, dem Oktopus Iran selbst, sei es durch Sabotageaktionen gegen kritische Infrastrukturen, die einen Volksaufstand oder gar regime change herbeiführen könnten oder dann eben im Ernstfall doch auch Militärschlägen.

Attacks on Iranian gas lines effective, but not enough – opinion

For Israel, this marks a critical moment to assess the broader consequences of these actions and the apparent reluctance of the Iranian regime to escalate tensions by assigning blame.

By FARHAD REZAEIMARCH 24, 2024 02:37fb-messenger

 IRAN’S OIL Minister Javad Owji speaks to media ahead of the Extraordinary Ministerial Meeting of the Gas Exporting Countries Forum (GECF), in Algiers, earlier this month.  (photo credit: REUTERS/RAMZI BOUDINA)
IRAN’S OIL Minister Javad Owji speaks to media ahead of the Extraordinary Ministerial Meeting of the Gas Exporting Countries Forum (GECF), in Algiers, earlier this month.(photo credit: REUTERS/RAMZI BOUDINA)

Last month, a significant attack on Iran’s major gas pipelines disrupted vital services, affecting industry and the millions of people relying on gas for heating and cooking across several provinces. 

Despite the clear impact, Iranian officials hesitated to point fingers, even as Western sources attributed the blasts to Israel. This incident, followed by subsequent disruptions at the Bandar Abbas Aftab oil refinery and other key sites, reveals a strategic vulnerability. 

For Israel, this marks a critical moment to assess the broader consequences of these actions and the apparent reluctance of the Iranian regime to escalate tensions by assigning blame.

To understand why Tehran dispensed with its usual fire and brimstone threats against the “Zionist enemy,” a summary of the decades-long shadow war between the two countries is in order. 

From its revolutionary start in 1979, the regime has viewed the eradication of Israel, also known as “Little Satan,” and the creation of a Palestinian state from the “river to the sea” to be a religious and political imperative. With few military resources to take on a regular army, the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRCG) has encouraged several – mostly Shia – militias known as the “axis of resistance.”

 Members of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) attend an IRGC ground forces military drill in the Aras area, East Azerbaijan province, Iran, October 17, 2022. (credit: IRGC/WANA/HANDOUT VIA REUTERS)
Members of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) attend an IRGC ground forces military drill in the Aras area, East Azerbaijan province, Iran, October 17, 2022. (credit: IRGC/WANA/HANDOUT VIA REUTERS)

Iran’s proxies, Hezbollah, Hamas, Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ), the Houthis, and the Iran-aligned forces in Syria, were to serve as the “ring of fire” around Israel. In other words, they could be unleashed in a coordinated move, according to the regime’s needs. 

In response, the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) developed the containment doctrine known as MABAM, a Hebrew acronym for “war between wars.” According to the former chief of staff, Gen. Aviv Kochavi, the Israeli military sought to prevent a larger conflagration by localized retaliation against the offending proxy or proxies. 

Although the IDF targeted Iranian nuclear scientists and IRGC forces attached to militias in Syria and elsewhere, a direct strike on Iranian infrastructure and facilities was ruled out. For instance, between 2010-2012, when the Netanyahu government discussed bombing Iran’s nuclear sites in Natanz and Fordo, the idea was overruled by the military. 

Naftali Bennett, who became prime minister in 2020, challenged the notion that it was too risky to take on Iran directly. In a well-publicized round of interviews, he called for implementing the Octopus Doctrine: Rather than going after the Octopus’s militia tentacles, Israel should cut off the head, Iran.

Bennett argued that the previous doctrine was not likely to deter the regime which, despite its lavish praises for the “brothers” of the “axis of resistance,” considered them hardly more than cannon fodder. In contrast, the clerical autocracy was particularly sensitive to the loss of its citizens’ lives and to potential economic damage from targeted attacks on critical infrastructure. 

Bennett’s short tenure and the return of the Likud coalition in January 2023 made the Octopus Doctrine redundant. Whatever the merits of attacking Iran directly, the government prioritized pacifying Hezbollah and Hamas. The former built up a large arsenal of missiles, rockets, and drones that threatened Upper Galilee and beyond. The latter used its own considerable arsenal to leverage its demands by periodically barraging Israel. 

Each attack was followed by an IDF response, an unsettling reality for settlements along the Gaza border and up to the center of the country. In the years since Israel unilaterally disengaged from the Strip, the military launched numerous reprisals: Operation Summer Rain (June 2006), Operation Autumn Clouds (November 2006), Operation Hot Winter (February  2008), Operation Double Challenge, Operation Cast Lead (December 2008), Operation Pillar of Defense (November 2012), Operation Protective Edge (July  2014), Operation Black Belt (November 2019), and Operation Guardian of the Walls (May 2021). 

Ironically, the brutal attack of October 7 reconfigured Israel’s security paradigm. The ongoing war in Gaza has resulted in over 1,800 deaths among soldiers and civilians so far. Concurrently, almost daily fire exchanges with Hezbollah have forced around 100,000 residents to flee their homes.

Houthi attacks on Israeli-owned vessels passing through the Bab-al Mandab Strait, coupled with sporadic bombings near Eilat, have escalated tensions. Drone attacks by Iranian-linked militias in Syria further exacerbate the situation, contributing to a near-worst-case scenario as outlined in the ring of fire playbook.

The strikes in Iran signal a return to the Octopus Doctrine minus the Bennett fanfare. Yoav Gallant, the defense minister and a retired general, is said to support a hardline approach toward both Iran and Hezbollah. 

The time is certainly opportune to confront the regime bedeviled by a severe economic crisis, including a staggering budget deficit, skyrocketing inflation, and growing dissatisfaction among the population.

A Farsi-language report titled “The Actual Budget Deficit in Iran’s Economy” sheds light on the severity of the situation. Accordingly, the government is grappling with a budget deficit of some $18 billion and an astounding debt of three quadrillion tomans, equivalent to $71 billion, approximately 31% of Iran’s gross domestic product. 

Internal issues in Iran have led to nationwide protests 

The economic hardships have led to waves of nationwide protests over the past four years. Labor unrest has also been prevalent. In 2023 alone, Iran has witnessed at least 320 labor-related gatherings and 111 labor strikes, with workers demanding improved wages and working conditions.

The water crisis, or as it is called “water bankruptcy,” is potentially more destabilizing. The situation is particularly critical in the southern provinces of Sistan and Baluchestan and in Khuzestan, southwest of Iran, but other provinces are not immune, given the failure to institute water conservation measures.

Experts predict that in a few years, water availability will drop to 500 cubic feet per person, the level of absolute scarcity. With farmers abandoning land in the affected areas, extreme migration into the cities is expected to create social chaos within two decades.

Social protest stemming from the killing of Mahsa Amini has diminished due to brutal suppression, including long-term prison sentences and even executions. However, signs of dissatisfaction remain, with some women resisting the hijab law. The regime’s legitimacy has been in constant decline, reaching a new low in the March election, where only 41% of eligible voters cast their ballots, the lowest since 1979.

While the extremely hardline government is not about to change its direction, especially on social issues like women’s rights, the leaders worry about additional Israeli hits that can further destabilize the country. So much so, that the head of the IRGC Quds Force, Ismael Ghani, ordered Hassan Nasrallah to claim in public that Hezbollah “will not drag Iran into a war” should Israel attack.  

Israeli leaders should take notice. From an Iranian perspective, the first test of the ring of fire not only failed but exposed the regime’s fear of the type of economic dislocation that the pipeline attack has brought. 

The writer is the director of Charles Malik Institute in Washington, DC. 

Did attacks on Iranian gas lines cripple their capabilties? – The Jerusalem Post (jpost.com)

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