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Israel-Palestine war: Colonel reveals Gaza attack plan and says fight will be 'hell'

Serving soldier tells MEE Israeli military officials expect Hamas to put up a fight for three months and says reservists could be drawn into ground war
Israeli army soldiers position themselves with their Merkava tanks near the boundary with the Gaza Strip, on 9 October 2023 (AFP)

The Israeli army has drawn up military plans for the besieged Gaza Strip, and the Palestinian enclave could see territorial changes if Hamas puts up a prolonged resistance to an Israeli ground offensive, a serving Israeli colonel has told Middle East Eye.

Early on Friday, the Israeli military delivered sweeping evacuation orders to almost half of Gaza's 2.3 million people, telling 1.1 million Palestinians to immediately flee south. 

'If this turns into a direct conflict rather than based on special operations, Gaza's borders may de-facto change'

- Serving Israeli colonel

Stephane Dujarric, the spokesperson for the UN secretary general, told reporters that UN officials working in Gaza were told by the Israeli army "that the entire population of Gaza north of Wadi Gaza should relocate to southern Gaza within the next 24 hours".

The colonel, speaking to MEE on condition of anonymity, said that the military had devised plans to encircle areas in the north while air strikes pummelled the rest of the enclave.

The Israeli colonel said the army had divided the enclave into several sectors and "determined [which] points and settlements [in the Strip] will be surrounded", adding that "special operations will be carried out at least 25 points in sub-sectors".

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The colonel said that if Israel were to proceed with a ground invasion, Israeli soldiers could remain in the Strip for a lengthy, but yet undetermined, period of time.

As he met US Secretary of State Antony Blinken in Jordan, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas said the "forced displacement" of Palestinians would amount to a "second Nakba".

The Nakba, or "catastrophe" as it is known in English, refers to the ethnic cleansing of some 750,000 Palestinians from their lands and homes in historic Palestine at the time of the creation of Israel in 1948.

Since Israel began telling Palestinians to leave northern Gaza early on Friday, there's been a belief among many that the order is part of a plan to move its residents southwards, until they are forced to leave Gaza altogether and cross into Egypt as refugees.

The colonel told MEE that Israeli military officials believed Hamas could resist Israeli forces for up to three months, but said any offensive by the Palestinian group could change the course of Israel's military operation.

"Various scenarios were discussed about what Hamas would do. If this turns into a direct conflict rather than based on special operations, Gaza's borders may de-facto change. This is why civilians are asked to migrate," he said.

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The colonel also said that if Hamas were to capitulate and not put up fierce resistance with other Palestinian groups, the army would still stay there for an undetermined period of time. 

He added that Israeli forces stationed in the Strip would launch operations targeting the Hamas network, including the groups' military leaders and the labyrinth of tunnels it has constructed.

However, he said that a ground operation would be "hell" for Israeli reservists who hadn't received proper training, acknowledging that the military was struggling with the number of special forces needed for such a large operation. 

Impoverished enclave

On Saturday, fighters from the besieged Gaza Strip launched a multi-pronged assault on southern Israel, killing at least 1,300 people and taking at least 100 Israelis captive.

Hamas-led fighters initially targeted Israeli observation posts using drones before rocket attacks overwhelmed the Israeli Iron Dome defences.

Next, Palestinian fighters descended into Israeli territory and began attacking from multiple fronts, killing and capturing civilians, soldiers and military equipment.

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According to Mohammed Deif, the leader of Hamas's military wing, the operation was launched in response to an increase in settler attacks in the occupied West Bank and repeated incursions at Al-Aqsa Mosque.

Since the shock assault, Israel has been relentlessly attacking the Gaza Strip, with the Palestinian death toll surpassing 1,500.

Gaza has been under a debilitating Israeli blockade since 2007, leaving about 80 percent of the Palestinians in the Strip reliant on international aid.

On Thursday, Palestinians from Gaza told MEE that plans to open a human corridor for civilians to flee to Egypt's Sinai region would be akin to a "second Nakba". 

More than 60 percent of Gaza residents are already refugees or the descendants of refugees from other parts of historic Palestine.

This article is available in French on Middle East Eye French edition.

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