RAND Experts Discuss the Gaza War

October 12, 2023

In this Call with the Experts podcast, Jeffrey Hiday, director of Media Relations at RAND, is joined by RAND experts Raphael Cohen, director of the Strategy and Doctrine Program of RAND Project Air Force and a senior political scientist, Brian Michael Jenkins, senior adviser to the RAND president and author of many books on terrorism, and Ann Dailey, a policy researcher. In this call, they discuss potential military responses from the Israeli Defense Forces and the United States, Israeli-Palestinian political dynamics, non-state terror groups and hostage situations, and geopolitical implications. This call was recorded on October 12, 2023.

Transcript

Narrator

This audio presentation is from the RAND Corporation, a nonprofit institution that helps improve policy and decisionmaking through research and analysis.

Jeffrey Hiday

Welcome to this call with RAND Experts. I'm Jeff Hiday, Director of Media Relations here at RAND. We're discussing the situation in Gaza. We've we've got a number of experts on a call. We may have others who who join us. One person we had expected and hoped to join was Shira Efron, who's a long term colleague of ours, currently a consultant in Tel Aviv. She can't join because she is been called up for reserve duty. Who we definitely have joining the call are Rafi Cohen, who is director of the Strategy and Doctrine Program of RAND Project Air Force. He's also a senior political scientist here at RAND. We've got Ann Dailey, who has just joined RAND from the Atlantic Council, and she is also a former Senior Advisor to the Assistant Secretary of Defense for International Security Affairs in the Office of the Undersecretary of Defense for Policy. We are trying to get Brian Jenkins in. Brian has been with RAND for more than 50 years. He is our...is our's and may be the world's top terrorism researcher and he is an expert on hostage situations as well. We were hoping to have Shira Efron join us from Israel, but I don't think she's going to be able to make it. So we're recording this call. We will post it as podcast on rand.org. I'll lead a quick discussion to get a started, but then open it up to questions and if anyone wants to raise their hand in the meantime, feel free. We'll...we will keep this open and flexible. Rafi, let me start with you. Your report about Israel's wars in Gaza came out in 2017. It's actually perhaps unsurprisingly, it's the most clicked on report on rand.org right now. What...could you walk us through what we may see happen? What what tactics and strategies we've seen in the past and what we may see going forward?

Raphael Cohen

Okay. Well, thanks, Jeff. Let me start by saying what we've seen so far and then move it forward a little bit and talk about what we may see in the future. So what we've seen so far is mostly an air campaign directed in and around Gaza. There had been reports of artillery fire from ground units around the edges, and you see a lot of massing of forces around the Gaza border. Israel has called up about 360,000 reservists. That functionally triples the size of the Israeli Defense Force. Israel is sort of unique among militaries in that they have a lot of their own combat power inside their resolve component. And in this conflict, like in the previous conflicts, both in the Cast Led in 2008, also in Protective Edge, they've relied on that ground component, particularly when they've had to conduct operations in Gaza. Now, in this case, what's also driving that high numbers of troops call up is that they're also worried about an operation or potential operation, it was believed to be Hezbollah, but...as in addition to other Islamic militant groups that are based out of Lebanon and Syria. And they're worried about unrest in the West Bank. And indeed, there's been reports of sporadic unrest inside the West Bank, and there's been sort of low level artillery exchanges in the north. There was one report of a sort of large scale drone attack in the north of Israel that turned out to be a false report. Now, what do we expect going forward? I think it's a fairly safe assumption to assume that Israel is going to go into Gaza. It was a ground incursion. To be clear, this is not the course of action that in the ideal world, Israeli leadership would prefer to do. In fact, if we look at the trajectory of the conflict over the past, since the withdrawal, Israel's preference has usually been to do aerial campaigns in Gaza. It's sort of a 'tit for tat' escalation. We are with rocket fire on one end and air strikes on the other. That's not going to be the case this time around and for two reasons. First off, the scale of the 10/7 attacks, are such that that's going to demand a more significant Israeli response. Indeed, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Defense Minister, Yoav Gallant, Chief of Israeli Defense Herzi Halevi all have promised in different sort of [inaudible] to destroy Hamas as an organization. Now, to do that, you have to go in on the ground because a lot of what Hamas' infrastructure is underneath in these sort of tunnel networks that run underneath much of Gaza. Hamas has been building them really for the past 15 years or so. And that's—so you can't really get at that from the air. And then the second question, the second that drives a ground response is trying to rescue the hostages. You know, obviously not going to be able to do that from the air. You could theoretically get some sort of diplomatic negotiation, but given where we are I'd say there isn't a whole lot of appetite for diplomacy right at the moment. So I think you're going to see here coming forward a fairly significant ground campaign. Happy to talk for us about what that would look like, but I've talked to long enough Jeff, so I'll throw it back to you.

Jeffrey Hiday

Let's just get a little bit more into that. When you when you say about the ground campaign, are you meaning what? Describe that a little more. Because a big component here presumably is underground and perhaps via sea as well.

Raphael Cohen

Yeah. So, a ground, campaign could look in a variety of different forms. If you look back to the 2008 Cast Led campaign, it was a fairly extensive penetration into Gaza itself. During the 2014 Gaza incursion, the limit of....the Israeli limit of advance was relatively shallower and it was mostly designed to go after the tunnel networks that were used by Hamas infiltrators to go into Israel itself. In this case, I think there's a fairly safe bet that this will be a more significant campaign to move into Gaza. Again, if you really want to root out Hamas and break Hamas as a military organization, you have to go all the way in. That looks very, very messy. There is, to be clear, no good ground option in Gaza, period. Full stop. It's a area of about 2.2–2.3 million inhabitants packed into a total landmass that's roughly the size of Philadelphia. So it's one of the most densely populated areas in the world. That means, its militant, civilian, and Israeli soldiers will all be mixed into one. And that means, unfortunately, a lot of civilian casualties. The other thing I should note is because of that tunnel networks bit, that means you have to fight underground. As Hamas knows this and has been walking presumably on booby traps and the like. Also, operating underneath, underground means that you can't...it negates some of Israel's inherent technological supremacy, particularly its air power. You know, you don't have the same sort of overhead aerial eyesight that doesn't work nearly as well if you're fighting in a battle.

Jeffrey Hiday

Brian, are you on the call?

Brian Michael Jenkins

Yes, I am...

Jeffrey Hiday

Presumably. Thanks. And sorry for your troubles. Presumably, when this operation gets going, the issue of hostages is going to be front and center. What...what what do you think about where the hostages will be, and the extent to which they will be somehow protected or put at further, peril.

Brian Michael Jenkins

Well, you know, I am..I'm extremely reluctant to talk about a hostage situation for hostages are still being held because I don't want to I don't want to complicate matters in a matter that is already terribly, terribly complicated. But looking at the history of this, I mean, the issue of...of tunnels was mentioned. The issues of — in the case of going back in time to the case of Corporal Shalit, who had been kidnaped and held for five years by by Hamas, there were attempts to rescue him. They did not succeed. And this is a much more complicated matter, of course, because of the number of hostages; hostage situations that have a large number of hostages are always more complicated than dealing with a single kidnaping victim. It is entirely possible that they may be held or likely to be held in different locations, and therefore a rescue attempt in one location might succeed. But the idea of a rescue of all of them in one single operation is extraordinarily difficult. So it is not only going into Gaza itself, and as was mentioned, is a daunting task given the given the layout, given the tunnels, and given the time that they have been preparing this. But it complicates the hostage situation even more.

Jeffrey Hiday

I think...Ann, if I could bring you in, what also might complicate things is that a good number of these hostages are Americans. How is the U.S. dealing with that?

Ann Dailey

So the you know, U.S. position to this has been to not comment on the ongoing situation. The United States, the Defense Department has moved some additional military assets into the region as a way to demonstrate support to Israel, as a way to hopefully deter third parties or additional groups from joining in to the conflicts, namely Hezbollah or Iran. The United States has said that if...it has been working closely with Egypt on trying to create a humanitarian corridor out of Gaza, it is also working closely, obviously, with Israel on trying to coordinate how that we're going to try to get U.S. hostages out of there. But again, there's no, to my knowledge, at least there's no specific U.S. plan related to the hostages and that have been taken, U.S. hostages that have been taken. From a broader perspective, if we're looking at the implication of the fact that U.S. hostages have been taken, I think it just strengthens what the existing U.S. position already is, which is that we support Israel, we support Israel's right to self-defense. We are providing military assistance to Israel, and we're bolstering our maritime presence in the region to hopefully deter additional attacks in the region. So, I don't think that it significantly changes the U.S. response. I think it just bolsters the existing logic for U.S. policy in the region, which is the strong U.S. support for Israel's right to self-defense and its right to respond to attacks.

Jeffrey Hiday

What will the U.S. objectives be here? Is it to provide some measure of deterrence against a widening of the war? Is it to just sort of show solidarity with Israel? What what are the objectives?

Ann Dailey

I think it's all of the above. The United States obviously does not want to see this war expand beyond the Gaza Strip for a variety of reasons, just because of the desire to prevent another round of instability in the Middle East. There is also the desire to ensure that by preventing other countries or organizations from participating. (Sorry, I live near an Air Force base, so you're hearing is flyovers right now). So there is a desire to deter other actors from participating in this because, the part of Hamas's strategy is going to be to try to turn this into a more protracted conflict that has negative humanitarian impacts in the Gaza Strip, to try to change the narrative and to detract attention away from the initial violence of their attack on Israel and focus more on the humanitarian implications of Israel's blockade of the Gaza Strip and the impact that that has from a humanitarian perspective, because they think that this is — Hamas believes — that this is a way for them to perhaps sow division amongst those who support Israel domestically. So that if they are able to draw this out, and prevent large — prevent an initial Israeli counterattack from succeeding, then Hamas hopes that it can be successful in that way. So, by providing initial support to — providing support to Israel and by sending military assets to the region, the United States is hoping that it can demonstrate solidarity with Israel and that it stands behind Israel's right to self-defense. That and that, by preventing other actors from joining, hopefully it will not turn into a more protracted conflict.

Jeffrey Hiday

Thanks. Rafi, do you have views on the US perspective?

Raphael Cohen

Yeah. So, you know, in general I agree with everything Ann said, but let me walk you through some sort of concrete branches and sequels here. As I said at the opening, it's fairly likely that Israel will go into Gaza and some sort of ground incursion. From there though there are a series of branches and sequels that you have to sort of think through. Each of those have implications for U.S. strategy and U.S. commitments not only to Israel, but throughout the region. So, one could imagine that if Israel does go in with — when Israel goes into Gaza, that this war stays localized a la the 2014, a la 2008 and like. In which case then, as sort of Ann mentioned, this would look a lot like the United States providing military aid, diplomatic support, intelligence support and the like, perhaps advising on the terrorist or the hostage rescue bid in the background. That's one scenario. The second scenario, though, is should that trigger Hezbollah intervention. Is, if you look at the statements coming out of the Hezbollah leadership, they've made references to that, that they should trigger a larger intervention. That has a couple immediate effects, which will ultimately impact the United States. First off, Hezbollah has a significant military capacity. They've been operating in Syria for quite some time so they have a lot of military experience on the earth, and they enjoy a closer relationship than Hamas does to Iran and therefore have generally better equipment and a very large magazine of rockets that command all of Israel. Should that happen, the United States could find itself needing to think about evacuating Americans out, similar to what the Europeans have done. It also, the Biden administration has made a series of fairly explicit threats of — to our external actors, including Hezbollah, not to intervene. That could trigger some sort of American response. It's not quite clear what that is. The Biden administration has been sort of deliberately vague on this point, but that's one sort of branch and sequel. The second one is in addition to Hezbollah, there are other actors out there who have signaled that they may get involved Kata'ib Hezbollah, who have the Iraqi based insurgent group that's threatening to attack American bases inside Iraq and Syria should the United States continue to support Israel. If that happens, the United States has to worry about force protection, not only for its forces in and around Israel proper, but also throughout the broader Middle East. And then lastly, get the Iran question here of does Iran get directly involved, as is probably all of the spectrum of likely to less likely probably going to less likely scenarios, but should Israel feel the need to directly strike Iran or vice versa? That has a broader implication for a regional war that will draw in or could draw in not only Israel but a lot of the Arab states, the Gulf states, Saudi Arabia as well. And that, of course, will have significant impacts for the United States posture and force capabilities in the region.

Jeffrey Hiday

Thanks Rafi. Brian, do you want to weigh in on any of the points to have just been raised?

Brian Michael Jenkins

You know, I'll...let me follow on something both Rafi and Ann have mentioned. I mean, this episode started out with the attack on Israel, which clearly the messaging of, of, of Hamas presents that as a victory. And in that sense now that, that part is, is wrapped up and, and Israel has declared war on Hamas, then Hamas' messages, messaging changes, the narrative changes to Hamas being in a sense a defender and a victim of Israeli aggression. And so they go from a claim of victory to basically victimhood to arouse worldwide attention to, to their plight, as well as to an attempt to enlist others in the area to to join, in a sense, in the defense of the people in Gaza. For Israel, the equation goes exactly the opposite way. Clearly, in terms of the initial attack on Israel, Israel was the victim, and they were, you know, in the messaging there is this was a vicious terrorist attack that was aimed at civilians at men, women and children. But it can't stop there because to be the victim in this part of the world is extremely dangerous. And it invites others to come in to take advantage of that perceived weakness. So Israel's actions in Israel's messaging narrative has to switch over to: this will be turned into a victory and a punishing one. And I think the declaration of war and in a sense, the response we're seeing now, is not only aimed at degrading Hezbollah's operational capabilities and striking back, but striking back especially hard as a message to Hezbollah. And this relates back to an Israeli doctrine that really came out of the of the war in Lebanon in 2006. That is the response need not be proportionate. In fact, the response is going to be disproportionate. And it's disproportionate as a warning, as a deterrent, that if Hezbollah should enter this, should Hezbollah start seriously intervening in the conflict as opposed to what it has done thus far, then what is taking place, what we're watching in, in Gaza right now, that is what will take place in Lebanon in terms of striking back. So the warning is: don't tread on us right now because this is what will be this will, will be the result. This is existential to Israel. And and therefore they will respond ferociously.

Jeffrey Hiday

But Brian, I would say the, the clear danger here for Israel is that is overreach. And in trying to achieve that victory, that it loses its global goodwill that it has now. How does it thread that needle?

Brian Michael Jenkins

It is trying to thread a needle. And, and, you know, we've, we've seen this....we've seen this before. And this is a more extreme version of what we've seen before, where as an offensive continued, an offense and an Israeli offensive in Gaza continued, pressure increased, Israel pressed on, ultimately, ultimately world opinion mounted and and increased for Israel to to halt and to bring this thing to a close. Now where that is, given the circumstance of the moment, I don't know is that at the 51-day mark, is that at a certain level of destruction? That we have to wait and see. I mean, there's already evidence that obviously there are divisions across the world on this issue. And, and that is something that has to be gaged. War is increasingly a matter of manipulating perceptions, and those perceptions become part of the strategic calculation on all sides.

Jeffrey Hiday

Thanks, Brian. Rafi, can you weigh on this and then Ann?

Raphael Cohen

Yeah. No. So I'd like to weigh in a little bit on what we've just mentioned. I think it's important here as well — you know, this is a different dynamics and in previous Gaza wars. It's impossible to understate how much the 10/7 attacks had on Israeli society at large. You know, Israel is a small country, a population of under 10 million. So 1,800 causal...killed, let alone wounded to date. Practically everyone knows someone there. And that means that the domestic calculus here is very, very different. You know, you talk to even left leaning Israelis. The appetite for stopping short of full on destruction of Hamas is practically nil at this point. This is a very different dynamics than there was in 2014, different dynamic in 2008, where it's you know, yes, there are some rockets. I mean, and, but Iron Dome intercepts most of them. You know, just for like context wise, in 2014 when that conflict ended, there were grand total of 71, 72 or so Israeli really casualties killed. You know, your orders of magnitude are more than that right now. And that means that that international — the...the balance between how much Israel's calculus is going to be shaped by international pressure versus domestic pressure, I think, is different than in previous conflict and I think, you know, from the standpoint of American policy, we need to be a lot that.

Jeffrey Hiday

Ann?

Ann Dailey

Yeah, I completely agree with Rafi and Brian on that. I would just add that it.. initially, right now, doesn't appear that, you know, sort of building on what Rafi said it seems that Israel is much more focused on having a strong response than they are about threading a needle, at least right now. And, you know, when you look at Minister Gallant's comments about, you know, food, fuel and water to Gaza Strip and then the fact that they've now brought in former minister of Defense Benny Gantz, into a sort of governing coalition, it just demonstrates what Rafi said about the unity within Israel to have a very strong response to this, where previously very contrasting parts of the Israeli political spectrum are now cooperating and working on this on this counter offensive in this response.

Raphael Cohen

Yeah. I to add one more point, if I could, on that.

Jeffrey Hiday

Rafi then Brian.

Raphael Cohen

Yeah. On the domestic political calculus. It's important to know just from a political calculus, is that for Netanyahu in particular, his selling point to the Israeli public and he barely made it through to get back into the prime ministership has been vote for me and I will keep you safe. He failed in that one in fairly dramatic fashion. In fact, if you look at the polling coming out, a majority of Israelis want him removed as prime minister. If he cannot deliver security, his own political future is very much in question. It already maybe a question, but, you know, again, that's going to be front and center of Israeli political calculus here, too. In addition to all the international concerns and I think the latter, I think, will end up playing less of a role than it has in previous conflicts.

Jeffrey Hiday

Brian.

Brian Michael Jenkins

I just wanted to reinforce the point made by Rafi here in terms of the impact and I agree, the impact on Israeli society. This is so much more of an impact — it is difficult for us to imagine. As Rafi has pointed out, this is a country of fewer than 10 million people. The United States, the country that in terms of population is 35 times — roughly 35 times the size of Israel. If we were simply to scale up in terms of psychological impact, in terms of knowing someone who was killed, or, or you know, having a relative that was directly affected by this, we would be looking at, at, at something in the neighborhood of an attack resulting in 40,000 deaths in the United States. Now, we saw how we responded in terms of 9/11. Can you imagine the response, the attitudes and feelings in this country had we dealt with something that was ten or 15 times the casualties of 9/11? And so that is going to be the number one powerful drive. There's still is world opinion, and, and that will be an unavoidable issue as we continue. But right now, right now, I'd agree with Rafi, the sentiments in Israel, that is the humanitarian concerns. The, the, the intensity of the emotional reaction cannot be overestimated.

Jeffrey Hiday

We have a question from — have two questions from Ozan from TRT. Ozan, let me ask the second one first, because it fits in with what we're discussing right now, which is will the war influence the Abraham Accords and the recent rapprochement with Turkey? And do those processes carry any weight to factor into Israel's calculus in all this?

Raphael Cohen

Oh, so go ahead Ann.

Ann Dailey

Oh, go ahead Rafi.

Raphael Cohen

Go ahead Ann. Yeah.

Ann Dailey

I was just going to say that obviously any Muslim majority nations right now will have to calibrate any relations with Israel. You know, even if there had been support for greater rapprochement within the population, which isn't always the case when you look at these nations, often it's more of a — the, the country's leadership is geared towards rapprochement and then sometimes has to sell it to their population. So right now, this will obviously have a chilling effect on the Abraham Accords. And in terms of Turkey, you know, Erdoğan has been trying to position himself as a leader in the greater Middle East for quite some time now. And so, you'll you will see Turkey try to play that mediator role similar to what they've been doing in Ukraine and position themselves as a leader in the broader Middle East, but also one that can then also have broader conversations with external players. In terms of the factoring into Israel's calculus, I think that this gets back to what we had said previously. Israel's primary concern right now is responding to these attacks, and ensuring its defense. It will have to take geopolitical considerations into into consideration. But I don't think that that is their...their primary concern right now.

Raphael Cohen

If I could just pick up on something that Ann said and sort of amplify it a little bit; particularly about the Abraham Accords, I think there's going to be a schism a little bit between what the public messaging and what the private messaging might be coming out of some of these countries in the region. You know, from the standpoint of the Gulf States, Saudi Arabia and the like, there's no love lost between them and Hamas. Hamas being the outgrowth of the Muslim Brotherhood, it's a direct threat to their own stability, don't own regime to the extent that Iran is sort of playing in the background here. There's no love lost between them and the Iranians as well. You know, despite the calls between Mohammed bin Salman and and the Iranians of late. So there's there's that tension that's going to be there. But that's an internal narrative that's going to be held rather closely among the general population of these countries. There's going to be a little bit more...more sympathy towards the plight of the Palestinian public. If not support for the Hamas outright. So, you know, you will see demonstrations of support coming out of these countries for Hamas. But the importance for all, U.S. policy, and then for thinking about general regional dynamics is what's that public messaging of what's going on below the surface, which may or may not always be clear.

Jeff Hiday

Before we get to Ozan's other question, just sticking with how other countries are engaging or reacting, Ann, could we could I hear from you first on Russia's perspective to this war and perhaps also the European perspective more broadly.

Ann Dailey

For Russia, if we're looking at what they've said and what they've done, they've, they've not yet come out and condemned Hamas' initial attack. They've called for both parties to come to a negotiated agreement and a peace settlement. When you look, you had Sergei Lavrov meeting with the president of the Arab League. You've seen an active Russian information operation to try to tie this to Ukraine, trying to link Western and US Western military aid to Ukraine, and say that, you know, these are thus far unsubstantiated claims that it was the arms to Ukraine that were then proliferated that led to Hamas to attack Israel. And this is an effort to try to undermine U.S. and Western support for Ukraine and portray the United States and the West as contributors to instability globally. So this is, this is the sort of message that Russia is trying to push. If you look at, you know, maybe why Russia hasn't come out and actively condemned Hamas, you know, obviously, Russia's bolstered its relationship with Iran because of U.S. and Western sanctions, and also because Iran has played an important role in providing military equipment and material to Russia in its fight against Ukraine. So, so that may play into Russia's stance right now. Another factor is that instability in the Middle East typically leads to increased oil prices. And we have seen that, although it hasn't spiked too significantly thus far. Obviously, higher oil prices are good for Russia because they're able to sell oil and get global currency reserves, which they then need to prop up the ruble, which is not in a good shape right now. So from a Russian perspective, this is an opportunity for them to sow further unrest and discontent in the West and then also try to re-consolidate sort of their coalition of the sanctioned, as it were, to build these relationships with the countries that are dissatisfied with the quote unquote, US led global order. If you look at Europe, this this goes back to of previous comments about how Hamas is going to try to portray themselves as a victim. You know, you saw European nations initially come out with very strong statements in support of Israel and Israel's right to self-defense. Very soon after that, however, you did see Josep Borrell from the...from the European Union has made some statements about how Israel needs to calibrate its response. Israel needs to be a responsible actor when it is responding to these attacks. And it's, you know, it's not in opposition to what Israel has done, but it's, again, looking very closely at the humanitarian follow on effects within the Gaza Strip. And playing again to what Hamas' strategy is going to be, which is, again, portraying themselves as the victim in order to undermine what was initially very strong support from national governments at the national level.

Jeff Hiday

Ann did you touch on Israeli gas to Europe?

Ann Dailey

Oh, so I did not mention that. But in addition to oil..obviously, oil and oil prices are the bigger trend or the larger aspects of this conflict. But there's also a smaller but still significant impact to...to oil and gas markets, which is the fact that if you look back to 2022, several European nations actually started to import Israeli LNG. It was one of the countries that...or one of the relationships that was fostered after or as Europe was trying to wean themselves off Russian natural gas. And so, Israel has ceased its activities in its major gas fields right now, and that will cut the LNG supplies that it had been providing to Europe. And while it's a very you know, it's a pretty small amount, it's it is significant, I think, because it's almost a one for one of...Israel had stepped up to help provide natural gas resources to Europe in the wake of Russia's invasion of Ukraine. And now that's something that's coming offline and it's you know, it's not going to endanger European energy security by itself. But you're also seeing a couple other things, like there are you know, there was an attack on a undersea pipeline in the Baltic Sea. You're saying some unrest in Australia that's interrupting some LNG supplies. And so when you start putting all of these things together, it could start having an impact as we as we get closer to winter.

Jeffrey Hiday

Thanks Ann. Let's shift. We've got a number of questions popping up in the chat. Let's let's get some let's get back first to Ozon's other question which Rafi I think would be for you. Question is, do we know if Hamas has better technology this time that puts them in a better position compared to 2008 or 2014? You did touch on this earlier about a fresh stab at it.

Raphael Cohen

Yeah. So Hamas is always improving. It's like any..any terrorist organization or like any learning military, it's going to be better today than it was yesterday. And Hamas certainly fits into this one. I'll give you one example here. You've been seeing a lot of use of rockets in the conflict, particularly salvos of rockets also shooting a lot of rockets at Israel all at once. The reason why that's important is that can overwhelm Iron Dome. There's only so many interceptors you have in batteries. And the more...the net result is, more rockets gets through. It's one sort of small example of innovation that Hamas has done. There'll be other examples as well. We'll see what use drones, for instance. Even some of the ways that they've got, they broke through the fence or got around the fence in 10/7 attacks, that shows at least tactical innovation and in some cases, better equipment as well. Again, the level of destruction here is considerably more than it was in 2014. And, you know, that's indicative by, better, a better, more competent military.

Jeffrey Hiday

Ann.

Ann Dailey

Yep. I was just going to add to that. Again, I agree 100% with Rafi. You know, we've seen better technology since 2008 and 2014. So yes, they will have better technology and there is an increase in commercial off the shelf technology with military applications, which is obviously useful for a non-state actor to be able to leverage COTS technology in a military fight. And so it's...I don't know that this is, you know, specific to Hamas, I think that this is a broader trend in military and security more broadly, that the technological advantage is continuing to erode for large nation states because there are so many commercial off the shelf technologies that can have very significant military impacts with relatively low investment of funds. And, it's harder to stop them getting to places because they are commercial in their off the shelf.

Jeffrey Hiday

Related to this is a question from Jeff Selden from VOA. To what extent can Hamas expect support or resupply from its sponsors, from jihadists in other parts of the region who might be looking for a fight, perhaps?

Raphael Cohen

So I can take a stab at this one. I mean, there's interest there; we've said as much. Kata'ib Hezbollah said that it's interested in assisting. Hamas. The Taliban even made this reference of like, you give us safe passage and we will go conquer Jerusalem for you. So there a variety of actors that have made these pledges. The catch here is that Gaza currently is under a full-on blockade, as I think we previously mentioned. And because it's on a full-on blockade, is even if there is will, the question is how do you get stuff into Gaza now that's presumably smuggling routes, you know, tunnels and such underneath water, but that becomes far more difficult given that Israel's imposing this very severe blockade. And it's probably one of the reasons why Israel has been so forceful about trying to drive that blockade forward, aside from the sort of using it as a bargaining chip to get the hostages back.

Jeffrey Hiday

Dan Michaels, my former colleague. Feel free to come on. If you can.

Dan Michaels

Can you hear me?

Jeffrey Hiday

Hey, Dan, we hear you now.

Dan Michaels

Thanks. So many things to unmute. Hello, Jeff. Curious what the panelists think about the urban warfare environment if assuming Israel goes in with a ground assault. Hamas has had experience with urban warfare with Israel. They've had a long time to prepare tunnels and booby traps and everything. And it would seem that even the bombardment so far by Israel has created a lot of rubble, that, I mean, they have D9 bulldozers and things like but still a lot places to hide and a lot of physical obstacles, so I'm curious to know broadly your thoughts on urban warfare and what the situation might be here. Thank you.

Raphael Cohen

So I'll take this one, Jeff, and then turn it over to the other panelists. So as I mentioned at the top of the hour, there is no good ground to option in Gaza, period. Full stop. You know, as even before the rubble and the bombardment, you know, it's a very dense open terrain. There's a very extensive tunnel network. Hamas knows the ground. They've been preparing for a ground incursion since Cast Led in 2008. So it's a very, very difficult to operating environment for any any military, Israeli or otherwise, to operate in such an area. You know, the the added complicating factor is if you want to try to avoid civilian casualties here, trying to do accurate target discrimination becomes really quite difficult. You know, and the Israelis, to their credit, have sort of experimented with different ways of getting after this problem posed in terms of the training that they have, courses designed to train and tunnel warfare and also develop the capabilities, you know, thinking about use of robotics and stuff to, you know, go into some of these particularly dangerous tunnel networks. But there's a limit to what all of those technologies could do. So should Israel go in on the ground it's going to be a very bloody fight and a very messy one, unfortunately, and it will produce, unfortunately, even more of rubble than than we've seen in the air campaign. If you look at the aftermath of other major urban battles, be it Fallujah, be it Crosnee maybe it Mosul those urban centers look, well, you know, they're devastated at the end of it. And unfortunately, there's no good way around that.

Dan Michaels

No, I think that's that's great. Thank you very much.

Jeffrey Hiday

Brian, you have weighed in. Just want to make sure you do not want to be heard on these points.

Brian Michael Jenkins

Yeah you know look. Urban...urban warfare is, urban warfare is, is, is, you know, armies despise urban warfare because it's costly. It's costly in terms of casualties. Rafi mentioned Mosul, if we look at if we look at the history of recent history in the Middle East of urban battles, whether it's Fallujah during the war in Iraq, whether it's Mosul, more recently at some of these urban centers, these are these are very, very difficult tunnel warfare by itself, whether, whether it is, whether it's in an urban area or even going back to the days of Vietnam. Tunnel warfare is slow, difficult, is slow and difficult. And yes, there is some new technology that can facilitate something, but this is tunnel warfare, and urban warfare are inherently difficult. And many of the advantages that a modern, well-equipped military force would have are, are reduced or degraded by an urban environment and especially by a tunnel environment.

Jeffrey Hiday

Right. Well, I've got you off mute, Beige, Republic News at a question back to the hostage situation saying there seems to be a divide over the approach whether its editorial board writing something in favor of negotiation, whereas the Israeli government seems to suggest rescue is not possible. This seems like a political divide. Is this typical? historical? Is it specific or is this specific to current circumstance?

Brian Michael Jenkins

And no, I think it is historical in, in, in these cases. There are all of these, these are, these are difficult, difficult questions. No one is, no one is going to say that they're going to abandon hostages. They cannot be forgotten. They remain a priority. But there are...there's there's simply the realism enters into it here. If we look at historical numbers on this going..going back in time, the fact is hostages may, may die during attempts to abduct them, to take them hostage. They may die while attempting to escape. They may be murdered in cold blood by their captors or they may die during rescue attempts. The statistics suggest that of those four methods, about 80% died during rescue attempts. So we just have to be realistic about that and not misled by what the kinds of things we see in Hollywood movies. These are high risk, even when you have superb intelligence and not necessarily the environment that you have in — currently in Gaza. I mean, during the during the kidnapings of Westerners in Beirut by the by the predecessors of Hezbollah, that dragged on from years in the first kidnapings in 1982 to into the into 90 — into the nineties before they were all released. Rescue the thought of rescue regularly was there, but it simply was not a realistic option during a period of almost a decade.

Jeffrey Hiday

Ann, let's go to you with a question from Ellen at Vox. What is the appetite in Iran for getting involved in the conflict? U.S. posture seems to be aimed at deterring such involvement, but there doesn't seem to be a strategic reason why they would attack in a straightforward way. I know you said earlier you thought their involvement was the less likely end of the spectrum.

Ann Dailey

Yeah, I think that was actually Rafi, but I agree, I agree with his assessment. The Iranian leadership thus far; there is...there are some Iranian military officials who had said that they support they supported Hamas' attack. I think that means they were saying emotional support or support to just general, generally, that they support the fact that it happened. A lot of people took that to mean that Iran had declared that it had directly provided some sort of military support to Hamas in the campaign and that the Iranian government was quick to...to come out and say that that was not the case, that, you know, this was not, you know, Iran had not directly supported this specific attack. There are, there is intelligence that obviously, there have been reports, I should say, that, that intelligence has shown that Iran did help with this specific attack, but that has not been confirmed or publicly by by Western intelligence sources. So far, the Defense Department in, you know, the U.S. Defense Department would not comment on that. But what is clear, though, is that Iran has and continues to support Hezbollah and other proxy organizations within the region, that it can then decide and make a decision on whether and to what extent it provides them with additional equipment or encourages them to take advantage of this situation, to try to open additional fronts in this conflict. And so that is what you've heard sort of U.S. defense officials say when they talk about increased posture in the region and sending maritime assets for improving ISR and and providing other, you know, capabilities on hand, should it, should it become necessary, that's not necessarily meant to deter Iran as a nation from joining the military conflict. It is meant to change that risk calculus for Iranian leaders on whether and to what extent they want to support and urge their proxies to open additional fronts of the war.

Jeffrey Hiday

Thanks Ann. We've just got a couple of minutes left. If you want to ask another question, feel free. But one of the questions posed by Geoff at VOA might be a nice way for us to wrap up. Does Israel have a coherent enough strategy, a strategic objective and endgame in mind? And if so, has it been articulated enough to the general public? I really wish that Shira, who had hoped to join us today, could have. She would have tackled this one. In her absence. Who would like to address Israel's strategic objectives?

Raphael Cohen

I'll take this one, Jeff. My answer would be no and no for two reasons. I think the end, the end state that Netanyahu, Galant, Halevi have all articulated the destruction of Hamas, which is the kinetic option. And you can...that's well within the military's capability to accomplish. They haven't really said anything to date about, okay, after you do that, then what? That sort of remains still undefined. Now, that may come later or it may not. I mean, but this goes back to I think one of the points that we brought up earlier in the call, which is right now, Israel itself is reeling, emotionally speaking. And you know, Israel in general tends to be very tactical about these things. You know, they've the whole doctrine is of 'mowing the grass'. You know, we're going to just wipe out the terrorists one day and then they'll come back and then we'll wipe them out again; rather than articulating some sort of long term solution. So the combination of both significant emotional trauma on a collective level and then a sort of tactical mindset on the other means that what the overall strategic approach is, while unsurprisingly quite tactical and quite kinetic, that's not the sort of grander vision of like, here's how we get to a better place ten years down the road where something like this doesn't happen again.

Jeffrey Hiday

Rafi, is it fair to say that the 'mow the grass'...'mow the grass' approach would now be deemed a kind of historical failure?

Raphael Cohen

Well, I mean, we'll have to see. I think the question...I mean, right now, what it sounds like is from my perspective is this is mowing the grass. Just taken to a more extreme, right. We're going to not only kill the bunch of leadership and, you know, go after a bunch of sites, we're going to completely uproot the organization itself. So this is, you know, a more...it's more of the same as, as in a change in strategic approach.

Jeffrey Hiday

Destroying the lawn, as Brian mentioned earlier. All right. I think we are we are at time or a little beyond time. Thanks, everyone, for joining. And that will conclude our call. Have a nice day.

Narrator

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