Urban Warfare

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Urban warfare can take many forms, from guerrilla attacks to militia patrols to gang violence, but fighting in cities and towns—where civilians are at risk and combatants can hide more easily—is markedly different from combat in a more open or defined theater of operations. Determining how to assess enemies, mount a defense, and protect civilians is a focus of urban warfare research at RAND.

  • Report

    Lessons Learned from the Battle for Baghdad

    A review of the U.S. Army's efforts in the Iraq War, especially in Baghdad, offers insights and recommendations that could help leaders avoid the same mistakes in future conflicts. One important lesson is that DoD war plans need to include actions to ensure long-term stability.

    Jun 12, 2019

  • Essay

    Civilian Casualties: Lessons from the Battle for Raqqa

    The United States' emphasis on minimizing civilian harm in Raqqa, Syria, was quite clear and strong up and down the chain of command. But the way in which the U.S. military waged war in Raqqa too often undercut that commitment. The Pentagon asked RAND to find out what happened.

    Jul 1, 2022

Explore Urban Warfare

  • Israeli soldiers in front of a damaged building in the Gaza Strip, February 8, 2024, photo by Dylan Martinez/Reuters

    Commentary

    Is Israel Losing Sight of Its Long Game?

    If Israel is to succeed in its war against Hamas, then it needs to embrace the fact that it is responsible for Gaza’s more than two million civilians and ensure their welfare.

    Feb 16, 2024

  • An Israeli soldier crouches near a column of military vehicles moving out of the Gaza Strip, January 15, 2024, photo by Amir Cohen/Reuters

    Commentary

    Israel's 'People's Army' at War

    The IDF's relationship with Israeli society, cultural predilections, and individual norms make it a very different kind of military—informing how it fights in Gaza.

    Jan 16, 2024

  • Israel Defense Forces' ground operation in Gaza on November 12, 2023, photo by EyePress via Reuters

    Commentary

    The Trouble with a Cease-Fire

    Given that Hamas promised to repeat the October 7 attack until Israel's annihilation, it is no wonder that Israelis nearly uniformly want, as one Israeli politician put it, to finish the job this time around. To Israelis, the international calls for a cease-fire ring hollow.

    Dec 26, 2023

  • Israeli military spokesperson Rear Admiral Daniel Hagari shows what the Israeli military says is a tunnel at a location given as Gaza, in this still image taken from video released November 13, 2023, photo by Israel Defense Forces/Handout via Reuters

    Commentary

    The West's Incoherent Critique of Israel's Gaza Strategy

    The battlefield geography of Gaza means that any operation there would turn into a bloody, highly destructive ground operation, with a lot of civilians caught in the crossfire. While Israel can mitigate some of these effects, neither Israel nor any other military can prevent them entirely. In this war, there is no happy medium.

    Nov 16, 2023

  • An Israeli soldier moves through a building in the northern Gaza Strip, November 8, 2023, photo by Ronen Zvulun/Reuters

    Commentary

    Why the Oct. 7 Attack Wasn't Israel's 9/11

    There are some basic strategic lessons to be learned from the U.S. response to 9/11 that are applicable to Israel's unfolding operation in Gaza. But in many key ways, the two conflicts couldn't be further apart.

    Nov 13, 2023

  • RAND Weekly Recap

    Blog

    Supporting Veterans, Israel-Hamas War, AI and Geopolitics: RAND Weekly Recap

    This weekly recap focuses on supporting America's veterans, what Israel's ground offensive in Gaza can and cannot accomplish, how AI might affect the rise and fall of nations, and more.

    Nov 10, 2023

  • An Israeli artillery unit fires from an undisclosed location near the Gaza Strip border, November 6, 2023, photo by Ilan Rosenberg/Reuters

    Commentary

    What Israel's Ground Offensive Can—and Cannot—Accomplish

    Weeks after terrorist attacks left 1,400 Israelis dead, Israel has started its much-anticipated ground offensive in Gaza. But what can such an operation hope to achieve, and why launch such a campaign now?

    Nov 6, 2023

  • Israel's newest F-16I fighter jets take off for an airstrike mission in the Gaza Strip on October 16, 2023, photo by EyePress News/Reuters

    Commentary

    The Four Questions the U.S. Military Should Be Asking About Operation Swords of Iron

    The war in Gaza, much like previous Israeli wars, will likely yield a host of lessons for American military planners. It's not too early to identify the right questions to be asking as the conflict unfolds.

    Oct 23, 2023

  • Journal Article

    Journal Article

    "Killing Rats in a Porcelain Shop": PLA Urban Warfare in a Taiwan Campaign

    This chapter considers the dedicated efforts the PLA has focused on since the late 2000s to develop an urban warfare capacity that appears to be directed at the capture of Taipei in a Cross-straits contingency.

    Oct 19, 2022

  • RAND Weekly Recap

    Blog

    Gun Storage, the Dangers of Replacement Theory, War in Ukraine: RAND Weekly Recap

    This weekly recap focuses on how Americans store their guns, why

    Jul 15, 2022

  • RAND Weekly Recap

    Blog

    Employing Insurgency in Ukraine, U.S. Hospital Prices, Reaching the Middle Class: RAND Weekly Recap

    This week, we discuss the potential value of an insurgent campaign in Ukraine; addressing L.A.’s housing crisis; lessons from the 2017 battle for Raqqa; a look at U.S. hospital prices; Americans’ options for reaching the middle class; and how to help single mothers get out of poverty.

    Apr 8, 2022

  • News Release

    News Release

    Efforts to Avoid Civilian Casualties in Raqqa, Syria, in 2017 Were Considerable but Insufficient

    U.S. strategic choices in the battle to liberate Raqqa, Syria, from ISIS in 2017 likely increased civilian harm despite considerable efforts to avoid civilian casualties by both U.S. and coalition forces.

    Mar 31, 2022

  • The destruction on Al-Qouatli street in Raqqa, Syria, photo by Abood Hamam

    Report

    Efforts to Avoid Civilian Casualties in Raqqa Were Considerable but Insufficient

    The 2017 battle to liberate Raqqa, Syria, from ISIS is a cautionary tale in 21st-century conflicts. U.S. strategic choices likely increased civilian harm despite considerable efforts to avoid civilian casualties by both U.S. and coalition forces. What lessons can be applied to future operations?

    Mar 31, 2022

  • Research Brief

    Research Brief

    The Battle for Baghdad: Institutionalizing Army Lessons for Urban Combat

    This brief recounts the U.S. Army's efforts in the Iraq War, especially in Baghdad, and offers lessons learned and recommendations to enable leaders and soldiers to be better prepared in future conflicts.

    Jul 3, 2019

  • RAND Weekly Recap

    Blog

    Hong Kong, Education Reform, Baghdad: RAND Weekly Recap

    This weekly recap focuses on lessons for state education reform, retaining women in the U.S. Coast Guard, recounting the Battle for Baghdad, and more.

    Jun 14, 2019

  • U.S. Army Soldiers conduct actions on an objective during a training scenario at the Asymmetric Warfare Training Center, Fort A.P. Hill, Virginia, Feb. 23, 2018, photo by St. Randis Monroe/U.S. Army

    Commentary

    Urban Legend: Is Combat in Cities Really Inevitable?

    Future combat will take place in dense urban areas and likely in megacities. These are the new “truths” that are taking hold in the U.S. military. But before going all-in on optimizing for urban operations, the U.S. military should take a deep breath and think carefully about future operations within the context of the National Defense Strategy.

    May 7, 2019

  • Palestinian demonstrators run for cover from Israeli fire and tear gas during a protest against the U.S. embassy move to Jerusalem and ahead of the 70th anniversary of Nakba, at the Israel-Gaza border in the Gaza Strip, May 14, 2018

    Commentary

    Five Thoughts on Jerusalem, Gaza, and What's in Between

    Dozens of people have been killed and over 2,000 injured in protests in the Gaza Strip along the border with Israel. Continued clashes are expected until the fundamental problems of the strip are solved, including the governance vacuum, the Palestinian Authority-Hamas rift, and the conflict with Israel.

    May 15, 2018

  • Israel's Iron Dome anti-missile system intercepts rockets launched from the Gaza Strip, as seen from Ashkelon in southern Israel, October 9, 2023, photo by Amir Cohen/Reuters

    Research Brief

    Israel-Hamas War: Insights from RAND Research

    On October 7, Hamas launched a sweeping attack on Israel. As his government responded with strikes in Gaza, Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu warned of a “long and difficult war” ahead. A 2017 RAND report offers context for this violence, the latest eruption in a cycle that has long plagued the region.

    Oct 18, 2017