Israeli army continues to amass tanks and troops near Gaza for ground operation


On October 17, 2023, the Israeli Defence Forces (IDF) released information detailing their preparations for a comprehensive ground offensive following several days of combat. This move comes after the mobilization of hundreds of thousands of reservists, backed by a significant logistical effort.
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Recent reports indicate that Israel has amassed a formidable force of at least 300 Merkava tanks and armored fighting vehicles in proximity to Gaza. (Picture source IDF)


Several reserve battalions of the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) have been activated for defense tasks in communities near the Gaza Strip. The Southern Command's 252nd Sinai Division is currently gearing up for broader combat operations. Notably, the turnout of reservists in the division has been overwhelming, with a reporting rate of approximately 120%.

BG Moran Omer, the Commander of the 252nd Sinai Division, commented on the situation: "Our division's units have been engaged in combat over the past week and are now training for the upcoming phases. I have full confidence that our reservists, in collaboration with our active-duty service members, will overcome Hamas. The rapid learning curve of our reservists is evident, and their dedication and motivation are palpable. My primary responsibility is to remain mission-focused and ensure its execution to the best of our capabilities. We are prepared to take all necessary actions, and if there were any doubts before, they are now dispelled."

Recent reports indicate that Israel has amassed a formidable force of at least 300 Merkava tanks and armored fighting vehicles (AFVs) in proximity to Gaza. This includes the Merkava main battle tanks and the D9R armored bulldozers, colloquially known as "Teddy Bear." Military observer Wei Dongxu suggests that Israel's ground operations in the Gaza Strip are set to transition from the current preliminary attacks to full-scale military actions. The heavily armored Merkava main battle tanks are expected to spearhead these operations.

Currently, a limited number of Israeli ground combat troops are executing preliminary attacks on the Gaza Strip. The objective is to expose the positions and firing points of Hamas personnel, potentially gathering intelligence for the subsequent rescue of detainees.

The IDF is gearing up for large-scale ground operations, with Merkava main battle tanks leading the charge. These troops will approach the frontline areas of the Gaza Strip, supported by a significant deployment of M109 self-propelled guns (SPGs). Concurrently, Israel's aerial bombardments will continue. In the maritime domain, Israel has dispatched naval vessels to enforce a comprehensive blockade of the coastal region. Naval artillery may be employed to bolster ground operations if deemed necessary.

In response, Hamas has declared its readiness to counter Israel's intensified ground assaults in the Gaza Strip. Wei Dongxu believes that Hamas will primarily retaliate using a combination of guerrilla warfare and rocket attacks against Israeli forces. Palestinian armed factions have previously constructed numerous tunnels, which store hand-movable rockets. These rockets are set to be launched from concealed, fortified positions close to or on the ground, making them challenging for adversaries to detect. Additionally, several tunnels with robust combat capabilities allow Hamas forces to outflank enemy troops and initiate attacks. Hamas is also expected to deploy mortar projectiles, anti-tank missiles, and other weaponry extensively.

Amidst Israel's extensive aerial bombardments in Gaza, the IDF has also been exchanging fire with the Lebanese Hizballah in recent days. Furthermore, Israeli forces have initiated air strikes on airfields within Syria. IDF spokesman Daniel Hagari stated, "The IDF will operate anywhere it has to in the Middle East."

While the United States has not overtly participated in the conflict, it remains poised to intervene if necessary. The US's deployed warplanes are equipped to execute bombing raids on ground targets, enabling the nation to join the conflict swiftly if Israel requests assistance. If the conflict expands and other Middle Eastern nations engage in direct military confrontations with Israel, US carrier battle groups and troops stationed in the Middle East are prepared to launch direct firepower strikes against these third parties. Observers note that the US's Middle East policy, which appears to support Israel's aggressive military actions, may not be conducive to fostering regional peace and stability.


Defense News October 2023