The Israeli government does its military no favours when it says that the goal of a ground invasion of Gaza is to “wipe out” or “destroy” Hamas. Such maximalist and eminently unrealistic objectives puts the Israel army in a bind: how to translate this political bluster into practical and achievable military objectives.

Israel’s generals are under no illusion that they can annihilate a deep-rooted movement like Hamas, which enjoys support from a high percentage of Palestinians in Gaza. Their focus will be to massively degrade the military capabilities of and ideally disarm Hamas. The missile, rocket, and now armed drone arsenals will be a top priority for the army. But meeting that priority still presents a host of challenges, some strategic/political, some operational/tactical.

Strategically, there is an inherent tension in the Israeli military's overall warfighting approach to this crisis. Going hard against Hamas, which is necessary for the goal of degrading or disarming the group, could risk the lives of the more than 200 hostages held by Hamas. On the other hand, pursuing lighter and more surgical operations gives Hamas the chance to fight back and thus put the lives of Israeli soldiers at risk. A balance must be struck, and it won’t be easy.

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