Israel launched its Gaza ground operation cautiously in the South. Hamas runs to shelter in crowded towns

Friday, July 18, 2014
By Paul Martin

DEBKA.com
July 18, 2014

The first hours of Israel’s Operation Defensive Edge ground phase against Hamas were marked by heavy artillery and air pounding to soften up the terrain as the ground forces went in Thursday night, July 17. The troops advanced in two heads – one north to Jebalya and Beit Lahiya and the other south, where it went into action initially against Khan Younes and Rafah. The IDF took its first casualty before dawn Friday: Sgt. Eytan Barak, 20, from Herzliya, who served in the Nahal Division
In its current phase, the IDF ground operation is focusing on southern Gaza, with the potential for expanding into further areas, as and when the government decides, IDF Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Benny Gantz told the special cabinet session Friday.

The densely populated Gaza City has not been broached as yet.

debkafile’s military experts maintain that the first 48 hours of a war are often critical for determining its outcome. If a tactical gain is not achieved early on and a psychological blow not inflicted on the enemy, the operation tends to start losing traction by the third and fourth days.
That is why it is so important to hit the teeming Gaza City without delay, because Hamas has buried its core infrastructure under the crowded town center: Housed in a fortified bunker complex are its command and control, its communications systems and its longest-range weapons, which are held ready to strike after an Israeli invasion.
Bringing a small special operations force close enough to the Hamas stronghold would be useful for making the enemy feel threatened. But most importantly, it could gather the kind of intelligence which spy satellites and the air force were unable to reach. A small ground force trained in surveillance could pull this data from a point 200-300 meters away from target.

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