Wednesday 10 April 2024 - 08:55

What’s Really Behind Snap Israeli Military Withdrawal from Gaza Fronts?

Story Code : 1127862
What’s Really Behind Snap Israeli Military Withdrawal from Gaza Fronts?
With this it can be said that now the Israeli regime has removed all of its army from Gaza except for Nahal Brigade which seems to be tasked with holding the middle line to block return of the civilians from the south to north of Gaza. 

This retreat is an important moment in the war, and the assessment of the field situation and the claim of the Israelis increases its importance in helping predict future developments.

The Israelis stated that this move is tactical to advance the war and part of preparations for a large-scale invasion of Rafah, the last shelter of 1.5 million displaced Gazans. To discredit the speculations and rumors, they call it the stop before start of the third stage of war. 

From a military point of view, the operation of the Israeli army in Gaza has so far consisted of two stages: 1- Aerial bombardment and 2- Ground invasion; and at some point, the Israelis had withdrawn the 36th brigade of the army, known as the Golani Division, from the battlefield to replace the forces, and now they argue that this withdrawal is similar to the withdrawal of Golani Division after nearly four months of clashes in Khan Younis and it does not mean a dramatic change in the war strategy. 

On Sunday afternoon, the chief of the General Staff of the Israeli regime Herzi Halevi in a press conference said that military operations against Hamas do not stop despite withdrawal. He once again vowed the Israeli forces "sooner or later" will reach Hamas officials whose whereabouts are unclear. 

Defense Minister Yoav Gallant said that the military forces exited southern Gaza to prepare for the possible operation in Rafah. 

Although the Israelis claim that this retreat does not mean defeat and that invasion of Rafah is certain, various doubts have been raised showing that the reality is something else. 

Firstly, the military officials do not explain why while a large part of the forces have recently been replaced on the battleground, all of the forces were removed all of a sudden on Sunday. Was not it more logical to replace just the longer-serving forces if Israel plans to launch the third stage of the war? 

Also, the Israeli authorities in justification of the withdrawal say that the operation in Khan Yunis is over and there is nothing left to do. 

"There is no need for us to stay in Khan Yunis," said an army official speaking to the Israeli newspaper Haaretz. "The 98th Division completely destroyed the Khan Younis Brigades of Hamas and killed thousands of its members. We did everything we could there." 

But this claim is incorrect, since a few hours after exit from Khan Younis Palestinian rockets were fired at Israeli settlements, showing that there would possibly be security vacuum after military withdrawal. As in the north where Hamas forces conducted several operations, the security vacuum can lead to Hamas return. This comes as some reports suggest that 98th Division, whose forces are parachuters, lost up to 70 percent of its operational power during the clashes. 

Although some forces remain in Gaza and are mainly patrolling the east-west corridor that divides the Strip, if Tel Aviv intends to invade Rafah, with this withdrawal due to Khan Younis' territorial superiority to Rafah, they have practically handed over the siezed lands— something making a large-scale ground invasion of Rafah unlikely at least in the short term. 

From another aspect, it needs to be taken into account that over the past six months of war, the Israelis have failed to obtain their stated goals which are release of the prisoners held by Hamas and destruction of this resistance movement, and so they do not have a bargaining chip for their negotiations in Cairo with which they can press Hamas. Therefore, if the withdrawal from Gaza is really a new stage in the operations, it is a big risk, since if this action is not accompanied by a meaningful advancement in the political process, any Israeli military achievements will risk being vaporized fast. 

From another perspective, the exit along with the start of the Cairo talks, which are held with presence of senior Israeli security officials including Mossad and Shin Bet chiefs who reportedly have massive powers to make decisions, can be interpreted that Israel is accepting one of the key conditions of resistance groups for talks. Hamas has repeatedly said that full withdrawal of the occupation forces is one of the key conditions for any agreement. 

Other Hamas conditions include a permanent ceasefire, the return of displaced people to their homes, a "serious" deal to exchange Palestinian prisoners, and to rebuild Gaza. In this context, it seems that the Israeli threats to start the third stage of the war and to invade the city of Rafah are mainly made to maintain an upper hand in the negotiations and wrest concessions from the Palestinian resistance. 

Additionally, what makes the Israeli move look like a step towards boosting negotiations is the increasing world pressure on Tel Aviv to halt the war. The Israeli cabinet has been facing heavy pressures in recent days especially after UNSC ceasefire resolution, bombing of World Central Kitchen's aid workers, and rejuvenated home protests against Netanyahu. 

But another important point that needs to be taken into consideration is the Axis of Resistance's threats of retaliation after the cowardly attack on Iran embassy's consular section in Damascus on April 1 that led to martyrdom of seven IRGC commanders and officers. 

On Sunday, Halevi said that the army is "well prepared" on several fronts to deal with possible Iranian and allied attacks in retaliation to Damascus attack. These comments demonstrate that Israelis are suffering from a kind of strategic confusion in their prediction of type of retaliatory strikes of the Iran-led Resistance camp and so they have to watch vigilantly all of the fronts. Maintaining this level of preparation takes recalling maximum number of security and military forces and resources. Given the fact that a majority of the combat forces were tied down in Gaza, the massive withdrawal and unofficial acceptance of defeat was the only way left to the hardline cabinet.