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Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has vowed to eliminate Hamas and regain security control in Gaza indefinitely, adding uncertainty to the fate of the Palestinian enclave once the four-day humanitarian truce, which was extended for another two days, expires on November 29.

According to Middle East security and defense analyst Riad Kahwaji, Israel is apparently set to resume its massive bombardment of the enclave in order to achieve the objectives it has set. Although Washington, a staunch ally and supporter of Tel Aviv, has urged Netanyahu to minimize civilian casualties, ‘collateral damage’ is inevitable, Kahwaji told This Is Beirut.

“Israel is more concerned about reducing the number of casualties among its own troops than among Palestinians,” he said. “While eliminating Hamas commanders is one of its objectives, silencing the sources of missiles fired against Israel is also a priority.”

“Israel has no problem if Palestinians keep their light weapons, such as Kalashnikovs or B7 grenades. But they will not tolerate that the Palestinians maintain the ability to build missiles and fire them deep inside Israel. They want to eliminate that capability.”

To fulfill their objectives, the Israelis have two options: either to send in armored-backed infantry, engage in street fighting, run the risk of sustaining a large number of casualties that will turn the public’s support for the operation against the government, or resume the massive bombardment of the enclave.

“I believe that Israel will seek to complete the invasion of northern Gaza because they believe it is the center of Hamas’ main command and where the missiles are being locally produced in underground tunnels,” Kahwaji maintained. “The operation will also expand to find the sources of missiles that are still being fired from south and central Gaza and destroy them.”

Commenting on US calls to avoid civilian casualties, the founder and director of the Institute for Near East and Gulf Military Analysis said, “Anybody who is knowledgeable about military issues will tell you this is going to be very hard to do in an area that is highly populated.”

“You have more than 2 million people that live there, and if you throw a rocket, you will have collateral damage, so what about firing a missile? Avoiding collateral damage is nearly impossible without making sure that all civilians have left the area. That’s why Israel has been trying to empty the north by giving a so-called safe passage for the people to go south.”

When asked about weapons that cause little collateral damage, Kahwaji explained that small-diameter 100- to 200-pound bombs are built to hit specific targets, such as apartments or cars, without destroying everything around them.

“The Israelis have such weapons, and they can use them if they want to focus on targeted killing. But if they aim to occupy the territory and clear it of military infrastructure, they will have to resume heavy bombardments from air, land, and sea.”

“So far, Israel still enjoys US support to achieve its set objectives. Washington is saying you can resume the operation, but be careful about collateral damage. Israel would say we will be careful, but this does not mean that it will happen, because when you are dropping 2000-pound bombs and taking out entire buildings, you are bound to eliminate many civilians.”

Commenting on a possible resumption of violence on Lebanon’s southern border between Hezbollah and Israel, Kahwaji noted that the so-called ‘rules of engagement’ were largely observed.

“Although the Israelis occasionally responded somehow deep inside Lebanese territory, the confrontations stayed within acceptable margins. Most of the time, they were limited within five kilometers on both sides of the border.”

“It was clear that Israel was avoiding inflicting serious damage in the villages and towns… We know very well that had it wanted to target them, the damage would have been way more severe. So, it is obvious that both sides were trying to keep things within an acceptable margin and avoid slipping into an all-out confrontation.”

Residents of southern Lebanon have been reportedly calling on Hezbollah not to resume cross-border fire exchanges, which have so far claimed the lives of at least 80 members of the Iran-backed group in addition to a number of civilians.

People are questioning the merit or worth of opening the southern Lebanese front.

For Kahwaji, these are legitimate questions:

“How much did the southern front assist Gaza?” he asked. “It did not stop Israel from bombing the enclave while it was busy bombing Lebanon. We saw that Israel has enough firepower to deal with both fronts. So, if opening the southern front is not helping Gaza, why open it?”

Kahwaji concluded by forecasting a resumption of military operations in Gaza after US Secretary of State Antony Blinken ends a visit to Israel and the West Bank in the next couple of days.