"There are hundreds of kms of tunnels in Gaza"

Jacob Nagel credit: Kobi Gidon GPO
Jacob Nagel credit: Kobi Gidon GPO

Brig. Gen. (res.) Prof. Jacob Nagel, former head of Israel's National Security Council, discusses the aims of Israel's imminent ground offensive in Gaza.

"You have to understand," says Brig. Gen. (res.) Prof. Jacob Nagel, Senior Fellow at the Washington DC-based Foundation for the Defense of Democracies (FDD) and former Head of Israel's National Security Council, "that all the comments we have heard in the past like 'all's well that ends well' or 'who will be in control afterwards,' or 'strengthening deterrence,' are already not relevant.

"The rules of the game have changed and now we are doing what must be done in Gaza and only when we are finished, we will see who will control it, what we will do, and where we will be going to after the sacrifices. There will be a lot of time for these things. They are important and it's alright to deal with them but first of all we must come and make sure that we will topple Hamas in Gaza."

In order to understand the terms, why are they calling this 'ground maneuvers' and not simply conquering the Gaza Strip?

"In the simplest way the term says to conquer the Strip but you don't conquer it in an awkward way but by 'maneuvering on the ground' in a smart and planned way. Usually when a body attacks the other body in war it maneuvers, it doesn't go head to head. There are no hidden meanings here. This is very clear military jargon.

"Hundreds of kilometers of underground tunnels"

What does entering Gaza include as you are describing it?

"The aim, as we have said, is to destroy Hamas's capabilities. People do not understand what is beneath Gaza. There are hundreds, maybe thousands, of kilometers of tunnels under the Strip. These are mainly located under the north of Gaza, therefore we are moving people to the south of the Strip."

In the past, when the IDF went into Gaza, it was almost always limited in terms of depth and scope. What is expected this time?

"That is already no longer relevant, it is in the past. If there is a ground offensive, it will be a full and meaningful entry to carry out the task defined by the cabinet."

We have over 150 hostages. Does it affect war planning?

"This is a situation we have never been in and each and every one of the hostages is a world in their own right. The statement should be that the military operation will be carried out as if there are no prisoners and hostages, and the supreme effort to return the captives will be made as if there is no military operation. We will deal with both and there will be someone who needs to handle each matter.

"In my opinion, this time we need to enter the strip without our gloves, with a lot of surprises and deal them a blow they have not had until now and maybe they will never receive again. Bombing and hitting the tunnels, collapsing houses on the tunnel entrances and much more. All these things must be done now in order to be prepared as much as possible for the ground entry. We have already learned that Hamas is strong. Equipped. We must not underestimate it, so we must do everything necessary to succeed."

For years one issue was what would happen the day after, so we were very hesitant. Do you now think there are thoughts by those planning this war about the day after?

"I think that right now it should not be at the top of the minds of those planning the war. I hope that maybe in the background the war planners are thinking about it but nothing more than that. The aims of the war right now do not include it."

When you headed Israel's National Security Council (2016-17), did anyone talk about the possibility of a scenario that we saw on Simchat Torah (October 7)?

"I can't talk about 'ever', but I don't remember such a scenario. There were many scenarios, for example, talking about Hamas members coming to the fence with Gazan citizens and trying to breach the fence. What would you do? Shoot tens of thousands of women and children? This was a scenario that was discussed, but that was really not what we saw here.

"I heard reserve generals say that the scenario was known. There was no such thing. Yes, there were also scenarios that a commando force of, for example, Hamas or Hezbollah would enter Israel with the aim of kidnapping soldiers and civilians, but I don't remember a scenario of thousands of terrorists entering and doing what they did here.

"By the way, one of the aims of the fence as a barrier was to stop the threat of the tunnels, so they invested a lot of time and money in the underground barrier, and indeed they did not enter here through the tunnels this time. They managed to penetrate the surface barrier and the eyes that were supposed to secure it. The thinking here was that we have intelligence, we have means and thus we will succeed in preventing infiltration.

"On Thursday and even Friday morning the concept and statements were that Hamas had been deterred. We were proud that we had succeeded in isolating Islamic Jihad and that Hamas had not joined in.

"The claim was that it hadn't changed, it wanted to defeat us, wanted to kill us. But not now. Now it wanted to build up its strength, it wanted to organize, so right now we were told there was calm."

How was it even possible that we weren't able to find out about this? How did we not notice the fact that what we thought was simply not true?

"Of course it's possible. There was fraud and deception here that will be learned about for many years. But right now none of this is relevant. If you had asked me ten days ago what the chances of something like this happening were, I would have told you close to zero. But it happened and it's a terrible obfuscation."

"I would like a more emphatic statement from President Biden"

Nagel warns, "There is definitely a possibility that this will develop into a multi-front war." He mentions that over a month ago he proposed launching a pre-emptive strike in the north, but it did not happen.

"We see the north heating up, but on the other hand we also see an amazing thing here, and that is the great mobilization of US capabilities on our behalf.

I would still like to hear a more emphatic statement with names and warnings from Biden, not only from his secretary of state, but for the president to make it clear to the Iranians that if they interfere they will pay a heavy price.

"You have to understand that the more powerful the attack on Gaza is, the less enthusiastic Nasrallah will be to join. In addition, you have to go back and make sure that the leaders of Hamas abroad understand that they too can be killed. Even those who sit in a five-star hotel in Doha should be on the lookout.

"Finally, the state must provide financially for those affected by the fighting. Also for the families of the dead and kidnapped. There is a great deal of Iranian money in various places and a legal war of lawsuits should be organized in the world against Iran and Hamas for their part in killing civilians.

"The money can of course also be used for civilian purposes and help for the victims."

Finally, the Prime Minister invited President Biden to visit Israel. How important is such a visit at this time?

"A visit is very important. Usually such a visit requires a very heavy security operation. It must not affect the timing of the ground entry, only military considerations should decide it."

Published by Globes, Israel business news - en.globes.co.il - on October 17, 2023.

© Copyright of Globes Publisher Itonut (1983) Ltd., 2023.

Jacob Nagel credit: Kobi Gidon GPO
Jacob Nagel credit: Kobi Gidon GPO
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