top of page
  • Writer's picturePete Jonson

Israel’s choice: no fight, or a bloody fight; No 91.

David Kilcullen, Weekend Australia, 23-24, 2024.


‘You tell a lot about a military force, and the conditions under which it operate, by watching how it prefers to fight. Americans, for example, prefer stand-off strikes with laser-guided bombs and long range rockets; they seek the illusion of distance, precision and cleanness, avoiding the bloody complex of ground combat. Russians, by contrast, are famous for massing enormous weights of artillery against a single point, then flinging “disposable infantry” into meat-grinder assaults’.

‘A central tool of Israeli grinds tactics is the armoured bulldozed: slow implacable, destroying obstacle after obstacle as it grinds forward. Israel’s ground campaign in Gaza has relied heavily on these bulldozers, which weigh more than an Abrams tank and can demolish buildings, clear rubble, destroy strong points or build berms under heavy fire.’

‘We are talking here of what it is, rather than what ought it be. In an ideal world, October 7 would not have happened, Israel would never have needed to mount a full-scale ground invasion of the Gaza strip and thousands of civilians – Israeli and Palestinian, men, women and children – would be alive and well today instead of dead, wounded or held hostage.’

‘For reasons we will explore, destruction of the urban environment itself, it has become a key part of how the Israel Defence Forces fight in cities.’

‘Much of the Gaza Strip is now not only uninhabitable but uninhabited. The IDF advanced has pushed the population ahead of it, with civilians fleeing along evacuation corridors, …’

‘October 7 showed that a determined enemy could cut the fence at numerous places, so bulldozers and combat engineers have been widening the buffer since. Israeli officials say this is a critical security measure to allow civilians to return to the settlements that Hamas attacked on 7 October.’

‘The IDF approach in Jenin was studied by US and Australian commanders during the Iraq war. They concluded its impacts of civilians - and its physical destructiveness – made it a last resort at best. US forces tried (often unsuccessfully) to protect Iraqi civilians and avoid urban incurisions. ‘

‘But Iraq – where the US-led (and was seen by locals) as a purely temporary presence, trying to defeat an enemy with minimal damage, then stabilise enough to leave – was far difference from Israel, where both sides claim the same territory as their own. This is a demographic and territorial conflict between populations with irreconcilable claims to the same tiny areas of land, a zero-sum contest where destruction of settlements and denial of excess helps cement control at the expense of the adversary.’

‘Any ground invasion of Gaza was therefore bound to be bloody, protected and destructive.’

‘The ADF said in mid-2023 that at least 50 attacks against Israeli civilians had originated from Jenin in the proceeding two years. In late July, weeks before the October 7 attacks, Israeli tanks, bulldozers and infantry launched their largest incursion into Jenin since the 2002 battle. Since the IDF launched its full-scale ground invasion of Gaza, raids into Jenin, Nablus and other West Bank towns have continued.’

‘This is what some Israelis calls “mowing the grass” – repeated raids into an area to disrupt terrorist groups and reduce the threats.’

‘This attitude – resignedly mowing the grass, forever, with no hope of any permanent settlement given the underlying politics – changed radically for many Israelis on the morning of October 7. ‘

‘In Israeli’s case, public pressure for a permanent defeat of Hamas is now overwhelming, and this is in turn drives political decisions that have resulted in the Gaza ground campaign. In turn, the evolution of Israeli (and Hamas) tactics tools over decades of conflict have shaped the way the campaign is conducted.’

‘While many Australians are rightly watching the Gaza war with horror, the harsh reality – as Mosal shows – that this is what happens when you do large-scale operations in a heavily populated city. The only way to avoid this would have been for October 7 never to have happened.’

‘Short of a ceasefire (which seems highly unlikely) or a fundamental of the conflict via direct Hezbollah intervention, things seem to continue as they are for the immediate future.’

A picture for this story.


35 views0 comments

Recent Posts

See All


bottom of page