To try and discipline my thinking about about the unfolding tragedy in Gaza, I have simulated a scenario involving an invasion of Gaza City by Israeli forces. The modest urban operations model employed here envisions a scenario where 100,000 Israeli troops, supported by air and armour, launch an assault against a resisting force of 50,000 Hamas and allied fighters entrenched in Gaza City.
• The element of surprise is assumed to be minimal given the preparedness of Palestinian defences, the obviousness of Israeli intentions, and the omnipresence of open-source intelligence.
• Both sides have high morale and decent-to-good leadership, but Israeli training and equipment will ensure that even though the IDF’s readiness is uneven, their combat performance will be far superior to the modestly trained and equipped Hamas fighters.
• Net combat effectiveness is estimated at 1.1 for IDF versus 0.6 for Hamas.
• The model assumes that the Israelis will press for complete control of Gaza City, but then advance no further. This would require the IDF to advance roughly 20km from the Erez Crossing to Wadi Gaza, south of the city.
• The model assumes daily loss rates of 0.02% (Israel) and 0.50% (Hamas) for total forces engaged.
• Israeli AFVs are projected to assume a daily loss rate of 0.50%, reflecting the hazardous urban warfare environment.
• The model also factors in a modest 0.01% daily loss rate for close air support aircraft, underscoring the robustness of Israel's aerial assets in this conflict.
• These loss rates play a crucial role in shaping the operational dynamics and the eventual outcomes as projected by the model.
This model follows the same inspiration from O'Hanlon, Dupuy, and others mentioned in my Ukraine War work. It also relies heavily on Mosul (2016) as a historical precedent.
The model provides two different mechanisms for winning conditions:
1. Assignment of a loss breakpoint of <50% of committed forces. The side to first reach this threshold is assumed the loser.
2. Assumption of a daily advance rate (taken here to be 0.2km/day) divided by the total distance to achieve.
In this case, the two methods provide the same results.
• Israeli forces are highly likely to secure Gaza City, but the cost will be substantial.
• Israel will lose an estimated 2,000 casualties of all types.
• Vastly out-gunned, Hamas and its allies will lose 25,000.
• Depending on the success of evacuation efforts--and how eager Israel is to fight is the south of the Strip, civilian casualties could easily be much higher than this.
The results modelled here present a grim picture for all involved parties, with the victor inheriting nothing certain but rubble. This grim reality underlines the significant human and material costs associated with urban warfare, and reiterates the destructive nature of such military engagements.
I also caution this may be just phase 1 of a multi-stage operation to conquer the entire Gaza Strip. If a more ambitious invasion proves to be the Israeli intention, it will be necessary to revise this model and revise its tragic results significantly upwards.