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Satellites and social media provide hints about Israel's ground war strategy in Gaza 2024-04-17 05:27:35

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and the country's military leadership have remained silent about Israel's invasion of the Gaza Strip. However, a week after the start of the ground operation, satellite images and social media posts offer some clues about where Israeli forces are moving and the overall strategy of their campaign, which officials say is aimed at destroying Hamas.

NPR has examined available satellite images and social media messages from both eyewitnesses and the Israel Defense Forces (IDF). Based on these images and conversations with military experts, here's what can be gleaned at this point about the operation.

Israeli forces have surrounded the city of Gaza, presumably preparing for a prolonged operation. Israeli forces appear to be positioned on the outskirts of the city of Gaza from three directions: two from the north, advancing toward the city itself, and one from the southeast, which has moved across the entire Gaza Strip.

It is the third axis to the south of Gaza that seems to have covered a significant portion of territory in the first week. In a video posted on October 30th on what was formerly known as Twitter, an Israeli tank can be seen engaging in combat with a civilian car on one of the main roads from north to south between the city of Gaza and the southern parts of the sector.

High-resolution satellite images taken by Planet on October 31st show approximately two dozen Israeli armored vehicles positioned near a road, presumably for access control.

A second satellite image from the European Space Agency taken on November 1st provided evidence that Israeli armored vehicles had advanced about three-quarters of a mile (just over a kilometer) from the coast. There were also eyewitness videos capturing heavy fighting in the area of Tal al-Hawa, on the southern outskirts of Gaza, near the coast.

On Thursday evening, Israeli military officials announced that they had completely surrounded the city of Gaza, cutting it off from the rest of the territory.

This is a standard tactic on any battlefield, says Gian Gentile, a senior historian at the Rand Corporation and a retired U.S. Army colonel.

"Isolating the target is the primary approach to waging war," he says.

At the moment, it appears that Israeli forces may not have enough troops for a full-scale occupation of the city.

In an image from "Planet" taken on October 30th, dozens of Israeli tanks and armored vehicles can be seen lined up on platforms along the northern outskirts of the city of Gaza. Films and photos released by the Israeli military show forces in the same area.

Based on satellite imagery, it is likely that the Israelis have a brigade of several thousand troops operating only in the northwestern part of the city, says Sean MacFarland, a retired U.S. Army three-star general who conducted operations against the Islamic State in Syria and Iraq.

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