Seth J. Frantzman

Has Israel learned the lessons of Ukraine’s war with Russia?

An Israeli tank in the Gaza Strip (Credit: Getty images)

Israel’s ceasefire with Hamas – which has allowed for the release of dozens of hostages – looks set to continue. But make no mistake: this war is far from over. Israel’s prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu has vowed to destroy Hamas, a mission that he will not back down from any time soon. The fight against an estimated 30,000 Hamas soldiers will be a long and difficult one. While Israel’s firepower vastly outmatches that of Hamas, defeating an insurgent army will prove a difficult endeavour for the Israel Defence Forces (IDF). Israel could find itself in a situation comparable to Ukraine – another country with state-of-the-art weaponry that struggles to deliver a knock-out blow against its adversary. 

Both Ukraine and Israel are reaping the benefits of using precision fire weapons, such as 155mm artillery, and drones. But this military technology cannot, on its own, guarantee victory. The two countries face determined enemies who are willing to endure huge numbers of casualties. Hamas and Russia are linked in another way: both have warm relations with Iran, which supplies Russia with drones and supports Hamas’s expertise in drones and missiles. While these weapons are often far more primitive than western-style military equipment, they also ensure that the prospect of total victory for Israel and Ukraine is unlikely. 

Israel can defeat Hamas on the battlefield, but this does not mean Hamas will disappear altogether

Fifty days of war in Gaza, and a year and a half of conflict in Ukraine, provide many lessons for the wider West in what the latest military technology can, and can’t, achieve. While many Hamas fighters and Russian troops are being killed, Israel and Ukraine are a long way from achieving victory. This illustrates that precision weapons on a battlefield against adversaries using old-style tactics, are not always a magic wand. During the Gulf War, when the US and allies confronted Saddam Hussein’s large Soviet-armed conventional army, the Iraqis were decisively defeated using modern technology.

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