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Why Israel won’t stop fighting despite the mounting losses

Nine Israeli soldiers were killed in a single attack in northern Gaza on Tuesday, an incident that was among the deadliest for Israeli forces since the beginning of their ground operation on October 27.

The news sent shockwaves through Israel, where many are still grieving from the October 7 terror attack by Hamas. But analysts say it is unlikely the incident will weaken the support for the war among the Israeli public. The stakes, they say, are way too high.

According to the official count, 115 Israel Defense Forces (IDF) soldiers have been killed in Gaza combat since the start of the invasion.

Eisin’s husband and three children are all currently serving in the IDF. “This doesn’t mean I want to sacrifice my children,” she said.

“No, it means that I don’t know how I can live here unless we destroy Hamas.”

Still, the attack on Tuesday hit Israelis hard, and not just because of the high number of dead.

“That combination, that it was a specific brigade that got a lot of the casualties and that it was a large amount of high-ranking officers, made it hurt a lot. We’re hurting today,” Eisin said.

“It’s always hard when soldiers are killed, but when it’s this level of command, it hits you in the gut. These are commanders that commanded hundreds of soldiers,” she added.

The incident brought home the unpredictable nature of the type of war Israel is currently waging in Gaza, Eisin said. The first phase of the operation was limited to aerial and artillery attacks, which caused a large number of Palestinian casualties, but kept Israeli soldiers safe because the IDF has air superiority over Gaza.

But once the IDF put boots on the ground, the balance shifted somewhat. According to the IDF, Hamas has spent a long time preparing for this war, building a vast tunnel system, setting up traps and defenses. This is likely one reason why this invasion has been deadlier for the IDF than its 2014 ground operation in Gaza, which lasted 51 days and left 67 Israeli soldiers dead.

“In urban warfare, the advantage is always on the defender, which is why Hamas built itself into the urban arena and created the subterranean arena underneath this specific urban area,” Eisen said, adding that in such cases, the attacking troops need to “create local advantages” to succeed. “Yesterday, it didn’t work,” she said.

The IDF said the unit involved in the incident on Tuesday was the Golani Brigade, an infantry unit that had been operating within the Shejaiya neighborhood in central eastern Gaza.

In a statement on Wednesday, the IDF said Hamas fighters “threw explosives at the soldiers and shot at them from inside a residential building in which underground terror infrastructure was also located.”

“Fighting and clearing [the] terror presence from this area is extremely risky and requires high level of bravery and determination,” Ziv said, explaining that the incident was particularly deadly because after the first infantry team encountered Hamas fighters and booby traps, other teams rushed in to respond.

“That rush was the main reason for the high number of casualties,” he said.

‘The world does not get it’

While the overwhelming majority of Israelis still support the Gaza operation, Ziv said there are some who are beginning to question the way the war is fought.

“Incidents like this are (prompting) calls to use more remote measures like air forces, instead of sending troops to fight face to face in those lethal urban areas,” he said.

Ziv and Eisin both said fighting on the ground would help to minimize civilian casualties compared to aerial bombardment.

“The (IDF) casualties yesterday did not have to happen if we had used an airplane,” Eisin asserted.

“But when an airplane brings down the building, if you don’t know exactly what’s on all of the different floors, and if you think there’s civilians there, that’s part of the discussion. It’s a dilemma,” she added.

The huge number of civilian deaths in Gaza has seiously tested international support for Israel, with even some of its closest allies calling for a humanitarian ceasefire.

Eisin said she sees a widening gap between the public opinion inside Israel and views of those outside the country.

“I absolutely feel that the world does not get it, they do not understand that we see this as an existential threat, that we can’t live here as long as Hamas’ military capabilities exist,” she said.

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