Satellite imagery of the devastated Iraqi city of Mosul could be a sign of the future awaiting the Gaza Strip, as Israel expands its ground operations almost a month after the outbreak of violence in the region. The images of Mosul before and after the battle between Iraqi government and U.S.-led coalition forces and Islamist fighters in 2016-2017 show the immense destruction that can occur. Israel’s Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, has made it clear that their military’s goal is to destroy Hamas’ military and governing capabilities.
According to Anthony King, a professor of defense and security studies, there are similarities between the challenges the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) face in Gaza and what the Iraqi military and U.S.-led forces encountered in Mosul. The military had to seal off the city and clear it block by block to eradicate ISIS. Similarly, Israel’s bombing campaign in Gaza can only go so far, and ground operations are necessary to fully eliminate the enemy fighters who are fortified in the area.
The battle for Mosul lasted nine months and resulted in significant civilian casualties, with estimates putting the number at 9,000. The ongoing conflict in Gaza has already claimed the lives of over 9,000 people, according to Hamas-run health authorities. There has been criticism of Israel for the civilian casualties caused by airstrikes, while Hamas claims that Israeli strikes killed hostages taken from Israel into Gaza.
While Gaza’s population is similar in size to Mosul’s when ISIS seized power in 2014, the tactics employed by Hamas and ISIS differ. ISIS weaponized the civilian population in Mosul, using them as shields, whereas Hamas has not engaged in mass hostage-taking. However, both sides deny intentionally targeting civilians.
In the coming days and weeks, the situation in Gaza will likely worsen as ground operations expand. The future of the Gaza Strip could resemble the devastation seen in Mosul, as military forces work to eliminate Hamas.