Israel has entered the 45th day of the war that started on Simchat Torah. Today also represents 21 days since the start of the ground operations in Gaza. Over the past day, IDF forces have concentrated on the Jabaliya, Rimal, Zeitoun, and Beit Lahiya neighborhoods, as well as the city of Beit Hanoun.
The ground war has led to many casualties and as of Monday morning (Nov. 20th), 65 IDF soldiers have been killed. Many more have been injured in the fighting, but the IDF has not published the full numbers on injuries. Many IDF soldiers are spread in the field, and are carrying out heroic battles between alleys, in buildings, and near hidden tunnels.
While it is nearly impossible to carry out ground operations by infantry and armored forces without casualties, strong criticism has been aimed at the IDF's taking of risks as part of its Purity of Arms according to which the IDF has avoided neutralizing terrorists to prevent civilian casualties and thus placed soldiers in the field at additional risk.
In an interview with Yisrael Hayom, Lt. Col. (Res) Y. who was previously a combat helicopter pilot and is now a commander in Brigade 215 in charge of identifying targets spoke about an incident where it wasn’t clear if those seen on screen were armed terrorists and therefore a strike was not ordered. ”I have no doubt that through our excessive caution and the Purity of Arms rules, we are allowing more terrorists to freely approach our forces.” He further added, “It is not always easy for us to make these decisions and live with the consequences, but when I’m in the operations room with the maps and headset, I try to maintain a professional approach.”
Terrorists who were identified escaped and are now hiding
The military correspondent of Yediot Ahronot Yossi Yehoshua, published a quote from a senior IDF office who said, “The advance preparation bombing in Jabaliya before the ground operations was not significant since a large civilian population remained there. We must decide who is more important to us, the civilian population or our soldiers. To me the answer is clear.”
In an article published by journal Amir Bohbut on Walla, senior IDF officers were quoted about strikes on terrorists that were called off because it wasn’t clear if the area was empty of civilians. “These terrorists were clearly identified, but they were allowed to escape and are now hiding,” said the senior official.
“Despite the warnings given to civilians, army officials from various divisions say that in many cases the IDF was prepared to carry out a strike on terrorists but called it off because it was claimed that the area had a high number of civilians who had not left. Therefore, given the risks, it was decided not to approve the strike,” wrote Bohbut.
Despite the challenges, IDF fighters from numerous divisions, including infantry, combat engineering, armored units, and others are fighting heroic battles and endangering their lives to kill terrorists, destroy weaponry, and take control in the field.