April 30, 2024 | FDD's Long War Journal

Two IDF Divisions prepare for next phase in Gaza

April 30, 2024 | FDD's Long War Journal

Two IDF Divisions prepare for next phase in Gaza

Two Israel Defense Forces divisions are preparing for the next phase of combat and operations in Gaza, the IDF said on April 30. The divisions are completing preparations as Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu vowed on April 30 that the country would proceed with an offensive to defeat Hamas in the southern Gaza city of Rafah. Hamas uses Rafah to control aid entering Gaza and is suspected of having tunnels under the city where it holds weapons, hostages and has up to four battalions of fighters.

The IDF put out an extensive statement about preparing the 98th and 162nd Israeli army divisions for the next step in Gaza. The IDF statement appears to be messaging prior to the potential battle. It was also released by the IDF’s Arabic language spokesperson to strengthen local messaging.

Preparations for the next phase in Gaza come as Israel continues to face threats on other fronts. In Lebanon, Hezbollah launched anti-tank missiles toward Mount Dov along the border with Israel overnight between April 29 and April 30. “No injuries or damage was reported. The IDF struck the sources of fire,” the IDF said. Later, the IDF struck Hezbollah terrorist infrastructure in the areas of Kfarkela and Khiam in southern Lebanon.

In Gaza, the IDF carried out airstrikes on “operational tunnel shafts, an anti-tank missile launch post and terror infrastructure from which a launch toward the city of Sderot was identified yesterday,” the IDF said. The launch was carried out by Palestinian Islamic Jihad, according to a statement from the group posted in pro-Iranian media like Al-Mayadeen. In addition and for the first time in over one month, rockets were fired toward Ashdod but landed in the sea. Ashdod is also home to a major port where aid is transported from Cyprus via Israel to Gaza. It is not clear if the launches were intended to show that terrorists can still threaten off-shore areas like the pier the US is building off the coast of Gaza.

“The 162nd Division and the 98th Division are operating to strengthen their readiness for continued combat in the Gaza Strip. The divisions have been enhancing readiness and holding situational assessments, and conducted learning sessions to drawn lessons from the combat so far,” the IDF said on April 30. The 98th division was the unit that cleared Khan Younis in southern Gaza of terrorists in operations since December 2023. The rapid advance by the division under the command of Brig Dan Goldfus was key to defeating one of Hamas’ largest brigades in Gaza. Khan Younis is the hometown of Hamas leader Yahya Sinwar, and Hamas invested heavily in tunnels there. The 98th division used rapid maneuver in commandos to cut down on the need for heavy airstrikes in the area. It moved so fast that the IDF resupplied it by air in December.

The 162nd division was used by the IDF to control northern Gaza since operations began in October. It’s 401st armored brigade led the charge down the Gaza coast and linked up with IDF units that stormed the Gaza port. The 162nd and 98th therefore have the most experience with fighting and served the longest in Gaza. By contrast, the other major division the IDF used in Gaza, the 36th, was sent north in January. Its 7th armored brigade remained behind with the 98th to give the 98th an armored component.

The IDF now says the two large units, comprising thousands of men and women, have “completed the processes of combat procedures and approval of plans for continued combat in the Gaza Strip. The headquarters of the divisions and the brigades, and the reservists held professional learning days at all operational levels, and conducted command discussions about the continuation of their mission. Furthermore, command level exercises were conducted to learn lessons and improve effectiveness on the battlefield.”

The IDF is enhancing the armored vehicles of the units, although the IDF did not specify how. Israeli armored vehicles such as the Merkava IV tanks and Namer APCs have the Trophy active protection system and reactive armor on them. This enables them to neutralize most threats, such as RPGs and anti-tank missiles. Israel’s D-9 armored bulldozers used by combat engineers and the new Eitan APCs used by the Nahal brigade are also supposed to have various new protection systems. Other new systems and technology, which the IDF has not yet revealed, are being incorporated onto the vehicles, including the counter-drone metal nets above the turrets, which solders refer to as a “pergola,” using the ironic term for an Israeli awning that provides shade. Tank commanders have previously told FDD’s Long War Journal that the addition of these counter-drone improvisations were up to the local commanders. However, other technology is being rolled out by the IDF’s Technology and Maintenance teams of the Technological and Logistics Directorate, the IDF said in its April 30 statement.

Reporting from Israel, Seth J. Frantzman is an adjunct fellow at FDD and a contributor to FDD’s Long War Journal. He is the acting news editor and senior Middle East correspondent and analyst at The Jerusalem Post. 


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