Thousands will be killed in ‘very bloody’ attack on booby trap Gaza

The Jewish state’s responses to cross-border attacks since 2005 have been restrained and precise.

But Operation Iron Swords will almost certainly mean the enclave is pounded from the air, sea and land.

The Israel Defence Forces have already dropped 6,000-plus bombs – around 4,000 tons of high explosive – on the Gaza Strip.

It said around 300,000 troops and heavy artillery gathered on the border are now preparing to “complete the process of eliminating the militants as a viable terrorist entity”.

However, the risks of mounting a ground invasion are huge. Terror group Hamas is thought to have planned meticulously for such an eventuality and booby-trapped Gaza.

It is also hiding 150 Israeli hostages it threatens to kill if Israel targets Palestinian civilians without warning.

READ MORE: Hamas threatens Friday 13th attack on global Jewish targets

Any cross-border operation also risks drawing rogue factions and states into the conflict, notably Iran-backed Shiite Muslim “Party of God” Hezbollah, which wields power in Lebanon.

More than 2,300 people have been killed on both sides since Hamas stormed into Israel last Saturday and massacred hundreds of innocent people.

Gaza’s health ministry said 1,537 Palestinians, including 500 children and 276 women, had been killed since Israel launched retaliatory air strikes last Saturday. Another 6,612 people have been wounded.

Yesterday’s death toll included at least 45 people in a northern refugee camp killed in an Israeli air strike on a house.

The Israeli military said forces “are preparing for a ground manoeuvre” and awaiting the go-ahead by the emergency government.

Speaking from the border, Colonel Richard Kemp, who commanded UK forces in Afghanistan in 2003, said PM Benjamin Netanyahu “has no option other than to send his troops in on the ground with great force”.

He warned: “It will be very bloody. The whole of Gaza will have been sewn with explosive booby traps, ambushes and snipers in open country, houses, apartment blocks, mosques, schools and hospitals. It is likely large numbers of soldiers will die or be seriously wounded.

“Undoubtedly, Hamas and Islamic Jihad terrorists will be killed in much larger numbers. But many civilians are also likely to die, given the terrorists’ habitual use of human shields.

“All of that is without taking into account numerous Israeli hostages dispersed across the Gaza Strip, with terrorist guns trained on them.

“Rescuing those hostages will be by far the Israel Defence Forces’ greatest challenge.”

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The IDF is one of the 20 most powerful militaries in the world. Assets including 241 fighter jets, 48 attack helicopters and 2,200 tanks. It also has 1,200 artillery units, including 300 multiple-launch rocket systems equipped with smart bombs that can strike precise targets.

Air strikes have already destroyed more than 1,000 buildings from Gaza City and Beit Hanoun in the north to Khan Younis in the south. Invading Israeli forces will have a 10 to 1 manpower advantage, as well as operating alongside elite special forces. At least 100 “reservists and active duty soldiers” are thought to have travelled from Britain to serve in the IDF, the UK’s Israeli Embassy said.

Hamas will exploit its rabbit-warren network of underground tunnels to ambush IDF forces, using suicide bombers and explosive traps. Col Kemp also said police, civilians and soldiers in Israel were likely to be targeted by some in the Arab population.

He added: “There is also the potential this war will expand northwards if Hezbollah unleashes the 150,000 missiles in Lebanon pointed into Israel.” Col Kemp said Iran, which trains, funds, arms and directs Hamas, Islamic Jihad and Hezbollah, “is undoubtedly behind this aggression”.

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