The casualties Israel has suffered during offensive operations in the Gaza Strip- three dead in the past three months - hint at a troubling trend: The Israel Defense Forces' tactical advantage over Hamas in Gaza is shrinking.....Until recently, it was obvious who was winning this confrontation. The IDF has an enormous advantage in terms of firepower, observation, control of the air, armored vehicles and troop training. Dozens of IDF operations in the strip following the abduction of Gilad Shalit in the summer of 2006 resulted in hundreds of Palestinian dead. During that period, the IDF suffered one dead soldier, killed by friendly fire.
But in recent months, the efforts by Iran and Hezbollah to improve Hamas's military capabilities are beginning to be felt. It is not only better weaponry, but also careful study of the lessons of the Second Lebanon War. Dozens of militants trained in Iran and Lebanon have managed to enter the strip and have subsequently created a system of control and coordination. There is a chain of command for every area, which operates a coordinated network of observation posts, infantry and antitank forces.
Due to the fact that the entry points of IDF forces are relatively limited and predictable, the chance for clashes is relatively high. Israel still has an advantage, but it is harder to emerge from these clashes unscathed.
The IDF also suffers from another limitation: The size of the force allotted to offensive operations in the strip is relatively small, while the tasks are enormous. The soldiers are being drained.
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