Will the State of Israel launch a ground invasion of the Palestinian Gaza Strip? What tactics will its special forces use? Will other states take part in the hostage recapture? How will Hamas respond to the Israeli attack? These questions and more were answered by former GROM commander and Alioth Foundation expert – Col. Res. Piotr Gąstal – in an interview with Robert Cheda for the program ‘Scale of Threats’.
Robert Cheda: Colonel, what do you think is more important for Israel right now – the recapture of 200 hostages or the physical elimination of Hamas, and is the combination of these two goals at all realistic in concept?
Res. Col. Piotr Gąstał: It seems to me that these two objectives must be combined. You can’t do a hostage–release operation without eliminating Hamas members. This is a mass hostage situation, but in a completely different approach. Until now, we have associated mass hostage situations with dozens of hostages or even more being held in one place (…), here we have 200 hostages of different nationalities kidnapped and probably deployed in different places (…) hence the high complexity of this situation (…).
Robert Cheda: Colonel, from a military point of view, I understand that until the last moment Hamas will play hostages to stop the ground operation in this way, but it has to happen at some point. Have the Israelis really come to terms with the fact that most of these hostages may unfortunately fly or be injured?
Res. Col. Piotr Gąstał: I don’t know if they have reconciled, but as a special forces soldier, a unit that dealt with the release of hostages, that was the purpose of GROM, we never reconcile ourselves to the fact that it is impossible to free (…). I think that Israeli forces, and I also assume that other forces because of the presence of citizens of other countries, will certainly try to perform these operations, but they must be operations that will assume that we know where someone is (…). If the ground offensive begins, and now the battlefield preparation is underway, i.e. the destruction of any recognized Hamas structures, Hamas leaders’ residences, bunkers, command posts (…) this battle will be very difficult.
Robert Cheda: Do you assess that Israel’s special forces are adequately prepared, trained and outnumbered to attack the Gaza Strip?
Res. Col. Piotr Gąstał: It seems to me that they will be able to do it, but I won’t give a definite answer, because this is a very complicated area and, as I emphasize, the fighting in the city is complicated, there is also underground fighting, which further complicates this situation (…) Will they succeed in finding the infrastructure and all the sewers? I wish the Israeli soldiers will succeed, but I also wish that another direction with Hezbollah will not be formed, because their preparation for fighting in the tunnels is highly developed, all the infrastructure has been moved underground as a result of the fact that Israel has excellent reconnaissance, which, however, failed during the events of the last days (…) The activities of terrorist organizations on the ground could be monitored, tracked by the Israeli intelligence services (…).
Robert Cheda: Colonel, what strategy and tactics of operations do you think you would propose if you were in charge of the operation?
Res. Col. Piotr Gąstał: (…) taking into account the powerful forces assembled in Israel, which must eventually do something (…) I am convinced that the ground phase will happen. I don’t know if it will be the one we all thought of at the beginning, that is, a hundred tanks and heavy combat vehicles will go in, infantry will go out and capture quarter after quarter. Perhaps there will be limited strikes (…) so as not to escalate the threat. You have to work out the right tactics for the surgical strikes that are taking place now. War is also an incredible amount of mistakes, not necessarily premeditated. First of all, if they come in with some forces occupying quarter after quarter of the city, checking building after building, you have to go down into the tunnels, destroy this infrastructure, recognize it, destroy Hamas fighters there (…). It is inevitable that your own losses and it is inevitable that hostages will not be killed (…).
Res. Col. Piotr Gąstał also talked about experiences from cooperation with foreign special forces units, tactics of fighting in tunnels, as well as equipment and technologies that are helpful during such military operations.
We encourage you to read the entire interview available below: