Gaza Update — April 2024: Q&A

For this week’s blog, OnSolve reached out to a U.S. Army veteran and leader with decades of experience in international military operations, security and intelligence strategy for his insights on the current geopolitical conflict in Gaza.

What are the top developments in the conflict since November 2023?

Lack of good strategic choices for the Israeli government results in less than desirable results

Six months into the Gaza conflict, the Israeli Government finds itself in an unenviable position: trapped between a desire for both security and retribution, with an almost totally untenable civil crisis, and an ongoing inability to clearly separate adversaries from innocent bystanders. Israel’s understandable desire to secure itself from external and internal threats has been met with the unavoidable realities of geography and civil considerations.[1] Hamas has always been a force that operates in and amongst the population for their own security and protection.  This concealment also provides protection for Hamas combatants, but causes Israel to face a daily grind of “bad and worse” choices as they try to target their enemy. 

The Israeli government has no good strategic options. To fail to pursue Hamas would lead to domestic discontent at a minimum — and potential political administration change at the far end of the spectrum.[2] Pursuing Hamas in an unrestricted military campaign has precipitated a massive humanitarian crisis that significantly weakens Israel’s global support and complicates their domestic politics as the appetite for retribution wanes.[3] 

Worsening Gaza humanitarian crisis will get worse before it gets better

The terrain of the Gaza Strip and the sheer number of human beings (~2M) packed into the small area (~140 square miles) have been major contributing factors to the worsening humanitarian crisis brought on by Israel’s military campaign.  While Gaza is not a “mega-city” by definition, much of the same considerations for urban combat exist there: multiple surfaces such as roofs, alleys, windows, doorways and tunnels to defend or attack from; civilians seeking shelter in the same areas combatants wish to use; and degraded communications. Conventional forces, such as large and loud Israeli mechanized formations, are under near-total observation by Hamas at all times, increasing the potential for unexpected ambushes.[4]  Non-combatant civilians attempting to take shelter from combat move around the battlefield in a confused and disorganized manner, making targeting of combatants difficult for Israeli forces.[5] 

These factors translate to slow progress and increased civilian and military casualties.  Military operations in urban terrain also disrupt civil services. Water, sewage, food, power and distribution services are routinely disrupted and potentially destroyed.  The end results are multiple crises of deprivation, increased illness and starvation.  Thus far, attempts at solving this humanitarian crisis have been minimal and ineffective.  The April 1, 2024, killing of seven aid workers from the World Central Kitchen non-profit organization by an Israeli missile highlights the difficulties that ordinary Gazans and non-governmental organizations face as they try to stem the humanitarian crisis.[6]

Attempts at external intervention 

Attempts by the U.S., United Nations and others have had limited effect on the conflict. Limited ceasefires early in the conflict resulted in approximately 112 hostage releases, but no meaningful dialogue between the two sides.  Recent attempts to establish a wider, more definitive cease fire in the United Nations suffered from geopolitical wrangling between the U.S., China and Russia — and even between the U.S. and its erstwhile ally Israel. The United Nations itself has been stymied by a ban on funding for the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) by the U.S., Israel and others.[7] It is likely that attempts at a diplomatic solution will continue to be hampered by broader issues between the major players in the United Nations.

Expansion of conflict, but perhaps not as wide as some expected

Overall, the conflict in Gaza has impacted geopolitical stability by highlighting and exacerbating tensions and conflict across the region. However, initial fears of a wider conflict across the Middle East have not come to fruition. While the conflict in Gaza became a casus belli for Yemen’s Houthi rebels to attack shipping in the Red Sea, Western intervention and the Houthi’s lack of effectiveness have not realized the earlier perceived threat. Significantly, the Gaza conflict may have highlighted Iran’s network of proxy forces across the Middle East to outside observers.[8] Iran will likely continue to wage a low-level conflict via proxy forces throughout the Persian Gulf, Red Sea and the wider Middle East, particularly in the West Bank, Lebanon, Syria and Iraq. However, Iran’s muted reaction to U.S. airstrikes on Iraq and Yemen demonstrates that they are currently unwilling to risk a wider conflict. The U.S., its allies and Israel have demonstrated an almost unrestricted ability to significantly damage Iran, such as in Israel’s unopposed strike on the Iranian Consulate in Damascus or their routine strikes in Lebanon.[9] 

What cascading risks might we continue to see in the U.S. and Europe?

The Gaza situation continues to present cascading risks in the political, economic and security domains of Europe and the U.S. 

Politically, both the U.S. and parts of Europe and the EU have significant elections taking place this year.  Thus far, the Gaza situation has created headlines for politicians to deal with but has had only a modest effect on the political climate (e.g., the U.S. Democratic Party’s need to retain turnout from the Arab American Community). Time will tell if the conflict will be a factor in what will likely be a very close election in the U.S. in November.[10] However, worsening conditions or a new crisis could be used to political effect by one side or another in both U.S. and European elections.[11] Various actors around the world have attempted to link the Gaza conflict to other issues, such as the Ukraine War or U.S. border security. It is likely that political messaging using the Gaza crisis will continue throughout the election process. In the United States, passage of a budget or continuing resolution to fund the government continues to be a source of contention. It is likely that Gaza and Ukraine will continue to be political footballs in these legislative battles.

The economic effects of the Gaza conflict have largely been confined to the region with some significant issues for the nearby countries.[12]  Notwithstanding the effects on global shipping, economic effects are largely localized.[13] Gaza itself has been ruined economically by the conflict. Its economy had shrunk to 1994 levels by 2023 with 79% unemployment prior to the conflict; now, there will clearly be catastrophic effects continuing through and after the end of the conflict. Israel is also experiencing moderate to serious economic effects from the war. Beyond simply increased spending on war costs, Israel mobilized a substantial number of reservists to conduct operations.[14] Those soldiers are also mostly skilled workers in Israel. With decreased Palestinian laborers, Israel has had to increase its foreign workforce to pick up the slack of mobilized or lost labor. Israel’s tourism industry has taken the brunt of the economic issues, while construction has also suffered. Amongst neighboring countries, Egypt’s economy is currently faring the worst with a monetary crisis, a similar tourism bust and spillover effects of refugees and the crisis from Sudan to its south.[15] Outside of the Middle East, the Gaza conflict’s economic impacts have been muted. Despite threats from the Houthis around the Horn of Africa, shipping has continued, although there have been significant ramifications. Cost has increased for carriers for rerouting, fueling and bunkering in new locations. Air freight costs have increased significantly as shippers seek to keep the flow of goods remaining constant without lags. However, large economic perturbations have thus far been avoided.

While it might seem that the security sector would be the most affected by the Gaza conflict, the near-term situation is stable. It is likely that without a satisfactory solution to the conflict, the Gaza war will become a long-term security issue, potentially worse than the context that precipitated the war. Hamas will certainly suffer greatly from the Israeli military operation, but it is impossible to fully eradicate all individual Hamas combatants. Combined with the intense suffering and trauma that most Gazans, young and old, are facing right now, it is highly likely that Hamas or another similar terrorist organization will have an ample aggrieved and motivated population to recruit from over the next 10 years. Without an adequate post-conflict plan for stabilization, economic recovery, education and civil needs, Israel may have unwittingly signed up for a long-term insurgency-type conflict in Gaza.[16]  While it is unlikely that Hamas itself will have the capability to launch out-of-area attacks in Europe or abroad, it is certainly possible that other terrorist or Iranian-proxy organizations could use the Gaza conflict as a rallying cry for recruitment or raison d’etre for attacks. Another hidden mid- to long-term cost of the conflict in Gaza and the Middle East is downward pressure on U.S. and European military munitions stockages. Profligate use of expensive surface-to-air missiles in the Red Sea against drones and ballistic missiles is already depleting stocks of these exquisite munitions.[17] Much has been made over the lack of U.S. and European capacity to manufacture munitions for Ukraine, and the pressure on the defense industrial base will only increase with prolonged conflict and continued military aid to Israel. 

What can we expect in Gaza over the next 3 months?

What happens next in Israel and Gaza is a function of the political will of Israel to continue or halt its large-scale operations in Gaza. Does the current government have the will to continue to prosecute an action that is extremely unpopular with its neighbors and the international community? Can the Israeli government keep domestic political will on its side long enough to gain even a military victory? Barring a significant political or security event, it is likely that the status quo of the last few months will remain the situation for the next three months. 

It is also likely that Israel will execute the planned Rafah clearance operations.[18] While the Israeli military will likely take precautions to minimize military and civilian casualties, it will be nearly impossible to make those numbers zero. Unfortunately, it is more likely that there will be mass civilian casualties and the humanitarian crisis will worsen. The U.S. will execute its expanded humanitarian aid operations, but this attempt will only address some of the problem.[19] It is possible that the Israeli Rafah operation might spur other nations or a coalition to increase humanitarian aid and avenues. If the Rafah operation results in large numbers of Israeli casualties, the chances are good that Israeli domestic opinion could swing against the war. However, barring some eventuality like this, the current Israeli government is not likely to change its current course as they believe doing so would be perceived as weakness by internal political or external adversaries. Regionally, the current security situation will likely persist. Early fears of expanded conflict from Hezbollah in Lebanon and Palestinians in the West Bank have not shown to be true.[20] Israeli and U.S. strikes against both these groups and other proxies throughout Lebanon, Syria and Iraq have likely made Iran and its allies hesitate to conduct larger-scale operations.[21] However, all parties in the region are in a watchful stance as Israel prepares to potentially execute this large Rafah offensive and continues to conduct strikes against Iranian unconventional forces. Continued Israeli action will have some effect on those bystander countries who are currently unwilling to endorse Iran or Israel.

The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of the Department of the Army, Department of Defense, or the U.S. Government.

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[1] Israel-Hamas War: The West's Incoherent Critique of Israel's Gaza Strategy (

[2] R47828 (

[3] Protesters call for change to Netanyahu government | Reuters

[4] Report: 80 Percent of Gaza Strip's Tunnel Network Still Intact - Israel News -

[5] Conflict in Gaza: The Law of War and Irregular Warfare in Urban Terrain - Foreign Policy Research Institute (

[6] 7 Aid Workers Killed in Gaza Were Known for a Passion for Helping Others - The New York Times (

[7] U.S. Bans UNRWA Funding for One Year (

[8] Looking at causes, measuring effects of Israel-Hamas war — Harvard Gazette

[9] Periods of political transition - like the US 2024 election - could change Iran’s calculus. Israeli strike kills Iranian commander, general in Syria, Iran and IRGC say - The Washington Post

[10] Though President Biden won Michigan with more than 618,000 votes, more than 100,000 Michigan Democratic primary voters cast ballots for “uncommitted” in the race.  ‘Uncommitted’ wins 2 Democratic delegates in Michigan, a victory for Biden’s anti-war opponents

[11] Gaza war agitates a divided Europe (

[12] 2302056E-Policybrief-Expected-Socio-Economic-Impacts-ESCWA-UNDP-Web_0.pdf

[13] Regional Conflict, Global Ripples: Economic Impacts of the Conflict in Gaza | Insights & Events | Bradley

[14] Israel-Hamas war takes its toll on Israel's economy | Euronews

[15] How Israel’s war on Gaza is bleeding Egypt’s economy | Israel War on Gaza News | Al Jazeera

[16] Is the Destruction of Gaza Making Israel Any Safer? - The Atlantic, Israel-Hamas War in Gaza Leaves Power Vacuum - The New York Times (

[17] The US Military Role in the Red Sea – Now Turning Offensive – Is a Bad Deal | Cato at Liberty Blog, Destroyers Shot Down 24 Houthi Missiles And Drones: That’ll Be $17 Million (

[18] Netanyahu says it ‘will take some time’ until IDF launches offensive in Rafah | The Times of Israel

[19] Two NGOs Complete a "Crazy" Aid Delivery to Makeshift Pier in Gaza (, Five Months of War: Where Israel, Hamas, and the U.S. Stand | Council on Foreign Relations (

[20] The Coming Conflict with Hezbollah (

[21] The Economic Fallout Of The Gaza Conflict For Iran | Iran International (


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