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Operational Challenges in Ground Operations in Urban Areas: An IDF Perspective

Updated: May 12, 2020

Author: Major General Nitsan Alon


The Israel Defense Forces (the IDF) is well versed in conducting ground operations. Since its inception along with the establishment of the State of Israel in 1948, the IDF has conducted a number of ground operations, as part of conflicts both long and short, against various actors, and in different circumstances. The Independence War of 1948, the Six Day War of 1967, and the Yom Kippur War of 1973 provided experience with ground operations against organized state militaries. The large-scale maneuver in the First Lebanon War of 1982 and the more limited maneuver in the Second Lebanon War of 2006 are examples of ground operations against non-state armed groups (NSAGs) operating in the territory of other states. And the limited maneuvers in the Gaza Conflicts of 2008–09 and 2014 are examples of ground operations against NSAGs operating in territory under their full control.

In the more recent of these conflicts the IDF’s operations have been increasingly drawn into the urban terrain. This, together with the manner in which our adversaries exploit such surroundings to their advantage, has presented a number of challenges and complexities that do not generally arise in ground operations divorced from the civilian context. On the basis of the IDF’s experience with such operations, this Article intends to explain the necessity of ground operations as part of warfare occurring in the urban terrain (Part II), to consider some of the operational complexities involved in such operations (Part III), and to briefly and partially present the IDF’s response to such challenges (Part IV).


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