United States Shares Lessons From Urban Warfare in Iraq and Syria as Israel Gears Up for Potential Gaza Incursion

by Gabriel Martinez
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U.S.-Israel cooperation in urban warfare

As Israel contemplates a military operation in the densely populated urban landscapes of Gaza, where militants frequently employ civilians as shields, U.S. military officials reflect on their past engagements in Iraq and Syria against the Islamic State. The urban conflicts in Mosul and Raqqa, which resulted in a significant number of civilian casualties, serve as instructive experiences that the U.S. is willing to share with Israel ahead of any potential ground action against Hamas.

Lloyd Austin, the U.S. Secretary of Defense, along with high-ranking military personnel, stresses the importance of civilian safety measures. “The need for minimizing civilian loss of life and considering operational details such as the establishment of safety corridors is being consistently communicated to our Israeli counterparts,” stated Brig. Gen. Pat Ryder, the Pentagon spokesperson, on a recent Tuesday.

Drawing upon a comprehensive investigation by Big Big News, the U.S. provides a somber account of civilian fatalities. During the eight-month operation to recapture Mosul, estimates suggest up to 10,000 fatalities occurred, including a minimum of 3,200 civilians, from October 2016 until the defeat of the Islamic State in July 2017.

Prominent military figures such as Gen. CQ Brown, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and Gen. Eric Kurilla, Commander of U.S. Central Command, who were active in the region at the time, emphasize the establishment of humanitarian corridors and tactical pauses to permit civilian evacuation. They convey these insights to Israeli military leaders, addressing the complex challenges posed by urban warfare, including the hazards of improvised explosive devices and the need to safeguard civilians while pursuing militants hiding in various civilian structures.

Navy Capt. Jereal Dorsey, Brown’s spokesperson, stated, “Experiences gained over two decades are being systematically imparted throughout our interactions with Israeli authorities.”

To emphasize this priority, a team of U.S. military advisers, led by Marine Corps Lt. Gen. James Glynn, has been dispatched to Israel. Glynn, who has significant experience in urban combat, will offer guidance on how to mitigate civilian harm.

Gen. Ryder confirmed, “These officers, including Gen. Glynn, bring valuable expertise on urban combat and will work temporarily with Israeli forces to address challenging questions the Israel Defense Forces should consider in their planning.”

During recent talks in Tel Aviv, Austin recalled his tenure as head of U.S. Central Command, emphasizing that international scrutiny necessitates a cautious approach to military actions, particularly in safeguarding civilian life.

A RAND report released last year advised changes in U.S. military planning and weaponry to reduce civilian casualties, based on the experience of the 2017 Raqqa siege.

Retired Army Gen. Joseph Votel, who succeeded Austin as U.S. Central Command chief, indicated that the manner in which military actions are executed is paramount. Votel also noted the increased sophistication of Hamas’s arsenal and tunnel network compared to what was seen in Raqqa and Mosul.

Austin expressed the sheer malevolence encountered during past military operations, underlining the need for unyielding efforts to eliminate militants who integrate themselves into civilian habitats.

“Confronting the Islamic State felt like facing the embodiment of evil,” Austin remarked. “The tactics we have observed from Hamas elevate that malevolence to a new plateau, and this is a fundamental aspect that must not be forgotten.”

For additional coverage, visit Big Big News’ Israel-Hamas War Section.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about U.S.-Israel cooperation in urban warfare

What is the primary focus of the article?

The article primarily focuses on how the United States is sharing its experience and lessons learned from urban warfare in Iraq and Syria with Israeli authorities. This comes as Israel is contemplating a possible ground invasion into the densely populated regions of Gaza.

Who are the U.S. officials involved in sharing these insights with Israel?

The U.S. officials involved include Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. CQ Brown, Commander of U.S. Central Command Gen. Eric Kurilla, and Marine Corps Lt. Gen. James Glynn, among others.

What is the United States’ primary concern as it shares its experiences?

The U.S.’s primary concern is the minimization of civilian casualties. The U.S. emphasizes the need for humanitarian corridors, tactical pauses to allow for civilian evacuation, and overall, a more measured approach to urban warfare to ensure the safety of civilians.

What insights is the U.S. offering based on its own past operations?

The U.S. is sharing tactical and strategic lessons, including the importance of establishing humanitarian corridors, the threats posed by improvised explosive devices, and the complexities of rooting out insurgents who take refuge in civilian structures like schools and mosques.

What source is cited for statistics on civilian casualties in past U.S. operations?

The statistics on civilian casualties in past U.S. operations come from an investigation by Big Big News. According to this investigation, as many as 10,000 people were killed during the eight-month operation to recapture Mosul, including at least 3,200 civilians.

What is the RAND report’s recommendation for the U.S. military?

The RAND report recommends that the U.S. military adjust its planning, training, targeting, and use of weapons to better avoid widespread civilian deaths and damage, based on experiences from the 2017 siege of Raqqa, Syria.

How does the threat posed by Hamas compare to that of the Islamic State, according to Gen. Joseph Votel?

According to retired Army Gen. Joseph Votel, Hamas is better armed and has a more sophisticated network of tunnels compared to the Islamic State. Votel suggests that Hamas has received more advanced weapons and explosives, potentially supplied by Iran.

What are the primary media outlets for additional information?

Additional information can be found at Big Big News’ Israel-Hamas War Section, as cited at the end of the article.

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