The War in Gaza and the O.J. Simpson Bronco Chase

It has been two months since the Islamic Resistance Movement (“Hamas”), Palestinian Islamic Jihad, and various Gazan civilians invaded Israel. Ever since that October 7 attack, the Israeli military (“IDF”) has been pursuing the freedom fighters around Gaza without any dramatic successes. I wonder if this can be compared to the O.J. Simpson Bronco chase.

Unlike most countries, including the U.S., when Israel finds something or someone that it wants to destroy inside a building, it warns the people inside to get out. The result is that Israel blows up a lot of empty buildings. Hamas, Palestinian Islamic Jihad, and non-combatants who don’t want to be martrys are all gone by the time the bomb falls or the missile strikes. Maybe the next day, Israel finds out where Hamas’s soldiers are and the process is repeated without a single Hamas soldier being killed or taken prisoner. This leads to the question “What is the military value of destroying an empty building?”

Here are some possible answers:

  • the building contained important military equipment that would have taken more than a few hours to move
  • the building was on top of a tunnel entrance and collapsing it keeps the tunnel from being used
  • the building is next to a planned infantry/tank approach to another target and destroying it prevents freedom fighters from using the building as cover

I would love it if someone could explain which of the above is correct or if there is some other explanation.

This is not to say that I agree with Palestinians polled who believe that their victory over Israel is assured. I think it is possible that two months of small successes could eventually lead to an ultimate big success.

Separately, can someone explain this IDF video of a fight against Hamas/Islamic Jihad soldiers who were inside a couple of schools?

(As noted previously here, I disagree with the video’s reference to “terrorists” to refer to men who carry guns on behalf of the freely elected government of Gaza, even those men kill civilians whenever possible.)

All of the civilians moved out of this area weeks earlier, according to the video, so that’s what the soldiers believed. If you were on the ground and taking fire from a nearby building, wouldn’t you call in an airstrike or artillery strike against the building rather than risk your opponent having some successful shots? Why risk your life to save US/EU taxpayers from having to buy the Palestinians a new school? I don’t think that there is an argument that children would be disadvantaged by the destruction of an empty school building. There is no limit to the UNRWA aid guarantee and, therefore, a new building would be built in short order. Maybe the argument is that Israel doesn’t want to destroy UNRWA assets so as to maintain good relations with UNRWA, but to judge by Twitter the UNRWA folks already hate Israel and already say that Israel blows up their schools and other stuff “indiscriminately”. If there ever was a time for indiscriminately blowing up a building, when better than as the enemy is shooting at you from that building?

In yesterday’s New York Times:

The explanation for the fighting, as opposed to just bombing, doesn’t seem to apply to the school situation:

Hamas fighters are embedded in the strip’s densely packed buildings and hidden in an expansive network of underground tunnels, making close-quarters fighting unavoidable, Israeli officials said.

I still can’t figure out why the tunnels weren’t all located with ground-penetrating radar and then destroyed weeks ago (see Will the Gaza tunnel network prove to be Hamas’s Maginot Line?).

The Wall Street Journal implies that the O.J. chase will come to an end shortly.

Israeli forces closed in on southern Gaza’s largest city in what is becoming a decisive battle of the two-month-old war with Hamas.

Israeli forces moving into the militants’ stronghold of Khan Younis are entering a battleground of narrow streets packed with displaced Palestinians. In close-quarters combat, Hamas fighters there are defending their last major bastion in Gaza, home to its leader, Yahya Sinwar, and the location where Israel believes the group’s other leaders are hiding and holding hostages.

An Israeli victory in Khan Younis would likely corner remaining Hamas fighters in small areas in central Gaza and close to the Egyptian border, surrounded by Israeli troops. And it could heighten intense international pressure on Israel to end the war and seek a settlement that frees more than 100 hostages and ends Hamas’s rule in Gaza.

I don’t see why the fighters couldn’t go back to the north, but maybe the IDF has already spoiled the tunnels up there.

In favor of the WSJ’s theory that doom is at hand for Hamas is the intensified tweetstorm from Hamas allies calling for ceasefires. Doctors without Borders (MSF) is posting almost hourly (they have multiple accounts, one from each affiliate country) demands for Israel to surrender (i.e., a “ceasefire” in which Hamas remains in control of Gaza). My favorite MSF tweet is one in which they complain that the cars they left parked on the street were trashed when an Israeli tank column came through. They separately claimed that innocent children are being killed everywhere in Gaza, but their primary concern is for their own cars.

My response:

UNRWA tweets have gone from maximum hysteria to double secret maximum hysteria, each one yielding responses from Twitter users reminding them that one hostage says he was imprisoned by a UNRWA teacher. Example:

My assumption is that Hamas will just melt into the civilian population that overwhelmingly supports it and the war will fizzle out, but I’m usually wrong so maybe the WSJ is correct that there will be a dramatic event soon.

Update, December 7:

Posted in War

19 thoughts on “The War in Gaza and the O.J. Simpson Bronco Chase

  1. A possible reason for risking Israeli lives in those schools rather than demolishing them by bombing might be the potential value of the video showing how they are used as armamentaria by the Palestinian troops. Of course, it’s a vain hope that outlets such as the NY Times will give such video more than the usual passing mention along with the caveats that it has not verified anything and, by the way, the Health Ministry in Gaza has said that x,000 more innocent civilians have been killed.

    On another note, it looks like the IDF may pursue the suggestions of the internet armchair generals and flood some of the tunnels. In that vein, can radar actually be used to locate these tunnels or is that magical thinking?

    • Thanks, Mitch. You’ve explained why they might not want to blow up a building even if occupied by the noble resistance, but that still leaves us with the bigger question of why the IDF would want to blow up specific empty buildings!

      I think the “flood the tunnels” dream might rely on the tunnels being connected. So they wouldn’t need to locate/map too carefully. Is it fair to say that we won’t be seeing any testimonials on the web site regarding the sea-to-tunnel pumping project?

    • Palestinians have been blocked on this project? From June 2023: ” Israel gave preliminary approval for the development of a gas field off the Gaza Strip on Sunday while saying it would require security coordination with the Palestinian Authority and neighbouring Egypt.” says “It was too small to attract private investment in such a risky political climate.” I.e., whatever the value might be it wasn’t sufficient to justify investment.

      Let’s look at the value… 1 trillion cubic feet of natural gas is worth $3-5 billion (divide by the 5 million Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza and the per-person value is less than $1,000, assuming cost of extraction is $0)? For reference, Russia has 1,688 trillion cubic feet, which could therefore be worth $8,440 billion. But from my quick Google search, I think the $3-5 billion might be a wellhead price in a region that already has pipelines and a lot of demand for natural gas.

      If the Gaza gas were sold at Saudi prices ($1.25 per million BTUs, which translates to roughly $1.25 per 1,000 cubic feet), it would be worth $1.25 billion, likely below the cost of production.

      The war is forecast to cost Israel roughly $50 billion (see ), with the main cost being lost productivity from reservists who have been drafted.

      If the gas cost $0 to extract and were sold at triple the Saudi Arabia price, it wouldn’t pay for even 1/10th the cost to Israel for the war.

      I would also question your “with Gazans gone” assumption. Where do you think they’re going? Egypt has said that it doesn’t want any Gazans. Kuwait expelled 357,000 Palestinians relatively recently ( ). The UN keeps saying that 50,000 women in Gaza are pregnant (no numbers for pregnant men or pregnant people of other gender IDs). Therefore, if we accept the Islamic Resistance Movement (“Hamas”) numbers for how many Gazans have fallen as martyrs, there will be more Gazans by the end of the war than there were at the beginning.

      You couldn’t find a number for oil reserves so you’re assuming that there may be a lot of oil down there? Why aren’t the Egyptians pumping oil right next door, then? Or the Israeli farms that were attacked?

    • Phil, the number I found for oil reserves for the total area is $545 Billion worth of oil and gas reserves; but it was not broken out between the part controlled by Israel and the part controlled by others such as Lebanon and Gaza (the Oslo II accords give Gaza a jurisdiction of 20 miles offshore from the border).

      From the article I linked: “The Gaza Marine field was discovered in 2000 by British Gas, which had signed a 25-year exploration deal with the Palestinian Authority in 1999 ” so yes, I would say blocking development for about 22 years is hampering the development.

    • Paddy: You motivated me to hit Google. In pre-Biden money, the part of the gas field associated with Gaza was estimated to be worth “around $2.4bn in royalties and taxes over its life” and the life was estimated to be 15 years (2012 article: ). To figure out today’s net present value, you’d have to figure out a proper discount rate to apply for $2.4 billion that is paid out over 15 years and also adjust for 2023 gas prices compared to 2012. The article says that gas wouldn’t flow until 3-4 years after development was begun, so the 15-year cashflow doesn’t start immediately. There is no mention of any oil being available in this offshore field.

      Whatever number you come up with, if you want to figure out what kind of impact it could have on Gaza and the West Bank, remember to divide by the population, currently 5.4 million according to and forecast to grow to 7.6 million by 2040. (That’s assuming that the money is distributed equally and nothing is skimmed off by elites.)

  2. I don’t think flooding tunnels will be as effective as all these armchair generals seem to imagine. If I were building those tunnels, I’d include doors able to hold back water and make them close automatically, using some passive mechanism, in the event of a tunnel flood. This is literally ancient tech: they knew how to do this 3000 years ago, using wash-away clay supports whose degradation allows a stone slab to fall and block the tunnel. Hamas may be crazy but they’re not stupid.

    The tunnels under the border to Egypt were for smuggling, and were built to low standards. These are meant for war, and it seems likely they would be designed accordingly.

    • I think hst floding would just preserve the tunnells for future use. They should be collapsed along much of their length.

  3. The purpose of destroying the building is that there is nothing for people to move back to once it (and many others like it) are gone. The buildings are the target.

    • onetwothree: If the goal is to destroy buildings, why would Israel pick a single building within a neighborhood to destroy and leave all of the others untouched? Wouldn’t you expect a US/UK-style city-destruction raid if that were the goal? Your theory is also inconsistent with what Israeli ground troops have done. Once they got control of Gaza City, they could have gone from one building to the next placing demolition charges and imploding all of the buildings cheaply and easily. In fact, the opposite seems to have occurred. The major destruction of buildings in Gaza City was prior to the ground invasion. is from two days ago and, despite the media bias toward drama, the images show that majority of buildings still standing in an area where the IDF has had total control for a month.

      I think that my original question still stands. If there is a street with 20 buildings and Israel chose 2 buildings to destroy, warning everyone in advance to evacuate those 2 buildings, what was the military value of destroying 2 empty buildings?

    • philg: There are a few reasons they might destroy some particular residential building. Here are a few. It might be the home of someone who committed a crime. It might contain hidden military assets, like a tunnel entrance or arms or explosives, and these might be booby-trapped making it easier to just demolish the building. It might be in immediate military use, by snipers or spotters or as a rendezvous point.

      It’s basically impossible to know, since presumably such information is kept secret for operational reasons, at least for a while.

  4. I think the assumption that the goal is to kill every single Hamas fighter is incorrect. Most wars do not end with every last soldier in one country’s army being killed.

    • Ryan: The original post says “killed or taken prisoner”. I agree with you about most wars, but isn’t this one different in that soldiers are fighting for Allah? They’re in the “Islamic Resistance Movement” or “Palestinian Islamic Jihad”. What would be the reason for any to surrender and abandon jihad permanently? Japanese soldiers surrendered because the Emperor told them to surrender. Is there an individual human to whom all Hamas and PIJ soldiers are similarly loyal and from whom they would accept a directive to surrender?

    • The pictures going around of the Hamas fighters (or “civilians,” depending who you ask) who surrendered to the IDF instead of becoming martyrs and getting their 72 virgins raise some questions. It seems that their faith in their ideology and their will to fight can, in fact, be broken through sufficient use of violence, despite numerous claims to the contrary. As Curtis LeMay (who actually won a war, unlike basically anyone in the current US military establishment) said, “If you kill enough of them, they stop fighting.”

      Interesting historical note: LeMay stated, “I suppose if I had lost the war, I would have been tried as a war criminal.” But no one was prosecuted in World War II for bombing civilian targets, not even the losers.

    • Ryan: I’ve been hanging out on Twitter and I have also seen that photo. And many Palestinians saying that 100 percent of the people in the photos are civilians because their noble Hamas soldiers would never surrender to the Zionist entity or give up the fight. The fog of war is far thicker than usual!

      An Israeli news outlet says that an unknown number (possibly 0!) are affiliated with Hamas. In Hebrew, but Twitter offers to translate.

    • Philip/Ryan, Hamas terrorists surrendered to IDF because Israeli prisons are better places then Gaza tunnels, with better food for non-commanders and way more oxygen. They may even get visitors and Israeli-paid education on time, all the time being surrounded by their comrades from the tranches, err, tunnels. See, BS from Open University of Israel while imprisoned in Israel.
      Sure decision to surrender when they ran out of ammo, get some extra training in prison and back into the field, like Kuntar. It is never late to go to 72 virgins.
      If the mountain won’t come to Muhammad, then Muhammad must go to the mountain

Comments are closed.