JERUSALEM — Israel’s campaign into the Gaza Strip started Thursday with a brief incursion of armored and engineering forces laying the path for a wider ground entrance.

The vanguard mission came after almost two weeks of Israeli bombardments of Hamas targets that are meant to neutralize some of the threats ahead of incoming forces.

Israel is responding to an Oct. 7 attack by the militant group Hamas on kibbutzim and cities in the country’s south that killed more than 1,400 civilians. The militant group also kidnapped hundreds of people of varying ages.

Local analysts expect the conflict will expand to Israel’s northern border, given the Iran-backed militant group Hezbollah is attacking from that direction.

The Israeli Defense Ministry has available a range of weapons from the country’s defense firms that could be used as ground forces prepare to enter Gaza, though government officials have kept their plans secret.

One of the new technologies that could see combat is the Spark drone developed by Rafael Advanced Defense Systems and its subsidiary Aeronautics. The Israeli Air Force received the system last month.

Not much is known about the Spark except for the Air Force’s description of the drone as pivotal for “multidimensional warfare,” intelligence missions and “precision-strike coordination.”

Israel’s Trophy active protection system for armored vehicles, also developed by Rafael, is expected to play a key role in disabling anti-tank weapons as forces advance. Already purchased by various foreign armies, the countermeasures suite is installed on Israel’s Merkava IV tanks.

This year Israeli forces also began receiving the Barak tank, which is the fifth iteration of the Merkava, equipped with an improved Trophy system and a radar target finder for its cannon.

Along with additional cameras and sensors that provide situational awareness for the Barak tank crew, the platform can fight better than its predecessors with the tank hatches closed while the crew is protected inside.

The newest tank type has yet to enter the Israel Defense Forces on a large scale, but military leaders could use the Gaza incursion to test its promise of improved survivability.

Eyes will also turn to Rafael’s Fire Weaver system, developed with the Israeli Defense Ministry’s weapons development directorate. The networked sensor-to-shooter system is meant for maneuvering forces, and the company says it connects intelligence-gathering equipment to trigger weapons within one minute of target identification. The Fire Weaver has reportedly been operational since 2022.

“The campaign in Gaza consists of several stages, one of which is a ground incursion,” retired Maj. Gen. Eitan Ben Eliyahu, a former Israeli Air Force commander, told Defense News. “It is also a structural environment, where each of the buildings might be a death trap for Israeli forces.”

Tzally Greenberg is the Israel correspondent for Defense News. He has experience reporting on economic affairs as well as defense and cyber companies.

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