Exclusive – Col. Richard Kemp: Arab States Want Hamas, Hezbollah ‘Destroyed’

A member of Ezzedine al-Qassam Brigades, military wing of the Palestinian Hamas movement,
MAHMUD HAMS/AFP via Getty Images

Israel’s military operation in Gaza, led by the IDF, has been a strategic success against Hamas, significantly diminishing the terror group’s capabilities while prioritizing the minimization of civilian casualties, according to former commander of British forces in Afghanistan Col. Richard Kemp, who noted that international allies, including Arab states, tacitly support Israel’s actions, especially considering the broader context of Iran’s influence which threatens the world. In addition, he argued, Western states’ frequent accusations against Israel are merely “for the consumption of anti-Israel voters,” though doing so is both “irresponsible” and “very dangerous.”  

In an exclusive interview with Breitbart News, Kemp described the IDF’s military operations in Gaza thus far as having been “remarkable.” 

“I think the success of their campaign so far will be studied by military professionals for a long time to come,” he said. “They’ve achieved, I think, much more than they expected [and] with far fewer casualties than they feared on their own side.” 

Gaza Challenges 

The former commander, who led British forces in Afghanistan in 2003 and later joined the committee supervising the country’s intelligence services, listed three reasons why the ground offensive has taken nearly four months, which he deemed a relatively long time.

“One is that the need to deal with a tunnel system, which is unparalleled in the history of warfare, has meant that it’s slowed their operations down significantly, and it’s been probably the single major function of the ground-war,” he said. “But they’ve already had well trained units prepared and equipped to deal with fighting the tunnels. And from what I understand, they’ve been very successful at it.” 

“I’ve been into one of the tunnels underneath Gaza myself and I can testify to the complexities involved in that and the professionalism of the IDF in dealing with it,” he added. 

The second reason he offered is because of the caution maintained in relation to civilian casualties. 

“They obviously are intent on minimizing civilian casualties in Gaza, which is very difficult when you’re fighting an enemy that wants you to maximize their own civilian casualties as part of their strategy,” he said. “So that’s been a contributor.”

The third reason he suggested is their conduct, which aims to minimize its own casualties.  

“So it’s gone relatively slowly, but I think very impressively, in the circumstances,” he said, noting that IDF soldiers are “fighting on one of the most treacherous and complex battlefields any army has ever fought on.”

What makes it “incredibly difficult to fight” is Gaza’s mainly urban terrain, “which is notoriously difficult for any combat;” Hamas’ extremely long time “to prepare the ground, to lay ambushes, to put minefields in place, [and] to position booby traps, sniper positions in both rural and urban areas;”  the aforementioned tunnel complex; and the civilian population.

An additional challenge is the “intense spotlight” on Gaza, on the war “with media organizations, human rights groups, international bodies, like the UN and the EU, all desperate to accuse or convict Israel of war crimes.” 

“[All] that adds to the complications of the whole operation,” he stated. 

Regarding the difficulty faced by the IDF in fighting Hamas, Kemp highlighted the reality that “the whole of Gaza pretty much has been turned into an armed camp, not just for offensive purposes, like positioning rockets in and among the civilian population, but also in their defensive actions.” 

Hamas obviously uses the tunnels extensively for moving their fighters around and attacking from, with huge numbers of tunnel entrances throughout Gaza, in many houses and other buildings, and the fighters themselves above ground, those that move around above ground, try to reduce the prospects of themselves getting taken out by the IDF by almost never moving around with weapons. So they’ll move around, not in uniform — and fighters moving around in civilian clothes is itself a war crime — and not with weapons, because they’ve got weapons in pretty much every house in Gaza.

Having visited locations in Gaza and seen “houses with weapons, with ammunition, grenades, explosive rocket launches under children’s beds, in kitchens, in any part of the house,” Kemp noted that Hamas terrorists can thus “move around from place to place and just pick up a weapon when they get there and attack the IDF.” 

“That structure, of extremely comprehensive weaponization of the whole place, is the reason why so much of Gaza — not all of Gaza, of course, but particularly in the north — has been destroyed by IDF attacks,” he said.

Minimizing civilian casualties

According to Kemp, the ratio of Hamas enemy combatants to IDF casualties “tells a big story” in itself of Israel’s success. 

“It’s estimated between 12,000 and 15,000 Hamas fighters have been killed by the IDF, which is something like a third or up towards half of the Gazan terrorists, and against that there’s been a relatively small number of IDF casualties,” he said. “Normally you’d expect it to be the opposite, even recognizing that it’s a conventional army against an unconventional force, you still expect the number of casualties on the attacking side to be significantly higher than the defending side.” 

“So I think that ratio speaks for itself,” he added.

He also noted that calculating civilian casualties is currently unreliable, complicated by unverified reports and undifferentiated combatant and civilian deaths.

“Their figures, of course, come from the Hamas-controlled Gaza Health Ministry, so they can’t be trusted,” he said. 

In addition, such figures make no distinction between civilians killed by the IDF or those killed by Hamas themselves.

“Hamas has killed quite a lot of them through rockets that have fallen short in civilian areas in Gaza and also their own deliberate killing of civilians, which has been documented,” he stated. 

Based on his own calculations, Kemp estimated that the approximate civilian-to-military death rate in Gaza during the conflict so far is roughly 1.3 to 1.5 civilians for each combatant. 

“That may sound bad, but compared to other conflicts where there has been a significant civilian presence, it’s significantly better than has been the case before,” he said. “For example, in Iraq and Afghanistan, the figures were around three to five civilians killed for every fighter killed.” 

“It’s terrible to reduce human life to statistics, but from what I can see so far, it appears that the IDF has been immensely successful at minimizing civilian casualties,” he added. 

Kempo described personally witnessing the efforts taken both inside and outside Gaza, to minimize civilian casualties:

“One example of that is when I was in a commander’s meeting of an IDF formation inside Gaza and three generals, and a number of staff officers were discussing the next fighting moves,” he said. “While the conference lasted about an hour, about 15–20 minutes of that hour was spent discussing how to minimize civilian casualties while trying to take out a specific target that was close to a school which housed quite a lot of civilian refugees.”

“I’ve [also] spoken to many IDF commanders and soldiers who, in every case, are aware of their responsibilities and the efforts they need to make to minimize civilian death,” he added. “As I see it, that has borne fruit when you look at the ratios I just mentioned.”

Hamas Degraded  

He also noted that Hamas has now been “reduced to the point where it’s not really able to fight as a viable terrorist army.” 

“They’ve had their battalion structures broken down by the killing of many of their commanders and terrorists to the extent that they’re mainly now appearing as individuals or very small groups — not as formed bodies that can do significant damage to the IDF,” he said. “And their communications have been impeded by the destruction of their systems and also by active IDF jamming measures.”

“To the extent that, as I understand it, [Hamas leader Yahya] Sinwar himself and some of his senior commanders are unable really to communicate with the fighters, and are in fact, focusing more on their own survival than actually commanding the defense of Gaza,” he added. “So I think that’s the broad situation.”

Rafah Operation  

With Israel still finalizing operations in Khan Younis and preparing to move on to Rafah, Kemp noted that there could potentially be a delay in that depending on any agreement for a pause to release hostages. 

“However, at some point, I think the IDF will carry out an assault against Rafah, which will probably be very difficult because it’s the final bastion of Hamas, and they will probably fight pretty hard to hold on to it,” he said. “But the IDF have, over the course of the last few months, developed an immense understanding of the way that Hamas fights and they’re able, therefore, to plan and execute more effectively now than at the beginning.”

In addition, he called attention to the fact that the IDF has “crucially” been able to map the tunnel system underneath Rafah much more comprehensively than before, attributing that to “increased significant intelligence gains from terrorist communications, from the seizure of computer systems, interrogation of prisoners — they’ve taken a lot of prisoners, many of whom are very willing to spill the beans to save their own skins — and indeed from Gazan civilians, some of whom are willing also to give information about things like hostages and Hamas locations.” 

“Because although there’s still a very high level of support in Gaza for Hamas, I think, there is certainly a realization among some that it is Hamas that has brought them to this situation, and they want to see the fighting finished and they want to see Hamas ended as well,” he added. “And that’s why I think they’ve given quite significant information to the Israelis.”

Kemp expressed his belief that the IDF operation in Rafah will span several weeks, noting that “we’ve already seen up north [of Gaza] in areas that have been cleared by the IDF, the reemergence of Hamas fighters individually or in small groups, and I think we’re going to see a continuation of that.”

“Once the IDF gets to the Philadelphia corridor and controls Rafah and the whole of Gaza, that doesn’t mean that all the fighting is going to end,” he explained. “The IDF will then have to do a clear-up operation to destroy the remaining tunnels, to destroy Hamas’ munitions, to track down and either capture or kill terrorists who have managed to escape.” 

“That will be an ongoing process probably for the foreseeable future,” he added.

According to Kemp, the fighting will likely continue “for a long time,” though not at the current level of intensity.

“Even when the fighting dies down, we’re likely to see a continued IDF presence there to suppress the potential recurrence of Hamas 2.0, which is going to be in the cards,” he said. “There’s going to be an attempt to resurrect Hamas in some form, and the IDF will need to be there to prevent it from becoming another significant threat.”

The matter, he proposed, reflects a “defensive invasion” with efforts aimed at more effective countermeasures.

“In some ways you could look at this as sort of a defensive invasion of enemy territory [and] the destruction of the enemy army. But then, the emergence of a lower level insurgency against those people who end up governing Gaza, including IDF security forces there, and whatever structure is put in place to control it,” he said. 

He likened the situation to an “Iraq-type situation” where [Iraq’s late dictator] Saddam [Hussein]’s security structures and government structures were brought down, which will happen fairly quickly.” 

“But once that happens, it then develops into a longer term insurgency and the IDF will be well aware of that, of course, and I would expect it to take much more effective measures against a rising insurgency than coalition forces did in Iraq,” the former commander of British forces in Afghanistan said.

Despite world pressure to prevent such an operation, Kemp described a Rafah offensive as “essential.” 

“It’s not really an optional thing,” he said. “Netanyahu said he wants total victory over Hamas, and if he wants that, then he’s going to have to deal with Hamas in Rafah.”

“So in some respects obviously what they’ve done so far, severely diminishes Hamas’ capabilities,” he added, “but leaving Hamas in Rafah intact means that there’s every opportunity for Hamas to rise again to declare victory, and to to build their forces again, from Rafah.”

Western Support 

Despite their major concern for civilian casualties, Kemp insisted that the US, the UK and other allies of Israel “understand why Israel needs to do this” and they likely “agree that Israel is [going] to do it “at least behind closed doors.”

We’ve heard many times during the war President Biden, Secretary Blinken, Prime Minister Sunak, and Foreign Secretary Cameron saying: ‘I’ve spoken to Prime Minister Netanyahu, and I’ve told him to avoid committing war crimes, to minimize civilian deaths’ and all that, but they know that’s what’s been happening anyway. They know what steps the IDF has taken; they’ve been well briefed on them. And the reason they come out with this stuff, is because both countries have an election this year. It’s for the consumption of anti-Israel voters and, in their mind, they need to be seen saying this. So while they’re supporting Israel they’ve also got to show immense concern for something they know they don’t need to be concerned about, and that’s understandable in democracies. 

However, Kemp continued, doing so is also “very dangerous.” 

“Because by saying that sort of thing, it implies that Israel is not doing so; it implies Israel is committing war crimes or is unnecessarily killing civilians,” he said. “That’s dangerous because it fuels the Jew hate in the US, the UK, and in other European countries where people listen to this sort of stuff, and they believe in some cases what the politicians are saying.” 

“So it’s understandable but I think it’s irresponsible,” he added.  

Arab States Back Israel  

Turning to Arab countries like Egypt, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, and the UAE, Kemp also insisted that “whatever they say is like what the Americans and the British are saying about minimizing casualties and the like.” 

“[Despite] whatever they say against Israel, they are right behind what Israel is doing. They want Hamas to be destroyed in Gaza, and they want Hezbollah to be taken apart in Lebanon as well,” he said. “They want to see Iran damaged, but particularly they fear anything short of the complete defeat of Hamas is going to inspire and encourage Muslim Brotherhood extremists in their own countries.  And so they want to see Hamas dealt with for that reason.” 

In addition, Kemp maintained, they also “wish to see a strong Israel because they recognize that Israel is probably the most important partner in the Middle East for defending them against Iran.” 

“Whereas America used to have that position, in their minds America is now seen, I think, by many Arab countries as being far less than reliable under the present administration,” he claimed. 

“And so people should treat with caution any criticism or condemnation of Israel from Arab countries because they’re right behind them,” he added. “And not only are they behind them mentally, they also have done a number of things to help Israel in this situation, in some cases.”

War with Hezbollah

Regarding the vast amount of displaced Israelis in the country’s north, Kemp noted that he spent most of the last several months living in a hotel “full of refugees from Kiryat Shmona,” in Israel’s north. 

“Hotels across Israel contain refugees from the north who can’t go home because of the threat from Hezbollah,” he said. “Their greatest fear is not just a rocket attack but the replication of October 7 in the north.”

“Although they’re desperate to go home, they can’t,” he added.  

Kemp detailed the IDF’s current preparations for offensive operations against Hezbollah up there. 

“They’ve been fighting this war in the north since the Gaza War began when Hezbollah began to start firing missiles, anti-tank weapons and drones into Israel against Israeli civilians and at military sites,” he stated. 

He described the IDF’s significant operations against Hezbollah as having considerably reduced the Lebanon-based terror group’s capabilities, achieving considerable success.

“The IDF sent huge numbers of forces up there at the beginning, having maintained a high force level and have been defending the country, while at the same time they’ve been carrying out what I would say is very significant attrition against Hezbollah forces, particularly in the south of Lebanon, but further north as well, to reduce their capabilities,” he said.

“And I think they’ve achieved pretty significant success, [having] killed over 200 Hezbollah fighters, including some senior commanders,” he added. “So a great deal has been achieved so far in the North; but of course, it has to be dealt with more intensely at some point.” 

Kemp suggested that the IDF may want to avoid fighting two high intensity conflicts simultaneously, if possible.

“Obviously if it has to happen, and it will,” he insisted. “If Hezbollah stepped up their campaign to the extent that the IDF has to go in a much bigger way, then they will do that, but it will not be the optimum solution.”

“I think they would prefer to wait until they’ve stabilized Gaza, and then will be in a better position to deal intensively with Hezbollah,” he added.

He also pointed to the weather conditions, and the terrain in South Lebanon, as additional factors at play in Israel’s decision.

“The weather and terrain does not lend itself at all to fighting in the winter, and many of the technical and equipment advantages that the IDF has over Hezbollah, to an extent at least, can be  neutralized by the weather conditions and the terrain,” he stated. 

“But I think now that we’re coming into spring that the weather situation is such that those problems would not exist from now on for a while,” he added. 

According to Kemp, “any diplomatic solution of getting Hezbollah to voluntarily head north is a temporary “band-aid” [solution] at best, and “doesn’t solve the problem” which will have to be dealt with at some stage. 

“If and when they do take on Hezbollah then it’s going to be a very serious fight because there’s vast quantities of rockets and other munitions there, and a large number of fighters that will need to be neutralized,” he said. “At the same time, Hezbollah is not going to take it lying down.” 

“Of course they’ll fight IDF ground forces that come in, but they’ll also be firing or trying to fire rockets, including precision guided rockets, into Israel,” he added.

While Israel’s air campaign will be “very intensive,” Kemp noted the potential for “a great deal of pain inside Israel” if and when that happens. 

“It’s not a decision to be taken lightly but I think it is something that needs to happen,” he said. “Even if Hezbollah voluntarily withdraws north, it won’t take them long to come back and there won’t be any proper enforcement mechanism for that.” 

“If the Lebanese Armed Forces, under some agreement, takes responsibility for keeping Hezbollah out of the way, that means nothing at all given the Lebanese army’s complete lack of ability to control Hezbollah,” he added. 

Despite the consequences, Kemp insisted that Israel “can’t have a situation where a large part of its territory cannot be populated by Israeli people, as is the situation now.” 

“You can’t have that, that can’t go on forever,” he stated. “Action has to be taken to prevent it.”

Kemp then described Hezbollah’s key role in Iran’s regional influence, which makes targeting it vital for global and regional security interests:

We shouldn’t forget the pivotal role that Hezbollah plays in the whole Iranian terrorist machine and they have a hand in what Hamas are doing. A hand in what’s going on with the Iranian proxies in Syria and in Yemen and pretty much everywhere else. Hezbollah is an extremely important part of the Iranian operation, and I think if Israel was to do extensive damage to Hezbollah, it would be a very severe blow to Iran, and I think that is needed because Iran, of course, is behind everything. Iran’s controlling hand is behind all of the proxies throughout the region and they pose a threat not just to the region but also to the rest of the world. 

“So, damage against Hezbollah is very much in the interests of not just Israel and countries like Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Egypt, UAE, and Bahrain, but very much in the interests of the free world,” he added, including “the connections between Iran and Russia and, of course, China. So any kind of defeat against Iran is in all of our interests and needs to happen.” 

In December, Kemp acknowledged the IDF’s success despite the fact that Hamas fights “from within the civilian population,” uses “human shields,” and “deliberately [tries] to force the IDF to kill as many of their civilians as possible,” so that the world “turns on Israel and falsely condemns it for war crimes.” 

In October, Kemp blamed President Joe Biden for “continuously appeasing” Iran, and called for “the strongest U.S. support for Israel in this conflict,” warning that further American “weakness” could encourage hostile nations to exploit the situation. 

In 2022, he criticized the Biden administration’s “insane foreign policies,” including the U.S.’s “humiliation” in Afghanistan, its increasing oil dependence on Moscow, and its obsession with “gender pronouns, political correctness, [and] environmentalism,” as he called to support Ukrainian resistance, depose President Putin, and withdraw support for an Iran nuclear deal, all while warning of the increasing Chinese threat. 

He also warned that Biden’s “misguided policies over Iran will help make the world a more dangerous place.” 

Previously, Kemp slammed Biden’s exit from Afghanistan, describing it as the “greatest victory for jihadists,” a “blow for American prestige” — worse than 9/11 — which won’t recover for decades, and “the greatest foreign affairs and military catastrophe since the Second World War.”

Joshua Klein is a reporter for Breitbart News. Email him at jklein@breitbart.com. Follow him on Twitter @JoshuaKlein.


Please let us know if you're having issues with commenting.