Friday, July 11, 2014

Operation Protective Edge

About 2 years ago Israel carried out Operation Defensive Shield against Gaza, the objective of which was to stop Hamas and other terrorist groups from launching rockets into Israel.   Although we had an informal ceasefire and relative calm for most of the past two years, clearly the Operation in 2012 did not really succeed, because here we are again, facing a huge barrage of long-range missiles from Hamas and once again attacking Gaza.  To stop this cyclical process, we need to deter Hamas completely and to do that we need to destroy their infrastructure and cache of missiles. 
Although it took the Cabinet and PM Netanyahu some days to make up their minds to counter-attack Gaza, not after 10 rockets and not after 100, but after about 300 rockets had fallen all over Israel, nevertheless, by day 3 of Operation Protective Edge a great deal of damage has been done in Gaza.  The reasons we have cause to be confident about the current conflict are as follows:
1. The Iron Dome anti-missile system (developed in Israel with US funding) has been very successful.  In operation it distinguishes between missiles that will fall in populated areas and those in unpopulated areas.  The battery is only activated against missiles targeting populated or security areas, and in those cases it is ca. 90% successful.  As a consequence, notwithstanding the hundreds of rockets and longer range missiles that have been launched against Israel, there have so far been no Israeli casualties.  There has been billions of shekels of property damage and many near misses, but by and large people are forewarned by the Red Alert warnings given by the Iron Dome, that allow from 15 secs up to 3 minutes warning to get to a shelter, depending on how far the area is from the Gaza border. 
2. Hamas are launching barrages of rockets at once in order to try to overcome the Iron Dome system, but the system is sufficiently well designed that it can cope with many such missiles and is able to counteract only those that pose a danger to populated areas, consequently this reduces the effectiveness of the rocket barrages. 
3. Hamas have buried their missile launching sites, and connected them with underground tunnels, so that their personnel are not exposed to the IAF drones.  However, as soon as a missile is launched its trajectory tells the exact spot from where it started, and the IAF can target that area with bombs that are powerful enough to destroy not only the metal doors that are supposed to protect the launching site, but also the launching pad and anything in it.  In this way the IAF are gradually degrading Hamas's underground launching capabilities.
4. Israeli intelligence is incredibly accurate and this is a tremendous success.  Although many Hamas leaders have gone into hiding (I like the thought of this), nevertheless Israeli intelligence knows pretty accurately where many of them are and where they operate from, often from civilian houses and buildings.  Two major Hamas Government agencies, the Defense Ministry and the Intelligence Agency, have been destroyed.  Two leaders of the rocket launchings were killed in the past day, one driving in a car that was targeted and blown up and one on a motorcycle.   Also, the house of every Hamas brigade commander has been reportedly blown up, so that none of those who survive will have a home to go back to.  It has been reported that Hamas, while still firing rockets, has expressed dismay at the extent and effectiveness of the IDF response.  Approximately 80 people have been killed in Gaza, but most of them are Hamas operatives, rocket launchers and terrorists, who do not wear uniforms.  About 800 people have been injured in Gaza, and the Egyptians have opened the border to injured Palestinians, but since they have a bad relationship with Hamas, that is in fact the Palestinian Muslim Brotherhood, the Egyptian Government under Gen. al-Sisi will not help Hamas.
5.  It has been reported that the IDF has carried out more sorties in the past 36 hours than they did in the whole of Operation Defensive Shield.  PM Netanyahu has warned that this operation has just started and will be a long one.  Notwithstanding the damage to Hamas and the other terrorist organizations, the missiles are still flying over Israel, the warnings can be heard every few minutes on the FM band, and the terrorist infrastrucutre is still intact.  A ground invasion is needed to definitively degrade Hamas and re-establish Israel's deterrence.  Only in this way can there be a longer lasting result of this current Operation.

6. World opinion is more muted this time, as a result of the obvious and crude fact that Hamas clearly initiated hostilities, and Israel definitely tried to arrange a ceasefire through Egypt and others.  The UN Security Council has been called into session and Secty Gen Ban ki-Moon  is due to make a report.  But, no decisions or resolutions are expected within the next few days.  It seems that there is sympathy for Israel's predicament and even though the US and others have called for Israeli restraint, no-one in the West is actually talking to Hamas or to Iran that supplies them with missiles.  They are talking to Pres. Abbas of the PA, but he has no control over Hamas, even though they are supposedly in a PA Unity Government together.  This time there may be enough time for Israel to sufficiently degrade the military capability of Hamas, so a ground invasion may be imminent.  We don't want to be back in another two years for Operation Defensive Edge or Protective Shield.


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