The Israel Air Force has destroyed more terrorist targets in Gaza over the past 36 hours than it did throughout the entire Operation Pillar of Defense in 2012, a senior security source said on Wednesday.
Meanwhile, seven Iron Dome batteries deployed throughout the country have blocked 90 percent of incoming rockets that were headed to populated areas, with six projectiles striking built-up areas since Monday, the source said.
The air force fired 400 tons of explosives at targets belonging to Hamas and other terrorist groups, he added.
“Hamas has been surprised by Israel’s response. We systematically struck operational infrastructure, where Hamas commanders operate.
In the past 36 hours, we destroyed more than what was destroyed during all of Operation Pillar of Defense, and many targets were areas where senior Hamas commanders operate,” the source said. “There’s not a single Hamas brigade commander who has a home to go back to.”
Leading the offensive against Hamas are the IAF, the IDF Southern Command and the Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency), which are working in synergy, he continued.
“We are mainly working with the ‘knock on the roof’ approach,” he said, in which homes that terrorists are using receive calls from the army warning civilians to leave before the IDF strikes.
Referring to the IAF attack on the home of a senior Islamic Jihad member, which killed him and family members in the southern Gaza Strip on Tuesday, the source said the family had been warned to get out and had done so, but had returned just before the IAF missile hit.
“We had an error with the family in Khan Yunis. They were told to leave, they returned, and the missile was already on the way. It was too late,” the source said.
Addressing the air force’s efforts to destroy Hamas’s long-range rocket arsenal, the source said, “We are attacking what we know about, and are attacking where we can operate. We won’t attack a hospital that has long-range rockets in it.”
The air force is not hitting the location of many longrange projectiles, either because intelligence has not revealed the locations, or because the civilian casualty rate would be too high, the source said.
“We don’t know everything. What we do know about, we attack. We are trying to work accurately, and not strike needlessly,” he said.
Nevertheless, he continued, “The damage in Gaza is growing. It’s increasing in scope, surpassing Operation Pillar of Defense. We will never get to the last rocket. [But] we will erode their capabilities.”
The conflict will end when Hamas concludes that fighting Israel “isn’t serving [its purposes],” and finds that it is paying too high a price, the source said. Then, the terrorist organization may “search for a mediator.”
But Israel’s air strikes are just in their first phase, the source warned, noting that a possible ground offensive was looming on the horizon.
“We have the best of all tools from the air, but we also have relevant ground maneuver tools,” he said. “If the aerial firepower doesn’t work, we’ll move to the ground phase.”
He stressed that “this won’t end militarily. This is a military effort combined with a diplomatic effort. We have to create conditions for a diplomatic success. We are trying to limit the threat while thinking about what will hurt them the most.”
The source advised against believing that the IDF would destroy every rocket in the Gaza Strip.
“Within six months they’ll have them again,” he said.
“Deterrence is central, so that next time, they think twice before attacking.” Addressing air defense, the source revealed that the seventh Iron Dome battery had been rushed off the production line so it could become operational.
Compared to previous conflicts, Hamas has fired few rockets with a range of more than 10 kilometers, he said.
Gazans have fired some 200 rockets since Monday evening. Iron Dome has increased its capabilities and has become a bigger and more effective air defense system, he went on.
He added that Ben-Gurion Airport was operating on a lower-than-normal level, with 70% of its usual take-offs and landings.
In recent days, Hamas fired shoulder-held anti-aircraft missiles at the IAF, but this came as no surprise, the source continued.
“We know how to deal with this threat,” he said.
Ultimately, the source argued, the goal should be to hit Hamas hard enough to deter it from firing rockets, but without having the IDF invade the Gaza Strip and topple the Hamas regime, which would hurt Israel’s strategic interests.
“Hamas developed new tactics over the past two years. It managed to smuggle long-range rockets into Gaza. Even though we have the military ability to take this to the end, it’s better to hit hard and not destroy the last rocket. We can conquer all of Gaza. But what happens the day after? What do we leave there? Who will be in power there?” the source asked.
“We have to deliver blows in a way that it will improve our condition,” he said.
Turning his sights to Lebanon, the source said that Hezbollah chief Hassan Nasrallah “hasn’t finished rebuilding Lebanon [since the Second Lebanon War in 2006]. Nasrallah didn’t join in during Cast Lead [the IDF offensive against Hamas in the Gaza Strip in December 2008-January 2009] or Pillar of Defense, and I don’t expect him to join this conflict, because Lebanon still hasn’t recovered, and they see the level of the bombs we are dropping.”