The IDF has drawn up a new combat doctrine to deal with Hamas, based on the destruction of its military wing, a senior military source said Tuesday, speaking one year after Operation Protective Edge.
The new doctrine is the fruit of internal investigations into last summer’s fighting. The probes centered on issues such as training, intelligence, underground combat capabilities, urban warfare, and the overall use of firepower. The IDF concluded that a central objective would be to shorten the length of any future engagement with Hamas.
The new concept, created together with the Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency), calls for eliminating the Izzadin Kassam Brigades military wing if war erupts again in the South.
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“We have new components and an approach, which was shown to the chief of staff and received his approval,” the senior IDF source said.
“There will always be a need for adjustments to fit [future] circumstances,” the source said.
“But we have a concept, and we have plans.”
The IDF has also redrawn its plans to defend Gaza border communities, based on the understanding that Hamas plans to launch raids on these areas in any future clash.
Video filmed during last year's Gaza war by fallen IDF soldier Major Benaya Sarel
“You don’t win with defense,” the source said, “but a good defense will deny Hamas tactical gains that would allow it to claim a propaganda victory.”
A third important aspect of the IDF’s new approach to a future Gaza conflict is its focus on Hamas’s tunnel network.
Tunnels, the source said, have become Hamas’s most valuable asset. The network exists to serve its offensive forces, smuggle goods and armaments, and facilitate command and control networks.
The IDF has installed two tunnel detection systems in areas bordering Gaza, and these are to become fully operational in the coming weeks, the source said.
The systems will be able to alert the military whenever it detects digging under Israeli territory.
So far, the IDF has not detected any new cross-border tunnels since the cessation of hostilities last August. While the terrorist group is digging tunnels in Gaza, it has not yet rebuilt any of the 32 attack tunnels destroyed by the IDF last summer.
The army has also created two tunnel-warfare training sites to improve the ability of ground forces to confront this threat.
In a future conflict, the IDF plans to keep critical unit headquarters away from the Gaza border, out of the range of Hamas mortar attacks.
Operation Protective Edge was the largest armed conflict between Israel and the Palestinians so far. To prevent the outbreak of a new round of fighting any time soon, there is a need to improve Gaza’s civilian economic situation and hasten reconstruction efforts, the source said. This would provide civilians with hope and raise their standard of living.
This is a particularly difficult task in light of the fact that Israel, Egypt and the Palestinian Authority have all disconnected themselves from Gaza, leaving the Hamas-run enclave – where there is a 50-percent unemployment rate – in a state of near total isolation.
Hamas – regarded by Egypt as an enemy allied with its domestic Islamist foes – is anxiously looking for sponsors, and its military wing has begun receiving tens of millions of dollars from Iran once again. The organization also receives cash from a global network of charities and businesses, as well as from Qatar, its chief foreign sponsor.
Reaching a long-term ceasefire arrangement with Hamas is likely to encourage the Islamist regime and its armed wing to remain restrained, according to the source.
Currently, Hamas is taking more steps than ever before to prevent other Gazan terrorist groups from firing rockets at Israel, and it has arrested many Salafi jihadists following recent rocket launches into Israel, according to military intelligence assessments.
At the same time, the group continues to restock its own rocket supplies, and is actively seeking to improve the accuracy of its projectiles.
A total of eight rockets have been fired into Israel from Gaza since the end of hostilities last summer, representing the quietest period in the South since the Palestinian rocket attacks on the South in 2000. There is recognition among the IDF leadership of the possibility for “years of quiet” if the situation can be managed.
Tensions persist between Hamas’s military and political wings, the source added, and the military wing could begin to take more independent steps, military assessments have stated.
Renewing contact with Iran was cited as one example of an independent move already made by the military wing, which did not receive the backing of the group’s political division.