IDF doesn’t view rocket attacks as real escalation

Analysis: Intelligence estimates that Hamas, Islamic Jihad have more than 10,000 rockets, missiles, a large stockpile that can reach Tel Aviv.

By
July 18, 2011 02:46
4 minute read.
Victoria ship weapons smuggling

victoria ship weapons gallery10. (photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem)

 
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Despite the continued rocket fire from the Gaza Strip, the IDF does not appear to be preparing for a large-scale operation, such as Operation Cast Lead in 2009.

The understanding in the defense establishment is that the approximately 20 rockets that landed in Israel since last week have been fired by radical Islamic groups affiliated with al-Qaida and global jihad, made up of former Hamas operatives.

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“The groups are blowing off steam,” one defense official said on Sunday after three more rockets hit Israel on Saturday night. “We are not viewing this as a real escalation.”

This can be understood by reviewing the IDF’s response so far to the rocket fire. While 20 rockets in a week is definitely a significant increase compared to the usual drizzle – in June for example four were fired into Israel and in May just one - the IDF is not responding the way it did during the last escalation in April.

There are three main reasons.

First, Hamas is not directly involved in the rocket fire like it was in April, when in one weekend it fired more than 120 rockets into Israel. This, however, does not clear Hamas of responsibility since Israel believes that if the terror group wanted to, it could stop the other factions from firing.



The second reason is that no one has been hurt from the rocket attacks, unlike the escalation in April, which started with the anti-tank missile attack on a school bus that killed 16-year-old Daniel Viflic.

The third reason is that, for the time being, neither Israel nor Hamas appear to be interested in a new large-scale operation. Hamas prefers the quiet so it can continue its unprecedented military buildup, and Israel, like in previous cases, is doing what it can to postpone the conflict for as long as possible and until there is no longer an alternative.

One of the main problems with Gaza today is that any future Israeli operation would likely have to be dramatically different than it was in 2009.

Then, the main strategy was to separate the southern part of the Gaza Strip from the North, to cut off arms supplies to northern Gaza – the location of most of the rocket launchers – and to hit Hamas infrastructure hard from the air throughout the Strip.

Today, Military Intelligence estimates Hamas and Islamic Jihad have obtained more than 10,000 rockets and missiles – including a large stockpile of Iranian Fajr-5 rockets that can reach Tel Aviv – close to what Hezbollah had on the eve of the Second Lebanon War in 2006. A year ago, the terror groups were believed to have just a few thousands rockets, but the revolution in Egypt has completely altered the balance of power between Israel and Gaza.

Practically speaking, this buildup has major operational ramifications for the IDF and means Palestinian terror groups now store their rockets and launchers throughout the region. In order to effectively stop rocket fire into Beersheba, Ashdod, Ashkelon and Tel Aviv, the IDF will have to operate throughout the entire Strip.

Israel is extremely concerned by the major increase in weapons and explosives smuggling into Gaza since Hosni Mubarak’s downfall in February. Already in April, The Jerusalem Post reported one of the first results of the revolution was the interim government’s decision to stop construction of a steel barrier that Egypt had been building along its border with Gaza in an effort to curb smuggling.

Instead, since the revolution, the IDF believes Hamas has smuggled in three times the amount of explosives it brought into Gaza in all of 2010. This is in addition to unprecedented amounts of anti-aircraft missiles and guided anti-tank missiles, like the Russian-made Kornet that hit the school bus three months ago.

Israel understands Egypt’s relationship with Hamas has changed since Mubarak’s departure and that the military rule is turning a blind eye to the increase in smuggling, and at the same time has also lost control over Sinai and the Beduin tribes there. The closer ties between Egypt and Hamas are understood by Israel as possibly connected to the upcoming elections in Egypt and a desire by the current leadership to align itself with the Muslim Brotherhood, which it understands will gain power in the vote.

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