Israel, Iran and the evolving asymmetrical & conventional missile warfare part two of four

Israel lives in a land under continuous siege- rockets, mortars, fly almost daily in or around Israeli communities. The emerging asymmetrical rocket warfare, there are no longer any areas safe from missile strikes. From the Hezbollah in the North, Hamas in Gaza and the mounting threat from Sinai Peninsula.

Israel is a tiny country, and it lacks strategic depth, and it is a mere 14.4km (9 miles) wide at its narrowest point. For much of its history, the majority of the population remained shielded from wars because the Jewish state quickly took the fight to its enemies and pushed the battlefield away from its community centers.

Soon after Israel’s withdrawal from the Gaza Strip in 2005, it was taken over by the Iranian backed Hamas.  Shortly after rockets started flying out of that territory. Since 2005 some 11,000 rockets have been fired from Gaza and Gaza is the primary source of rocket attacks today.

Israel’s Northern Border the Hezbollah (Hezbollah): Following the 1979 Iranian Islamic Revolution, Tehran, under the direction of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, adopted an extremely aggressive foreign policy that endeavored to spread the Islamic revolution across the entire world. Khomeini’s Islamic revolution first broke ground in Lebanon, a small influential Arab country with a sizable Shia minority.

Outside of ISIS’s (Islamic State) Iran’s militant proxy the Lebanese Hezbollah is the world’s largest, most sophisticated, wealthiest and most militarily capable international terror organization.  Created, trained, financed and expanded as a proxy of the Islamic Republic of Iran, with operations spanning Europe, Africa, Asia, and the Americas. The Lebanese Shi’ite group has taken over the Lebanon government, launched thousands of rockets at Israeli civilians, and murdered more Americans than anyone other than al-Qaeda.

Lebanon, at the time, was in the grips of an intractable civil war a civil war that began in 1975 and seemingly had no end. Amid this chaos, Iranian intelligence and military agents covertly entered Lebanon. The task of setting up the new movement was entrusted to the Iranian ambassador in Damascus, Ali Akbar Mohtashemi, before the First Lebanon War in summer 1982. Mohtashemi formed the Lebanon Council, which included representatives of pro-Iranian Shiite movements. He headed that body until the consolidation of all the Lebanese Shiite movements that opposed and/or had split off from Amal, and then founded Hezbollah. Leading the operation was the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC), the elite arm of the Iranian military. Iran sent to Lebanon a task force of some 1,500 Revolutionary Guard instructors and fighters headed by Ahmad Mutavassilian, commander of the 47th Brigade (Rassoul Allah).The IRGC trained and deployed a proxy army composed mainly of battle-hardened Lebanese Shiite street fighters. Eventually, this group adopted the name Hezbollah, meaning the Party of God in Arabic.

Hezbollah issued its founding manifesto in 1985, around this time the group coalesced into a unified organization. The platform vowed Hezbollah's loyalty to Iran's supreme leader, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini; urged the establishment of an Islamic regime; and called for the expulsion of the United States, France, and Israel from Lebanese territory, as well as for the destruction of the Israeli state, the arm of the great Satan, “America”. The manifesto states:

"Our primary assumption in our fight against Israel states that the Zionist entity is aggressive from its inception, and built on lands wrested from their owners, at the expense of the rights of the Muslim people. Therefore our struggle will end only when this entity is obliterated. We recognize no treaty with it, no cease-fire, and no peace agreements, whether separate or consolidated."

Hezbollah receives military training, weapons, and financial assistance from Iran, (some estimate over 1 billion dollars since 1982, Israeli intelligence sources at $700 million yearly) and political and military support from Syria. Following Israel’s withdrawal from Lebanon in 2000, its military strength grew significantly. Since the Second Lebanon War in 2006, Hezbollah has been in a rearmament process with most of the equipment coming from the Islamic Republic of Iran (and some from Syria). Hezbollah presently has an estimated sixty thousand short-, medium-, and long-range missiles.

Hezbollah has Iranian Zelzal-2 ballistic missiles, able of carrying a 600kg (1,300lb) warhead with a maximum range of 200 km (124 miles), placing all the main Israeli cities in the range of Hezbollah fire. Hezbollah has three organizational structures and sophisticated weaponry, including the M-6002 missile, supplied by the Islamic Republic through Syria to Hezbollah with the help of the organization’s 10,000 operatives.  Syria mass-produced and delivered new, longer-range Scud-D missiles to Lebanon that travel as far as 700km (435 miles) and can carry chemical or biological warheads. WikiLeaks cables revealed that the United States had urged Syria to stop transferring ballistic missiles (Scud-D, Fateh-110 missiles) to Hezbollah earlier in 2010. They have the potential of reaching Tel Aviv and central Israel. Unknown is the number and type of UAVS, drones and cruise missiles. Tehran’s Hezbollah has also acquired antitank missiles, antiaircraft cannons and rockets of various ranges (SA-7, SA-8, and SA-14 shoulder-launched missiles), arms and equipment for small-scale maritime warfare, motorized gliders, and sophisticated communication and intelligence equipment.

Syria, for its part, has been a strategic benefactor of Hezbollah since its establishing. Syria prevented Hezbollah’s dismantlement in the wake of the 1989 Tai’if Agreement, which, among other things, put an end to the rule of militias in Lebanon. This Syrian move empowered Hezbollah’s expansion to its present dimensions. Damascus considers Hezbollah as a strategic partner and consequently is a dominant source of military support along with Iran. Syria further facilitates the arms flow to its aerial gates from Iran to Hezbollah in Lebanon, where the weapons stockpiled in underground warehouses

Israel’s 2006 war with Hezbollah in Lebanon, Background : 12 July until 15 August 2006, the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) waged a thirty-four-day war against the Iranian terrorist proxy organization Hezbollah in response to a well-planned raid by a team of Hezbollah combatants from southern Lebanon into northern Israel. That raid resulted in the abduction of two IDF soldiers, who had then been taken back into Lebanon for use as hostages.

Asymmetrical Rocket Warfare comes of age: In the onset of the 2006 war, Hezbollah had stockpiled over 14,000 short- and medium-range rockets in calibers between 100mm to 302mm. These types of rocket artillery were originally designed for area-suppression and psychological warfare weapons to support tactical assaults. However, these rockets gained a distinct interest in terror weapons with strategic resonance, reaching their pinnacle with hundreds fired daily on objectives in northern Israel for approximately five weeks. The larger caliber rockets, essentially Syrian origin 302mm (named Khaibar-1 by Hezbollah) and Iranian Fajr-3, were employed to strike deep into Israel, repeatedly hitting and virtually closing down the strategic port city of Haifa and even landing halfway down the coast of Tel Aviv. Some 90 percent of the rockets fired by Hezbollah were short range rockets. The high-explosive warheads of these rockets were augmented with anti-personal steel balls and fragmentation sheets, causing deadly effect on Israeli civilian targets. Some were also modified to improve concrete penetration, to improve their effectiveness urban area. Official Israeli police reports documented 4,228 rocket impacts inside Israel. Thanks to an organized civilian defense, Israel suffered only 53 fatalities from these attacks, but along with 250 severely and 2,000 lightly wounded civilians.  

IDF operations from the campaign’s first day onward included a total of some 173,000 artillery shells and battlefield rocket rounds fired, more than were expended during the much higher-intensity Yom Kippur War of 1973. From the air war perspective, the IAF conducted sustained bombing against Hezbollah targets and Lebanese infrastructure during the 34-day war.

As for the campaign’s final tally sheet, the IAF flew a total of 18,900 combat sorties conducted by F-15s, F-16s, and attack helicopters. This IAF air war struck some 7,000 targets at an average rate of 340 sorties a day. Roughly 12,000 of those were fighter sorties in all mission categories, with attack helicopters racking up another 2,500 sorties. More than half of the IAF’s strike sorties were flown at night, thanks to the imaging infrared technology that was available for use in fighter targeting pods, attack helicopter sensors, and UAVs. In addition, more than 1,500 surveillance sorties and around 1,300 air mobility sorties were flown during the 34-day campaign. Strikes were also supported by 2,500 naval gunfire missions and another 140,000 long-range rocket and artillery attacks.

Israeli air war struck Hezbollah targets throughout Lebanon including in the southern regions, in the Bekaa Valley, in Beirut, and even in northern Lebanon. All categories of targets were struck including transportation (roads, bridges, and airports), petroleum distribution and storage, command and control sites, Hezbollah leadership, military forces, and Lebanese civil infrastructure. Hezbollah rockets, launchers, and weapon storage facilities were the dominant target set during the conflict.  The transportation and petroleum targets were struck to prevent Hezbollah movement and to stop the re-supply of Hezbollah’s weapons. Hezbollah command and control targets were struck to degrade forces. Civil infrastructure strikes were intended to pressure the Lebanese government and people to stop their support for Hezbollah.

Cruise Missile Attack: Hezbollah also assaulted Israeli naval ship with the "Noor" (C802) anti-ship cruise missile that killed four Israeli sailors aboard the Israeli Navy Ship INS Hanit on July 14. In addition, Israel Radio reported that at least one of the Hezbollah UAVs downed by the Israeli Air Force carried a 30-kg. (66 lbs.) bomb. Moreover, this was the first recorded use of UAVs as land attack cruise missiles.

The Israeli naval vessel Hanit (Spear), a Saar-5 corvette built in 1994 and carrying some eighty crew members, which was patrolling in Lebanese waters 12.8km (8 miles) west of Beirut.  The attack was conducted by what soon confirmed to have been an Iranian-made variant of the Chinese-developed C-802 antishipping missile, a weapon that Israeli intelligence had not even known was in Hezbollah’s arsenal. The cruise missile struck the stern of Hanit killing four crew members and causing significant damage. A second cruise missile, targeted against another Israeli ship, overflew Hanit and, apparently inadvertently, struck and sank a foreign merchant vessel cruising 56km (35 miles) off the Lebanese coast. Hanit, disabled by the C-802 but still afloat, got out of the line of fire and eventually made its way back to Ashdod for repairs under its own power.

Working with the Lebanese military: IDF intelligence officials strongly suspected that a team of skilled Iranian technical experts had either fired or supervised the firing of the C-802 against Hanit. Soon after, the head of the IDF’s operations directorate, Major General Gadi Eisenkott, disclosed that the enemy combatants who fired the C-802 had received targeting information from Lebanese naval radar stations in Beirut and elsewhere.

 (To be continued)