Analysis: Why the Katyushas are so hard to prevent

Some of the rockets work on a timer and are as small and thin as lampposts.

katyusha guy 88 aj (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski [file])
katyusha guy 88 aj
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski [file])
The backs of pickup trucks, side rooms in one-story homes and thick brush in valleys and on ridges are the places from which Hizbullah is succeeding in firing rockets despite intensive IDF operations to stop the attacks. On Wednesday, Hizbullah fired more than 220 rockets and on Thursday another 150, proving that despite the IDF operation, which entered its fourth week on Wednesday, it was still functioning just like it was on July 12, the day the war erupted. From the beginning of this war, senior military officers repeatedly stated that the goal of Operation Change of Direction was not to eradicate Hizbullah's Katyusha array but to weaken the organization to the extent that it would be possible to create a new diplomatic order in southern Lebanon, one that would not include a guerrilla presence. But after a day in which eight Israelis were killed in rocket attacks, the defense establishment is aware that it cannot let the Katyushas continue raining down on the North, at least not to the extent of the past two days. That is why Defense Minister Amir Peretz on Thursday ordered the IDF to begin preparing for an escalation in the ground offensive against Hizbullah and to begin deploying troops up to the Litani River, some 40 kilometers north of the border. It is in between the 100 villages in southern Lebanon that Hizbullah fires its rockets. The rockets and missiles fired at Haifa and Afula were launched from Tyre, south of the Litani, where the IDF has until now only been utilizing air power. According to Peretz's new order, troops could reach Tyre within a matter of days. A high-ranking officer explained on Thursday that some of the rockets worked on a timer and were as small and thin as lampposts, similar to the Kassam rockets launched by terrorists in the Gaza Strip. The launchers, he explained, were extremely difficult to locate and residents in the North might need to learn from their counterparts in the South who have been living under rocket threats for several years, he said "No military in the world can destroy all of the rockets," he explained. "As sad as it might sound, the residents of the North might need to get used to living under this threat." Another issue is the anti-tank missiles being fired in the hundreds at troops operating in southern Lebanese villages. On Thursday, two such rockets were fired at tanks in different villages and the results were tragic - four soldiers were killed, one in Ataybeh and three in Rajamin in the western sector of southern Lebanon. But what is even more tragic is that the defense establishment has refused to fund an existing defense system for tanks that could protect them from rockets like RPGs and the Soviet-built Sagger. Senior Armored Corps officers told The Jerusalem Post last week that the defense establishment had refused to provide tanks with the Trophy, a Rafael-developed active protection system which creates a hemispheric protected zone around armored vehicles, such as the Merkava 4 tank, currently operating on the ground in southern Lebanon. The system is designed to detect and track a threat and counters it with a launched projectile that intercepts the anti-tank rocket. "Money is what is killing and wounding soldiers," one high-ranking officer told the Post last week. "The Trophy system is supposed to be there to provide the answer to this threat, but due to budget constraints the soldiers are paying the price with their lives."