Signaling an escalation of Israel’s Gaza operation, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told Israelis Monday to be ready for a “prolonged” war. After three weeks of bloodshed, both Israel and Hamas are holding out for bigger gains and a cease-fire remains elusive.
Theodore Postol, a professor at MIT and an expert on rocket and missile technology as a part of global security, points to the sharp disparity in death tolls on either side of this fight.
“There is no doubt at all that the rockets have caused tremendous amounts of disruption to Israeli society. No doubt at all,” he says. “They rarely do much damage, but they occasionally hit something.”
Tallies of the death count as a result of Hamas’ constant barrage of rockets since 2001 do not exceed 30. Postol attributes the low casualty rate to the millions of dollars Israel has poured into developing an early warning system. Israelis – depending on their location – have between 15 seconds and a minute to get to the omnipresent bomb shelters throughout the country. Rocket attacks in 2012 demonstrated the first publicly announced use of Israel’s new Iron Dome missile shield, though Postol says that likely has little to do with protecting Israelis.
However, Palestinians have become adept at sneaking in and developing rockets. The Qassam class of rockets carry a small warhead weighing 10 to 20 pounds and can be built in a basement employing a fuel made from sugar and potassium nitrate, Postol says. Others, such as the larger Grad class of weapons, are made of components that resemble household and plumbing products, making them more easy to smuggle into the country. Hamas has also recently begun deploying the much more lethal and long-range Fajr-5 rockets, an Iranian-made weapon that is capable to reaching targets as far away as 50 miles. Its 200-pound warhead can inflict widespread damage that far outweighs its smaller and more improvised predecessors.
“Hamas hasn’t killed a smaller number of Israelis than Gazans for lack of trying,” says Schneider, who has previously lived in Israel. “Hamas is firing at school buses, at schools, factories, community centers. They are launching their rockets at literally every community within Israel.”
Israel’s ability to warn its own citizens about an impending attack does not release the culpability of Hamas for trying to kill Israelis, he says.
No nation, anywhere, would accept an unrelenting indiscriminate barrage of rockets,” Schneider adds. “Can you imagine this country, or any other country, accepting nine, or 90, or 900 rockets without responding, and responding in force?”
For years, Hamas has constructed an “underground Gaza,” while investing nothing in the welfare of “upper Gaza.” The Israeli military has discovered 36 Hamas-dug tunnels, but estimates there are many more.
On the eve of its incursion into the Gaza Strip, Israel agreed to an Egyptian outline for a cease-fire to restore calm. It was only after 13 militants from the Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades penetrated Israel in an attempt to launch a terrorist attack in Kerem Shalom that the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) got the green light to begin a ground assault. And it was only then that soldiers discovered there was an underground Gaza just like there was an aboveground Gaza, and that the Hamas movement had invested an enormous amount of resources into constructing that underground Gaza.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was very wary of defining his precise objectives to end Operation Protective Edge. Instead, both he and his government are making do with more general goals, such as “removing the rocket threat” and ”restoring quiet to the citizens of Israel.” It was only following the failed infiltration operation and during the UN-sponsored five-hour humanitarian cease-fire that it became clear how pressing and urgent the tunnel threat really was, and that it could pose an even greater threat to Israel than Hamas’ rockets.
IDF was surprised by the scope and size of the assault tunnels that Hamas created along the border with Israel.
It was suddenly revealed that there are two Gazas: One is the crowded, impoverished and faltering Gaza, but there is also an “underground Gaza,” buried deep below the surface. As of now, the IDF has located 36 tunnels, but even during the current fighting, with the IDF still searching the area, terrorists have been sent to launch attacks deep in Israeli territory through tunnels that have yet to be discovered. According to the security source’s assessment, these are enormous tunnels, the planning and preparation of which probably lasted approximately three years. The cost of excavating, reinforcing and maintaining each tunnel is approximately $1 million, and as far as is now known, dozens of such quality tunnels were dug along the border between Israel and the Gaza Strip, from the northernmost part of the territory all the way to the south.
he Israeli exit of these tunnels is sometimes as far as half a kilometer beyond the Green Line. Over the years, once the tunnels were completed, they all required routine maintenance to ensure that they remained operational and hidden. It was even necessary to protect them from flooding during winter storms, a problem exacerbated by Gaza’s broken and collapsing drainage and runoff system. One can only wonder why Hamas — a movement that advocated the improvement of life quality for Gaza residents and offered them “change and reform” — did not even invest as little as one-hundredth of the cost of the tunnels to renovate Gaza’s sewage system. Instead, it invested in building more tunnels and rockets.
The Hamas movement has developed three distinct types of tunnels:
The first consists of the many hundreds of tunnels along the border between Gaza and Egypt, most of which were sealed recently by Abdel Fattah al-Sisi’s new regime. These are “economic tunnels.” They are designed to bring merchandise and raw materials into Gaza from Egypt. Over the years, and especially after Israel’s withdrawal from the Philadelphi Corridor (the route running along Gaza’s border with Egypt), these tunnels served as an “underground railroad” of sorts to bring in weapons, including the vast stockpile of rockets that have accumulated in Gaza.
The second network of tunnels is complex and has multiple branches running off it. This network, which was burrowed beneath the cities and refugee camps of Gaza — Khan Yunis, Rafah, Jabaliya, and Shatti — was designed to hide the stockpile of rockets and launchers. At the same time, other tunnels were dug to provide protection to Hamas leaders and allow them mobility. Every single leader of Hamas, from its lowest ranking bureaucrats to its most senior leaders, is intimately familiar with the route to the security tunnel assigned to him and his family. The most senior leadership has its own specific tunnel, which serves as a “war room” in times of emergency, such as the current military campaign in the Gaza Strip.
Then there are the tunnels along the border with Israel. These were intended to allow Hamas activists from the Gaza Strip to infiltrate deep into Israeli territory. Israel had already established a security fence along its border with Gaza, which has successfully prevented countless terrorist infiltrations and attacks. So the border tunnels were dug beneath the fence.
Ynetnews has interviews which claim to be with lead military analysts in Israel. They provide what seems to be the Israeli assessment of the Middle East and their expectations for the future.
Four Theaters of Israeli Consideration
1. The “Regional Theater”, a new theater established about two years ago as a result of research into on going turmoil in the Arab world. The aim was to create an overview of what’s happening in terms of regional strategy. This includes social and economic aspects, and specifically the phenomenon of Global Jihad.
2. The “Lebanon Theater”. It used to be called the “Terror Theater”, but over the last few years they have been focusing on the growing strength of Hezbollah and the country of Lebanon.
3. The “Egypt and Jordan Theater”, basically the Arab states with political ties with Israel. This theater is still called the “Southern Theater”, although in the past we used to deal with issues that have now been handed over to the “Regional Theater”
4. The “Palestinian Theater”.
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