You may have seen this. Not a good day for the future of manned aircraft.The pilot is on the endangered list it seems. This little 4 minute Boeing video is really something…. a first for a full size jet airplane. Thousands of planes that were grave yard bound, with costs in the hundreds of millions, now can be used as never before. These F-16 aircraft have been in the bone yard at Davis-Monahan for 15 years and are now being used as drones!
Thursday afternoon, July 10, the IDF advised 100,000 Palestinian civilians to leave their homes in the northern Gaza villages of Beit Lahiya, Beit Hanoun, Greater Ibsen and Smaller Ibsen and head west to the coast or south to remove themselves from danger. This order, issued shortly after a special Israeli cabinet meeting, suggested that an Israel military incursion is impending. During the day, Hamas kept up its barrage. By firing 100 rockets, the Islamists demonstrated that their rocket capability had not been impaired by three days of massive Israeli air strikes.
DEBKAfile reported earlier Thursday: Early Thursday, July 10, two more rockets were fired from the Gaza Strip at Tel Aviv. Iron Dome intercepted one. By 9 am, 10 more landed in Negev sites. Between Wednesday midnight and Thursday morning, the Israeli Air Force and Navy had carried out 108 strikes in the Gaza Strip – 322 in 24 hours. Targeted were a weapons store, 5 arms manufacturing plants, 5 military compounds, 58 tunnels, 2 surveillance posts, 217 buried rocket launching pads, one command and control base and 46 homes of Hamas and Jihad Islami commanders.
In this time span, the Palestinians fired 234 rockets.
On Wednesday July 9, the second day of Operation Protective Edge, Prime Minister Netanyahu announced that he had ordered its expansion “until the [Palestinian] shooting stopped.”
DEBKAfile‘s military sources say that the IDF high command replied that expansion would necessitate adding a ground incursion into the Gaza Strip to complement the air strikes. Enough equipment is present around the enclave but not enough troops. The call-up of 10,000 reservists did not meet requirements.
Since the prime minister had not yet provided them with specific orders, the air force continued to bomb rocket-related targets in Gaza, tallying strikes and publishing video clips of exploding targets and pillars of smoke.
But the facts in the field speak for themselves.
Despite the smoke and thunder, no senior Hamas commander or key command center has been hit – for lack of a clear directive. The Hamas chain of command is therefore still functioning.
This situation is fast developing into a standoff. Hamas leaders are perfectly aware of Israel’s dilemmas and quick to exploit them. They hear Netanyahu’s solemn words, but see for themselves that the concentration of IDF ground strength on the Gaza border is short of the numbers needed for an incursion and mobilizing them will take time.
Hamas is also listening to President Shimon Peres, who assured CNN that if Hamas holds its rocket fire, the IDF won’t go through with a ground incursion.
The Hamas rocket blitz has so far caused no Israeli fatalities thanks to a highly effective home defense system. On the Palestinian side, they are mounting, which they are beginning to use as a propaganda tool accompanied by vivid footage.
This situation decided Hamas Wednesday night to save its rockets, especially the more valuable ones with the longest range, and so confound Israeli predictions of another massive rocket blitz in store that would again widen out to reach Haifa.
Israel’s indecision about the next stage of Operation Protective Edge has given Hamas the time and breathing space it needs. Meanwhile, its most effective rockets for longer distances can be reserved for major confrontations.
And, meanwhile too, the perceived weakening of the government’s resolve and its reluctance to fix on a clear final objective have become fertile ground for self-doubts and unfounded rumors. The most damaging in circulation claimed that IDF and Air Force chiefs were complaining of a shortage of good intelligence for continuing their operations.
Our military sources confirm, without going into details on how much Israel knows about Hamas’ field setup, that the air force has all the intelligence it needs to carry on. What is lacking is not intelligence but a clear decision by Prime Minister Netanyahu about the operation’s ultimate goal and correlatively whether to go through with the ground operation necessary to complement the aerial operation. Until that is settled, Israel’s military operation against Hamas will continue to tread water.
The long-range Hamas rockets that reached Hadera 110km north of Gaza Tuesday, July 8, have been identified as the Syrian-made M-302 Khaibar missile, that was used by Hizballah against Israel in the 2006 Lebanon war to pound Haifa. This weapon uses Iranian technology deriving from the Chinese WS-1 which has a 175 kilo warhead. Hizballah engineers posted in the Gaza Strip have since helped Hamas improve the M-302 and extend its range and accuracy. But still, even after improvements, the M-302’s main shortcoming is its lack of precision.
This was demonstrated Tuesday night when it missed substantial targets in Hadera and also, it now appears, Jerusalem, which took three rockets.
Last March, Iran tried to smuggle into the Gaza Strip an arms shipment including M-302 rockets under a cargo of cement aboard the Klos C. The ship was intercepted by Israel and the weapons seized. But other shipments must have made it through to Gaza and evidently topped up the missile arsenals of Hamas and Jihad Islami.
The Israeli government and army chiefs failed to heed this strategic increment to the Islamists’ tools of war – until Tuesday, when it emerged as a key weapon of Palestinian aggression. Hamas may be expected to continue to use the M-302 to hit Israeli targets.
DEBKAfile’s military sources note the striking differences in the war tactics pursued by Israel and Hamas. The IDF has at this stage based its military operation in Gaza on air strikes for knocking out as much as possible of the Hamas military and logistical infrastructure as well as targeting its commanders.
Hamas, lacking an air force, has launched a well-planned campaign based on heavy, escalating rocket fire which indiscriminately targets the Israeli population and was meant to be supported by limited commando raids. But the Islamists have failed to cause damage and casualties – not just because the Israelis are well prepared with shelters – because of the imprecision of their rockets, and their inability to mount more than isolated, small-scale raids, which are nowhere near the scale for tipping the balance in the contest.