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.
First Hamas rockets were fired or intercepted Tuesday night, July 8, over Jerusalem, Tel Aviv, Rishon Lezion, Givatayim, Raanana, Caesaria and Yavne, as well as southern Israeli cities. No casualties but a house was hit in North Jerusalem. Beyond shooting dozens of rockets, Hamas also made several attempts Tuesday, July 8, to smuggle terrorists into Israel for attacks. A Hamas naval commando which tried in the afternoon to land from the sea near Ashkelon’s Zikkim beach was repelled by an IDF coast guard. Later, another group of terrorists tried to creep into Israel through a tunnel running under the Kerem Shalom crossing. This was discovered when a tunnel exploded there under an Israeli military post. A large IDF force backed by tanks raked the entire area with fire in case of a network of hidden tunnels was serving Hamas to secretly transport terrorists to civilian locations in Israel. The people living there were told to stay at home and lock their doors.
A wide-ranging search continues in the Ashkelon coastal area in case Hamas terrorists made it through to land. Local roads are blocked.
During the day, the first Hamas rocket over Tel Aviv was blown up in mid-air by an Iron Dome battery after volley after volley hit southern and central Israel. .
In readiness for attack, public shelters were earlier opened in Tel Aviv, the beaches along the Mediterranean coast from the south to Netanyahu further north were cleared of bathers and Sdei Dov airport was been closed. Arrivals and departures of flights at Ben Gurion international and Eilat airports were thrown off schedule by Israeli Air Force sorties against Hamas in the Gaza Strip.
The IDF called up another 40,000 reservists Tuesday, July 8, after Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu ordered Operation Solid Rock expanded against mounting Palestinian rocket assaults – 100 by mid-afternoon. This was after Israel carried out dozens of air strikes Monday night, culminating during the day in raids that killed five leading Hamas operatives: Hamas Naval Commando chief Mahmoud Shaaban, 24, and three passengers were killed when their car was hit from the air. Another airborne raid bombed the Rafah home of Abdul Rahman Juda which served as a command and control center. Thirty Palestinians were injured.
Magen David Adom has treated nine people for minor injuries and anxiety attacks from emergency call centers in the southern and central Israeli regions under rocket attack.
The high-intensity rocket offensive from Gaza, now in its fourth week, has seriously disrupted normal life for millions of Israelis in the rocket-blasted regions – especially within a 40km radius from Gaza. Ashdod port has stopped working, major transport routes like the Ashkelon-Sderot railway halted, end-of-term exams in colleges postponed, children sent home from summer camps and social events called off.
DEBKAfile reported earlier Tuesday: Israeli finally launched its military operation Solid Rock against Hamas Monday night, July 7, after the Palestinians directed a steady stream of 100 rockets from Gaza to expanded targets as far as Rehovot, 50 km away. Most of the 50 IDF strikes were conducted from the air and two from the sea. Ten destroyed Hamas infrastructure facilities plus 4 private buildings which, according to the Palestinians, included the homes of the Hamas commander and a Democratic Front operative in Khan Younes, after Israel gave them advance warning. Hamas reported 17 injured – but kept on shooting rockets through the night and early Tuesday, threatening to further expand the range of their rocket fire.
The government and the IDF have billed the operation as a long-term, staged offensive to destroy Hamas’ logistical and strategic infrastructure, to be escalated stage by stage as needed, up to a limited ground incursion, which would require additional reserve call-ups, as well targeted assassinations. This progression will be adjusted to the enemy’s response and how quickly “quiet is restored to the South.”
The population has been forewarned that the contest may be protracted and asked to refrain from public events within a 40km radius from Gaza.
Iron Dome batteries are in place.
Israel’s security cabinet and the IDF command are counting on the prospect of losing its infrastructure deterring Hamas and persuading it to halt its rocket war on Israel.
But Hamas has its own game book and is unlikely to play by the rules dictated by Israel.
Both sides have therefore entered a dark corridor in which the two adversaries will try and outdo each other in damage. Israel began by limiting itself to air strikes. Hamas hit back with a mighty barrage of 100 missiles and expanding its range of targets.
The rules of Operation Solid Rock now require Israel to scale its response up to the next stage, in response to which Hamas will no doubt go for Tel Aviv. No one seems to know how this tit-for-tat duel will end.
The inherent weakness of the thinking behind Israeli military operation is that it requires the IDF to catch up with and undo the damage caused by Israel’s passivity after the three boys, Gil-Ad Shaer, Naftali Fraenkel and Eyal Yifrach, were kidnapped and murdered on July 12. The IDF’s campaign against its facilities on the West Bank left Hamas more confident than ever. In the space of a month, the Palestinian Islamists have maneuvered Israel into launching not one but two major operations – Brother’s Keeper to find the kidnapped boys and their abductors (who are still at large) and now Solid Rock – and they still hold the initiative against Israel, as well as the whip hand in the Palestinian movement.
They certainly owe their advantage in part to the atrocious murder by a handful of Israelis of the Palestinian boy Muhammad Abu Khdeir from Shuafat, Jerusalem. This was a gift which Hamas had never dreamed of. The Islamists have been able to assert control over and calibrate Palestinian fury across the board, in Gaza, the West Bank and the Israeli Arab community – a second front against Israel.
With all these cards stacked against Solid Rock, the IDF will have its work cut out to repair the damage and bring its operation to a successful conclusion.
On the diplomatic front, Israel suffered another letdown when Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi disappointed the hopes Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu had vested in him to intercede powerfully with Hamas for a ceasefire. El-Sisi decided that the Israeli-Hamas conflict was a minor episode in regional terms and no real threat to Egypt’s national interests and dropped his role as peace broker.
This was a bitter disappointment to Jerusalem. It left Israel facing the Palestinian aggressor alone, but for the Europeans. They are willing to assume this role, but they are seeking the restoration of the short-lived Palestinian reconciliation and a unity government, which is the direct opposite of Netanyahu’s most fervent objective.