In the years since Operation Cast Lead there has been a significant reduction in the extent and severity of terrorist attacks carried out by Hamas, the Palestinian Islamic Jihad and the other Palestinian terrorist organizations operating in the Gaza Strip.
• Statements by Israeli leaders
• Selected statement by Hamas leaders
• Israeli communities within range of rocket fire
• IDF targets Kassam launchers
• Hamas exploitation of civilians as human shields: Photographic evidence
• Video: Hamas terrorist tactics in the Gaza Strip
March 2011 (ITIC)
In the two years since Operation Cast Lead there has been a significant reduction in the extent and severity of terrorist attacks carried out by Hamas, the Palestinian Islamic Jihad and the other Palestinian terrorist organizations operating in the Gaza Strip. That created a new security situation, and improvement on that before Operation Cast Lead. The decrease in terrorism reflects Israel’s power, restored by Operation Cast Lead, to deter the terrorist organizations. However, even the current level of rocket and mortar shell fire and the frequent attacks on IDF forces along the border fence disrupt the daily lives of the western Negev residents.
The relative quiet has been exploited by Hamas and the other terrorist organizations for the as yet incomplete process of rehabilitating and upgrading their military capabilities. The process is implemented by the vast support provided by Iran and Syria. In any case, Hamas continues to make it possible, sometimes with its own involvement or through its proxies, for low-signature shooting attacks and other terrorist activities to be carried out, and tries to keep a balance between preventing escalation and waging a campaign of attrition against Israeli civilians.
Hamas, to enforce its strategic policy of restraint on the other terrorist organizations operating in the Gaza Strip, some of which occasionally try to challenge it, uses its security (and sometimes military) enforcement apparatuses. Hamas also coerced other terrorist organizations into accepting its policies through agreements meant to preserve the lull. Its enforcement apparatuses reduced rocket fire and showcase attacks from the Gaza Strip and at the same time tried to channel the rogue organizations into accepting the ground rules deemed suitable by Hamas.
The relative quiet was disrupted at the end of 2010 by increasing mortar shell fire aimed at military and civilian targets and by increasing rocket fire. In February 2011 a 122mm Grad rocket attack was carried out against Beersheba, 42 kilometers (26 miles) from the Gaza Strip (for the first time since Operation Cast Lead). There was also an increase in the number of attempted attacks (IEDs, anti-tank fire, sniper attacks) on IDF forces conducting counterterrorism activities near the border fence, both within Israeli territory and inside the Gaza Strip (several hundred meters from the fence).
In the two years since Operation Cast Lead, Hamas (with aid from Iran) has doubled and upgraded its rocket arsenal. It now has thousands of rockets of various ranges, both standard and homemade, including Fajr 5 rockets which can reach the center of Israel. The Palestinian Islamic Jihad has also upgraded its rocket capabilities.
Iranian and Syrian support is manifested in supplying Hamas and the Palestinian Islamic Jihad with highly advanced weapons, logistical aid in smuggling them into the Gaza Strip, instruction and training, transferring funds to the organizations in the Gaza Strip and giving the de facto Hamas administration in the Gaza Strip political and propaganda support. In addition, Iran fosters special relations with the Palestinian Islamic Jihad, an Iranian proxy which is not subject to some of the governmental considerations restraining Hamas.
Map of the rocket threat to the Israeli home front from the Gaza Strip
(distances calculated from launching areas in the Gaza Strip)
(Source: ITIC – March 2011)
Source: IDF Blog
Source: IDF Blog
Rocket attacks towards Israel from the Gaza Strip 2001-2012
Source: IDF Blog
On April 16, 2001 the then Saudi Arabian-backed Hamas terrorist organization launched its first rocket into Israel. To date, more than 12,700 rockets and mortars, an average of 3 attacks every single day, have landed in Israel endangering the lives of more than 1,000,000 civilians.
From IICC report 2008: Rocket and mortar shell fire from the Gaza Strip continues as the Palestinian terrorist organizations’ preferred form of attack. In 2007, 896 hits were identified in Israeli territory, compared with 946 in 2006, the year with the largest number. The trend continues in 2008. In May 2007 alone Palestinians launched some 300 Kassam rockets from Gaza at Sderot and the western Negev. Hamas openly claimed responsibility for the attack.
During the past two years there was a substantial increase in rocket fire compared with 2001-2005, the years before the disengagement (222 in 2005 and 268 in 2004). There was also a significant increase in the amount of mortar shell fire, another continuing trend. Rocket and mortar shell fire is relatively less lethal than suicide bombing attacks but has a devastating effect on the daily life and sense of security of the 200,000 residents of the western Negev.
The damage done by rockets to the civilian population of Sderot and other western Negev population centers cannot be measured only statistically in terms of dead and wounded. Studies done in recent years showed that the continued rocket fire and the large number of shock victims have led to post traumatic stress disorder among many of Sderot’s residents (close to 30%). It influences their mental health and seriously damages the quality of their lives.
Most of the rockets are locally manufactured and have an approximate maximum range of 9 kilometers (6 miles), although some have a range of 12.5 kilometers (7 ¾ miles). In addition, also launched were a number of standard 122 mm rockets with a range of 20.4 kilometers (12 2/3 miles) which had been smuggled into the Gaza Strip.
In 2007 Hamas accelerated the military buildup of its military-terrorist wing, the Izzedine al-Qassam Brigades , which focuses on terrorist attacks against Israel and defense against the IDF; and of the internal security apparatus (i.e., the Executive Force integrated into the police), Hamas’s main arm for internal control, which supports the Izzedine al-Qassam Brigades. Hamas’s military buildup is manifested in a variety of ways: an increase in training (including sending operatives to Iran and Syria), improving its underground tunnel system, acquiring weapons and smuggling them into the Gaza Strip (especially standard rockets and advanced anti-tank missiles) and developing and manufacturing weapons (improving the range and penetration of rockets, manufacturing powerful explosive devices and anti-tank weapons, etc.).
The buildup is made possible by the Iranian and Syrian support of Hamas (and the other terrorist organizations), partly the result of the Egyptian government’s ineffective response, which did not prevent the smuggling of weapons, money and terrorist operatives into the Gaza Strip through Rafah Crossing and the tunnels dug under the Philadelphi Route.
• Selected statements by Hamas leaders
Ahmed Yousef, chief political advisor to Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh to "Der Spiegel" (2 Feb 2008): "If the Israelis want our blood, I’m willing to sacrifice my children."
Ahmed Yousef, chief political advisor to Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh, regards knocking down the Rafah wall as the greatest success Hamas has scored since winning the parliamentary elections two years ago. Speaking from his Gaza City office, Yousef said he has received phone calls from around the world congratulating him on the action – including from self-appointed emissaries of European governments. "Hamas is once again a player to be reckoned with," exulted Yousef.
Ahmed Yousef would like to pull off another Rafah-style exploit, but this time against the Palestinians’ archenemy, Israel. He is planning a mass march to the Erez border crossing in northern Gaza. "We’re going to send half a million people there, mainly women and children. Then we’ll see how the Israelis react," he says. A devilish scheme, since the Israelis would not react as passively to the storming of their border as the Egyptians did. But Yousef is not impressed by such objections. "If the Israelis want our blood, I’m willing to sacrifice my children."
Yousef has already asked international observers to participate in the "march on Erez." Some have already agreed to come, and Yousef is happy about this. "This," he says, "is the beginning of the third Intifada."
From interview with former Hamas foreign minister Mahmoud A-Zahar (21 Aug 2007): Rocket barrage of Sderot is Hamas strategy.
The interviewer asked why Hamas chose to stop suicide bombings two years ago.
A-Zahar: "Which do you think is more effective, martyrdom operations or rockets against Sderot? Rockets against Sderot will cause mass migration, greatly disrupt daily lives and government administration and can make a much huger impact on the government. We are using the methods that convince the Israelis that their occupation is costing them too much."
"We are succeeding with the rockets. We have no losses and the impact on the Israeli side is so much."
Source: Conflict Blotter – News, analysis and original reporting on the Middle East
Conflict Blotter is written by Charles Levinson, currently Mideast Correspondent for the Sunday Telegraph.