Washington Times on November 27, 2012, reported that Israeli officials are hailing their military operation against Hamas militants in the Gaza Strip as a strategic success in neutralizing one of three potential threats should Israel need to attack Iran’s nuclear facilities in coming months. Excerpts below:
“Operation Pillar of Defense” destroyed nearly all of Gaza’s rocket arsenal and proved the efficacy of the Iron Dome defense system against short-range missiles, Israeli officials told reporters in a military briefing Thursday.
Israel’s weeklong military operation and Hamas‘ rocket attacks ended Nov. 21 under a cease-fire brokered in part by Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi.
One of the principal aims of the operation was to destroy the arsenal of short- and medium-range rockets capable of striking the Tel Aviv metropolitan area, about 40 miles from Gaza, Israeli officials said.
On Nov. 14, the first day of the attack, the Israeli military destroyed almost all of the rockets in the possession of Hamas and Islamic Jihad, the other main Islamic terrorist group in Gaza.
Gaza’s rocket arsenal was one leg of a three-pronged threat that could deter Israel from attacking on Iran’s nuclear sites. The other two are Hezbollah, the Shiite militant group in Lebanon that has a larger rocket arsenal than Hamas‘, and Iran itself, which has ballistic missiles.
Iran’s Revolutionary Guard has said it has given Hamas the technology to build longer range missiles.
According to the Israeli Defense Force, more than 1,000 rockets were fired from Gaza during the seven-day military operation, most of which fell in unpopulated areas. Iron Dome intercepted at least 359 (about 85 percent of) incoming missiles determined to be a threat against a populated area.
Israeli officials praised the missile defense system, which uses cameras and radar to detect a rocket or mortar launch, and track the shell’s flight path from a distance as far as 45 miles away.
Israeli officials also said their new medium-range missile defense system, called “David’s Sling,” has passed operational tests. The system is designed to intercept missiles as far as 180 miles away.
By eliminating the Gaza threat, Israel cleared one of its flanks. Hezbollah’s leader, Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah, although belligerent toward Israel in tone, has been careful not to provoke Israel into an attack.
Hamas, dedicated to the destruction of Israel, had remained relatively quiet since Israel’s incursion into Gaza in January 2009.
However in the past six months, Hamas and Islamic Jihad have entered into increasingly frequent cycles of violence with Israel — firing rockets and being struck by Israeli air attacks.
After attacks increased in southern Israel, the Israeli military retaliated. It launched more than 1,500 airstrikes in the eight-day conflict with Hamas, which killed more than 160 Palestinians.
Six Israelis were killed in Hamas rocket attacks during the conflict.
In drawing up target lists, the Israeli planners avoided civilian areas in order not to provoke Egypt into an overreaction, including possible renunciation of its peace treaty with Israel.
“We did not aim to eliminate their capacity to fire rockets entirely,” a senior military figure told an Israeli journalist. “We intended to cause them not to resume firing.”
Israel preceded its attack by assassinating the Hamas military commander, Ahmed Jaabari.
The destruction of his car in the center of Gaza City by a rocket fired from an aircraft, was followed almost immediately by the first wave of the Israeli air attack.
Public opinion polls show the Israeli public was disappointed that the attack did not bring Hamas to its knees. The army command said that was never the intention.