Sunday, November 17, 2019

Lessons from the latest missile war between Gaza and Israel - Yochanan Visser

by Yochanan Visser

ANALYSIS: As Israel staves off multi-front war with Iran, the Iranian axis aims to target Israel with GPS-guided missiles.

Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ), Iran’s real proxy in Gaza, succeeded this week in closing down much of Israel’s south and center by firing roughly 400 rockets at Israeli cities and communities in the Gaza belt, the coastal cities of Ashdod and Ashkelon as well as Modi'in, halfway between Tel Aviv and Jerusalem.

During the two-day missile-war, it became clear that Hamas, which also is supported by Iran, didn’t want to join the Iranian proxy and didn’t want to risk another devastating war with Israel at this point in time.

Hamas was heavily criticized by Palestinian Authority and Gaza media and by ordinary Palestinian Authority Arabs on social media for not joining PIJ.

"Where is Hamas?" wrote a PA journalist on his Twitter account.

Hamas leader Yahya Sinwar, however, apparently saw the Israeli attacks on PIJ military infrastructure as an opportunity to weaken the rival terrorist group which currently has built up a larger rocket arsenal than the Sunni Islamist terror movement which is governing the Gaza Strip.

Hamas is facing increasing criticism for failing to improve living conditions in the impoverished coastal enclave and recently had to deal with internal dissent over bad governance.

The week before Israel assassinated Baha Abu al-Ata, a young Gaza Arab self-immolated to protest the dire living conditions in the coastal enclave.

The self-immolation of the 28-year-old Gaza orphan triggered outrage among the population in Gaza, which is fed-up with the way Hamas and the Palestinian Authority deal with the multiple problems in the Strip.

PIJ, on the other hand, can solely focus on its struggle against Israel and takes its orders from Qassem Soleimani, the commander of the Quds Force of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps.

Soleimani wants its proxies in the PA and Gaza to keep the war of attrition against Israel going, and was behind the fact that Baha Abu al-Ata, the PIJ commander who was assassinated by the Israeli air force on Monday night became, what Israel Prime Minister Boinyamin Netanyahu called a walking "ticking time bomb."

The IAF used a Rafael produced Munice Spice-1000 missile to execute the target assassination that destroyed al-Ata’s apartment only, and not the rest of the building where al-Ata was sleeping with his wife.

Soleimani most likely will demand answers from Hamas, which receives $30 million per month from Iran for rebuilding itself as a powerful military force.

Israel reportedly relayed a message (via Egyptian officials) to Hamas shortly after "Operation Black Belt" began to the effect that the Israeli military would not target the movement as long as it stayed out of the fray.

Hamas, however, had its own reasons to stay out of the fight because it witnessed how al-Ata’s and PIJ’s influence in Gaza were growing by the day and how the Iranian proxy became a threat to its rule.

PIJ built-up a larger rocket arsenal than Hamas currently has (approx. 8,000) and has a fighting force of 15,000 well-trained men.

Sinwar’s refusal to join PIJ in its latest battle with Israel must, therefore, be seen as a tactical ploy to weaken its rival in Gaza and as a move to stave off another war with Israel now that he tries to stabilize Gaza economically.

This doesn’t mean that Sinwar, who is seen as one of the most radical "Palestinian" leaders, has moderated his views about Israel that released him from jail after 22 years under the Shalit prisoner swap.

The Hamas leader, who served a 4 life-time sentence in an Israel jail is interested in a long-term ceasefire with Israel for two reasons: to consolidate Hamas’ rule over Gaza and to prepare for the next war against Israel.

This must have been the first time that Israel and Hamas were de-facto working together during a conflict concerning Gaza: Hamas didn’t join PIJ’s fight and the Israeli military refrained from targeting Hamas.

Until now Israel has held Hamas responsible for everything that happens in Gaza and attacks on the Jewish State in particular.

Whenever a Palestinian terror group in Gaza carried out an attack against a target in Israel or when a Palestinian terrorist tried to infiltrate Israel IAF aircraft carried out reprisal attacks on Hamas targets in Gaza.

Netanyahu’s order to the Israeli military not to target Hamas this time was probably related to his conviction that a full-blown war with the Gazan terror groups in Gaza could easily lead to a multi-front war with all of Iran’s proxies in Lebanon, Syria, and Iraq.

The Israeli PM has repeatedly made clear that his sole focus is on the increasing Iranian threat to Israel, and he apparently thinks Israel needs more time to prepare for such a war which could see thousands of rockets raining on Israel daily.

Time will tell if his strategy in the latest mini-missile-war was the right one, but one thing is for sure: Iran and Hezbollah too must have noticed that a relatively small force in Gaza succeeded in paralyzing half Israel by firing 400 crude rockets "only."

Another thing that the Iranian axis must have noted (again) is that Israel’s missile defenses are not able to intercept all rockets when they are fired in barrages as PIJ did and this should worry the Israeli military and political leadership.


Because in the anticipated future multi-front missile war the axis will try to target vital Israeli military and civil infrastructure with similar barrages of missiles, including GPS-guided ballistic missiles.

Yochanan Visser


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