Analysis // By Ben FrankelIsrael’s operation in Gaza: limited goals – for now, I

Published 15 November 2012

In an impressive military move early Wednesday morning, Israel killed Ahmed Jabari, the top military leader of Hamas and a few of his lieutenants; even more impressively, and more meaningful strategically, the Israel Air Force (IAF) attacked dozens of targets across the Gaza Strip, destroying hundreds of Hamas missiles and rockets; the most important targets were storage facilities where mid-range Fajr-3 and Fajr-5 missiles were being kept, and dug-outs from which these missiles would be launched; in a few minutes, Hamas’s strategic ace in the hole was destroyed; but what are Israel’s broader goals, and can these goals be achieved?

In an impressive military move early Wednesday morning, Israel killed Ahmed Jabari, the top military leader of Hamas and a few of his lieutenants. Even more impressively, and more meaningful strategically, the Israel Air Force (IAF) attacked about a hundred targets across the Gaza Strip, destroying hundreds of Hamas missiles and rockets. The most important targets were storage facilities where mid-range Fajr-3 and Fajr-5 missiles were being kept, and dug-outs from which these missiles would be launched.

In a few minutes, Hamas’s strategic ace in the hole was destroyed. A few Fajr-5 missiles may have survived the Israeli attack, but Hamas mid-range missile fleet no longer exists.

The Fajr-5 missiles would have allowed Hamas to hit Tel Aviv and other urban centers in central Israel, as well as airfields, military bases, and other high-value targets.

The missiles, produced in Iran and smuggled by Iran-paid Bedouins into the Gaza Strip, were also supposed to give Hamas the capability of hitting Israel on Iran’s orders in the event Iran’s nuclear facilities were to be attacked by Israel, the United States, or both.

Israel’s success in destroying Hamas’s strategic arm is similar to the success Israel had during the first minutes of the 2006 summer war between Israel and Hezbollah. The IAF, during the first thirty minutes of that war, which began on 12 July 2006, destroyed all of Hezbollah’s Iran-supplied mid-range missiles, reducing the Shi’a militant organization to using inaccurate short-range rockets during the 34-day war.

In both 2006 and Wednesday morning, the Israeli military demonstrated a combination of superb intelligence and exquisitely precise airstrike capabilities.

The Israeli attacks also destroyed production facilities for rockets, research facilities where Hamas, with the help of Iranian engineers, was trying to develop more advanced rockets and UAVs, and other military facilities.

So far, the Palestinians report fewer than a dozen dead, including Jabari and his son, who was driving the car in which the two were killed. Destroying Hamas military facilities without killing a large number of civilians is not easy. Hamas locates its military assets near or under kindergartens, schools, hospitals, Mosques, and residential buildings. The bunkers where Hamas leaders hide during Israeli attacks are all located under civilian hospitals.

This operation, code-named Cloud Tower, began differently than a similar operation, Cast Iron, which Israel launched in December 2008. Cast Iron began with a massive attack by sixty Israeli planes across the Gaza Strip. This initial attack included the bombing of a Hamas

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