Sunday,22 October, 2017
Current issue | Issue 1123, 22-28 November 2012-
Sunday,22 October, 2017
Issue 1123, 22-28 November 2012-

Ahram Weekly

Israeli military superiority shaken

Mixing short- and long-range rockets and exposing the weakness of the Iron Dome system, Hamas has put Israel on the defensive, upturning perceptions of the Israel-Palestinian power balance, writes Ahmed Eleiba

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Al-Ahram Weekly

Under constant airstrikes, everyone in Gaza today is talking about how Israel’s deterrence has been turned on its head, and that Palestinian resistance groups are now in a position to respond to Israeli missile attacks. The people in Gaza are in high spirits when they talk about Egypt’s support for them during this war, in comparison to their negative attitude towards Cairo four years ago. Residents in front of their homes are used to hearing and seeing missiles. A substantial number of shops are open; ambulances rush everywhere as quickly as possible.
The convoy of key politicians from Cairo to Gaza took one day to reach its destination, led by Saad Al-Katatni, chairman of the Freedom and Justice Party (FJP). Upon their arrival, they extended their condolences to Al-Dalu family that lost at least 14 members, including five children. During the visit, a rocket was fired a few metres away at Israel by the Ezzeddin Al-Qassam Brigades, and from the sound it made everyone know it was a Brigades rocket.
On the visit to Al-Shifa Hospital and the parliament headquarters, Israeli missiles were falling everywhere and shattered most of the glass in the parliament building where the delegation was sitting. No one flinched but instead waited for the counter attack as radio broadcasts constantly mobilised the masses.
In an exclusive interview, Ayman Al-Aloul, who is close to Al-Qassam Brigades, said that it is clear that Hamas has succeeded in responding to Israeli attacks by firing rockets that have reached Tel Aviv and key targets there. Al-Aloul was speaking as Israeli television’s Channel 10 was airing a video report of startled Knesset members dropping to the ground and taking cover, including Labour Knesset member and former Defence Minister Amir Pertez who was hiding by a wall out of fear of being hit during his visit to towns in the south at the onset of assaults.
Other footage was broadcast by Israeli activists on YouTube and re-aired on television showing Minister of Environmental Protection Gilad Erdan running alongside a wall also in Beir Sabae after sirens went off because of incoming Palestinian rockets. The audience where Al-Aloul was being interviewed erupted in loud applause for the resistance.
Al-Aloul noted that in the previous war, 1,500 Palestinians were martyred and only about 3-4 Israelis died. This time, there was an equal number of dead on both sides in the first few days: “We have intelligence that 15-20 people were killed in Israel, but they are hiding these figures,” he said.
An update came from Israel at one of the monitoring units we visited. Israeli activists aired on Acre news website video footage documenting the damage on the Israeli side in Operation Pillar of Cloud. They used footage from the Palestinian resistance and uploaded it on YouTube and wrote a message attacking Israeli military censorship of losses on their side.
“Military censorship of the Israeli army’s intelligence agency AMAN has banned the publication of any information about our soldiers being targeted in the south on the border with Gaza,” the message read. “View the pictures of the Field of Death where our soldiers are being picked off.”
They added links to military jeeps being targeted on the border with Gaza and the message stated that a surveillance plane was shot down over Gaza. “View the picture of the surveillance plane (Mazlatim) that was shot down by Al-Qassam in Gaza,” the message read.
Commenting on the report, Al-Aloul said: “We have reports from the resistance that Hamas will not reveal any of the secrets surrounding the plane it has captured or its pilot; there will be nothing without a price.”
He continued that the resistance believes a ground war would be difficult for the Israeli army, although it is preparing for it. “There are concerns about a war on land because the resistance possesses Russian-made Kornet missiles with double heads, one that penetrates the tank and the other detonates it,” he explained.
At that moment, the glass in the building in which we were sitting shattered everywhere, but again no one flinched.
Ismail Radwan, a key Hamas figure, came in and continued the conversation about deterrence. Radwan revealed that Hamas developed a special Qassam rocket with a range of 80 kilometres, and mocked Israel’s request during negotiations in Cairo to declare a truce and hand over weapons.
“Arms are the right of resistance anytime and anywhere,” he said. “We will never compromise on that or surrender them. To the contrary, we will find weapons anywhere we can because we are under occupation and it is our right to defend our land and ourselves. We no longer need to smuggle weapons in because we are capable of locally producing the weapons we need, and Al-Qassam Brigades were able to manufacture a 100 per cent Hamas missile — the M75 — for the first time, with a range that reaches the heart of Tel Aviv.”
Radwan noted that the equation and balance of power have changed, and the resistance was able to impose new rules to target the Zionist enemy and cities, as well as warplanes and warships, which are all key factors of the new deterrence method.
Arab developments have been significant, especially in Egypt, which has completely changed and now supports the resistance. “The presidency and government support us and this has lifted the spirits of the Palestinians and made Fatah also revise its position and stand with us in the same bunker to defend the land, although it is a political rival,” stated Radwan.
“There are requisites for de-escalation and other conditions for a truce. De-escalation includes halting missile attacks that target civilians and lifting the siege. The truce Israel wants pivots on preconditions that come at a high price, including complete withdrawal without preconditions from the Gaza Strip, West Bank and Jerusalem, and all other areas that were occupied in 1967; tearing down all settlements that were built there; the release of all prisoners; and return of refugees.
“The main guarantee for us to achieve any agreement is our strength, capabilities and cohesion of Arab unity with us, especially Egypt which has once again taken its position as an Arab heavyweight.”
But can Hamas enter a truce deal by itself?
“Impossible,” says Hoda Naeem from the Palestinian parliament. “No one can sign with Israel because the people did not give this mandate to anyone,” Naeem asserted. “This may have been acceptable under the rule of someone like Abu Ammar [Yasser Arafat], but no one can sign and cement occupation.”
She added that, “while de-escalation is needed, a ceasefire is impossible and we will respond to any strikes. We will never stop resisting or surrender our weapons to the enemy.”
The new deterrence equation, according to Palestinians, pivots on “the intelligence battle”, which is also a new weapon, as Al-Aloul explained.
“The intelligence war is different than in the past. Just as Israel was able to infiltrate broadcast communications networks and aired messages in Arabic, we also were able to broadcast messages in Hebrew in their direction. One of our messages is that field commanders on the ground will refuse any order for a ground attack.”
Iron Dome was able to shoot down about two thirds of rockets fired from the Gaza Strip because it is only capable of targeting medium-range missiles, but long-range missiles — which have reached the heart of Israel — are different. Now, Israel cannot claim a higher success rate for this anti-missile system or market it to some 10 other countries.
Minister of Defence Ehud Barak asked for a third dome, which Radwan commented on by saying: “This is a battle that has confused the enemy; short-range missiles target the south and long-range ones sometimes fall into the sea, but sometimes hit the bullseye.”
He added that the debate inside Israel now “is no longer focussed on the dome, but on whether Israel should launch a ground attack or not, and the efficacy of this weapon. This means we have succeeded and we must continue because we are here to confront occupation.”
There was specific mention that resistance groups are operating this time without help from Hizbullah or Iran, but faction leaders said that despite differences they “prefer to stay in touch with any party that could assist the resistance even when opinions diverge,” noted Radwan.

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