After several days of rocket salvos launched at Israeli civilians, Israel responded yesterday with air strikes that killed the leader of the Hamas terrorist wing and targeted rocket launching, storage, and manufacturing sites in the Gaza Strip.
The air campaign began with a precision air strike that killed Ahmed Al-Jabaari, the leader of the Hamas militia, the Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades.
The Israeli Defense Forces posted a YouTube video of the precision air strike on the car in which the Hamas leader was traveling. Palestinian sources claim that at least 15 Palestinians have died in the air strikes, and at least three Israeli civilians were killed by more than 200 rockets that have bombarded southern Israel since Wednesday afternoon.
Israel’s Iron Dome missile defense system reportedly stopped at least 80 rockets from hitting their targets. Heritage Foundation defense expert Baker Spring lauded the success of the Iron Dome system in an Issue Brief published in August and called for greater U.S.–Israeli cooperation on missile defense.
Missile defense capabilities have grown increasingly important as Hamas and other Gaza-based Palestinian terrorist groups have acquired increasingly sophisticated Iranian rockets. In particular, Hamas has obtained an unknown number of Fajr-5 rockets and claims that they have wreaked havoc in Tel Aviv.
The Iranian-made rockets and other arms are reportedly smuggled into Gaza through tunnels under the Egyptian border after being shipped to Sudan and transported through Egypt. In late October, Israeli warplanes reportedly destroyed a weapons factory in Sudan that was involved in the assembly and storage of Iranian rockets bound for Gaza.
Israel has warned that if Hamas continues its rocket terrorism, it is prepared to launch a ground offensive, and it has mobilized reserve troops and deployed tanks near the border with Gaza. Israel last staged a ground offensive into Gaza in December 2008 after a similar spasm of Palestinian rocket attacks.
For an analysis of the 2008–2009 Gaza crisis that remains relevant today, see “End Hamas Hostage Strategy to Bring Peace to Gaza.”