As children were heading home from school on May 2 in the Israeli city of Sderot, Palestinian Islamic Jihad in Gaza fired 102 rockets. In response to the attack by the internationally designated terror group, Israel on May 9 began Operation Shield and Arrow. A ceasefire commenced on May 13.
During the brief conflict, PIJ fired 1,469 rockets at Israel, of which 1,139 crossed into Israel – a country roughly the size of New Jersey. According to retired British Col. Richard Kemp, “the nearest comparable bombardment against Western countries was in 1944, when the Germans fired rockets at Britain with a maximum rate of 100 per day. Britain responded with a bombing campaign of devastating force in which many civilians were unavoidably killed.”
Israel chose to act solely against PIJ, not against the Iran-supported terror group Hamas. This decision benefited Hamas, allowing it to continue building up forces and weapons for future attacks.
As usual, this was an Israeli retaliation rather than an offensive action.
Gazan PIJ terror leaders, as in the past, deliberately positioned their fighters, weapons stores and missile launch sites among their civilian population in residences, schools and hospitals. Israeli military (IDF) alerted civilian human shields to evacuate areas about to be attacked, relinquishing the element of surprise. PIJ warned its citizens that anyone who complied with the Israeli effort to minimize civilian harm would be punished.
The IDF surgically eliminated three PIJ leaders within minutes of each other, stunning the enemy into temporary inaction. Then they killed another three. Israeli advanced coordination and communication capabilities, together with sophisticated detection and tracking technologies, resulted in pinpoint damage to terror infrastructure, PIJ’s weapons development, production and storage facilities.
Remarkably, thanks to the IDF’s concerted effort to minimize civilian casualties, in over 700 precise Israeli strikes, perhaps a dozen civilians were killed by Israel. PIJ rockets escaped Israel’s Iron Dome defensive system and killed two Israeli civilians.
Jerusalem understandably shuns the extensive military ground action in the Strip needed to unseat Hamas and its allied terror organizations due to the expected large number of casualties on both sides and their unwillingness to rule Gaza afterward. The terrorists rely on this.
Whenever Gaza terror groups attack, Israel reacts with military action they call “mowing the grass” — killing fighters, destroying arms, tunnels and terror control centers to reduce enemy capabilities.
This is not a strategy for victory over the long term. This defensive approach creates only a brief respite as the grass grows back more vigorously, with Israel’s enemies developing or acquiring more sophisticated and lethal weapons for the next attack.
During the lulls in fighting, Israel permits Gaza to import supplies that can be used for both civilian and military purposes. Often these are seized by the terror organizations for use against the Jewish state.
The relative calm between conflicts fosters complacency, reducing the sense of urgency needed to continue maximum pressure against terror leadership and their resources.
Israelis have lived for too long in an absurd situation where their enemies decide when conflict begins and how long it lasts. Israel has the advanced military know-how needed to defeat its adversaries in one fell swoop; but its enemies, believing Jerusalem won’t use those weapons to crush them, manipulate the situation to their advantage.
According to Foundation for Defense of Democracies (FDD) analyst Jonathan Schanzer, Hamas now has a significant presence in Judea and Samaria (the West Bank) where it is instigating violence, and in Lebanon from where it has recently fired on Israel.
Additionally, Iran has assets encircling the Jewish state with lethal firepower — Hezbollah in Lebanon, Shiite militias in Syria, and Iran’s Revolutionary Guard (IRGC). Schanzer believes Hamas, previously merely a tactical threat, is now a transnational threat, “the willing tool in Iran’s plans for war with Israel.”
With Iranian encouragement, it could instigate a three-front conflict against the surrounded Jewish state.
Israel has been conducting a vigorous air campaign in Syria, the “war between the wars,” to deter Iran and weaken Tehran’s ability to hit Israel with game-changing weaponry. Targets include Russian-supplied air-defense systems, Iranian-operated drone bases and precision-guided missile systems for Hezbollah fighters in Lebanon.
The campaign has forced an Iranian retreat from positions near the Israeli border and has taken out significant weaponry, but has not eliminated the threat of Iran’s entrenchment in the neighborhood.
Israeli military officials warn that Israel’s first multi-front war since the 1973 Yom Kippur War may be imminent.
Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi met with leaders of Hamas and Islamic Jihad on May 4 during his trip to Syria and is reported to have said, “Today more than ever, the unity and cohesion of the resistance forces … and the Islamic world is necessary to accelerate the defeat of the Zionist regime” and achieve Palestinian victory.
FDD analyst Richard Goldberg responded, “Raisi is pulling back the curtain on Iran’s orchestrating role.”
Hossein Salami, Iran’s IRGC commander said, “Invisible hands” — referencing Tehran — “have armed the West Bank.”
According to PIJ leader Ziyad Nakhalah, “If Israel demolishes a house in the West Bank today — it is Iran that pays [to rebuild it]. The weapons that the Palestinians use for fighting come from Iran.”
Middle East expert Dennis Ross believes that Iran is convinced the Biden administration is weak and will both refrain from acting against it militarily and prevent Israel from acting.
The Biden administration is desperate for any deal at any price with Tehran, allowing the Islamic Republic to become a nuclear state and hegemon of the Middle East. With the hate-Israel caucus ascendant in the Democratic Party, Israel can no longer trust that America will replenish its missile stores, including the Iron Dome, in a timely manner.
Israel’s purely defensive actions have enabled enemy capabilities to grow.
Jerusalem needs a new approach that keeps Hamas, PIJ, Hezbollah and their Iranian puppet master on edge, worried and wondering when the next Israeli hit will occur, both against leadership and resources. Such a strategy would destroy enemy cohesion, complicate its war plan and shatter its morale.
Jerusalem needs more “Arrow” than Shield.
Ziva Dahl is a senior fellow with the news and public policy group Haym Salomon Center. Ziva writes and lectures about U.S.-Israel relations, U.S. foreign policy, Israel, Zionism, Antisemitism and BDS on college campuses. Her articles have appeared in such publications as The Hill, New York Daily News, New York Observer, The Washington Times, American Spectator, American Thinker and Jerusalem Post. Read Ziva Dahl's Reports — More Here.
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