Operation Pillar of Defense
is in the mutual attrition stage. The surprise element has already been utilized to the fullest and the IDF is attempting to crush additional targets on Palestinian territory in an effort to reduce the Palestinians' high-trajectory fire abilities, to ensure that they won't be able to launch massive long-range Fajr missiles, and to significantly reduce the number of Grad rockets with a range of up to 42 kilometers (26 miles).
Another goal is targeting the rocket-launching cells, before or after the launch.
The Gaza Strip's terror organizations, mainly Hamas
and the Islamic Jihad,
have learned their lesson from Operation Cast Lead
and from the lessons learned by Hezbollah
during the Second Lebanon War
and have implemented them.
As a result, even now they are succeeding in firing dozens of Grad rockets
(122-millimeter Katyusha rockets) although dozens of manned and unmanned IAF aerial vehicles, as well as sophisticated observations means from the ground and sea, are watching and following them in a bid to foil the launches.
The Hamas and Islamic Jihad's rocket-launching cells, which are likely operating according to a preplanned program, manage static launchers installed under or above the ground. The operators are not required to be near launcher when firing a rocket, which they can do from a remote place as well. In addition, they are concealed in a way that allows them to reload the launcher quickly and secretly and escape before the IDF can "come full circle" and hit them.
For the sake of comparison, the last round of fighting – in March – saw 22 Palestinian rocket operators killed in the middle of a launch, as a result of the activity of the Canopy of Fire thwarting system. In the current operation, only one cell has been hit so far.
In addition, as a result of the lessons learned from Operation Cast Lead and the Second Lebanon War (which were conveyed to Hamas and the Islamic Jihad from Iran), Hamas set up a control and communication system which is harder to disrupt. Thereby, members of the major Palestinian organizations can act according to an operational plan which changes constantly in accordance with instructions issued by the command centers.
The IDF is studying the operation patterns and new means used by the large Palestinian organizations, and the Canopy of Fire system – which coordinates the targeting of rocket-launching cells – will likely be more successful in the coming days.
Another system which has proved successful is Iron Dome.
One of the reasons for the decision to postpone the operation was that the IDF wanted to make the fourth battery operational. However, we must acknowledge the fact that the batteries do not guarantee that 100% of the rockets fired into communities will be thwarted. The rocket interception system gives the political echelon a free hand and the IDF a more efficient strike, but the result will eventually be determined by the IDF's assault means.
The operation's success will be examined not according to the military achievements on the ground, but according to the strategic and political result. All signs suggest that Israel has set a relatively modest goal: A long-term truce, not just in terms of rocket and missile fire, but also in terms of the terrorist activity against the IDF along the Gaza border fence.
Another expectation from the operation's finale is that all guerilla and terror organizations in Gaza will commit to the truce and that Egypt
will guarantee it. If Hamas turns down such an agreement, the IDF will likely consider launching a ground offensive in Gaza.
This operation will also test the response of the region's countries, led by Egypt. At the moment, it appears that the Muslim Brotherhood regime is attempting to kick the ball away into the international arena, thus keeping the Egyptian public opinion happy while avoiding a heated conflict with Israel. This issue was most probably affected by US President Barack Obama's telephone conversation
with Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi on Wednesday evening.