Operation Shield and Arrow is still ongoing. The Islamic Jihad continued launching mortars and rockets, hours after the IDF's targeted killing of the head of the terrorist group’s rocket forces, Ali Hassan Ghali.
Accordingly, until an official ceasefire is announced by Egypt or Israel, civilians must continue abiding by the Home Front Command's instructions, which are in place until Friday afternoon. However, the instructions may change if an agreement is reached.
What is currently hindering the achievement of a ceasefire is the audacious demands of the Islamic Jihad, including the demand that Israel stop targeting its senior officials and operatives, even in the West Bank. This essentially means that the Islamic Jihad is asking Israel to turn a blind eye while its members in the Jenin refugee camp, for example, plan out murderous attacks.
Through these demands, the leaders of the Jihad, with Ziyad al-Nakhalah at the head, are trying to salvage the dignity and reputation of the organization, which has suffered a heavy blow in the past three days of Operation Shield and Arrow.
And we aren't only referring to the physical blows that the IDF and the Shin Bet have dealt to the Islamic Jihad, but also the exposure of their poor military capabilities and infrastructure. Almost a quarter of the rockets launched by the Islamic Jihad fell within the Gaza Strip, the long-range launches towards the Tel Aviv metropolitan area were very weak and inaccurate, and the organization's attempts to target Ben Gurion Airpor failed.
The deduction from this is that each time the IDF targets the Islamic Jihad, the organization weakens. What many Israelis don't comprehend is the extent of the long-term damage caused to the Islamic Jihad.
Hamas did not choose to stay out of the fighting for no reason. In fact, its leaders know that if they were to join the Islamic Jihad, they would also suffer significant damage to their military capabilities and face major setbacks in their efforts to strengthen themselves.
Yahya Sinwar and Mohammed Deif, who are diligently building Hamas' military strength, are well aware - now more than ever - of the potential damage they could be subject to if they were to join the conflict. Hence, the IDF and the Shin Bet have managed to create a high level of deterrence, evident not only in the fact that the Jihad did not launch rockets overnight on Wednesday, while the IDF continued to attack but also in Hamas' decision not to join due to the fear of compromising its military capabilities, on top of its concerns about losing economic benefits it enjoys during periods of calm with Israel.
A level up in intelligence and operational capabilities
What is truly important and new in this round of conflict is the advancement in the intelligence and operational capabilities of the Israeli security system that Operation Shield and Arrow have demonstrated to the public.
The IDF, the Shin Bet, and the Mossad have developed intelligence and operational capabilities at an unprecedented standard. It is quite clear that the IDF and the Shin Bet have an intimate familiarity with Jihad's organizational structure, down to its last rocket launching unit.
This is not really new. However, what is new, in simple terms, is the ability of the IDF and the Shin Bet to work as a unified body when it comes to a bold mission and to leverage the intelligence capabilities of both organizations into a single strategy. This enables them to know the exact location of a commander in a given area at any given moment, as well as the specific vehicle carrying a missile launcher about to be launched, including its designated firing position and the route it will take.
It's not just about technology and cyber capabilities, but also the ability to combine the information with the Air Force's operational skills. This skill, for comparison purposes, is lacking in the American security system. While the U.S. may have excellent technological capabilities, there is no collaboration between the operating system and the technological-intelligence system. That was the reason why Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Yoav Gallant stated in their speeches on Wednesday, that the security branches now possess intelligence capabilities that make the enemy transparent.
The IDF Military Intelligence Directorate is responsible for generating the basic intelligence infrastructure, and the Southern Command and the Gaza Division provide precise target coordinates. However, it is the Shin Bet that knows when the target is "active" and when it is possible and necessary to attack it, or when it is impossible to attack and there are "uninvolved" civilians nearby who may be harmed.
In Operation Shield and Arrow, we witnessed more than ten strikes against uninvolved civilians, but these strikes were a result of the fact that the commanders of the Jihad, who posed an immediate and clear threat to Israeli civilians, chose to stay in the presence of families and other civilians, despite knowing that they were being targeted by Israel.
For example, Ali Hassan Ghali, the commander of the rocket forces in the northern part of the Gaza Strip, who was assassinated early Thursday, had already been targeted for assassination during a previous operation by the IDF. He was injured, but that didn't stop him from establishing his hideout within a civilian population in a civilian building in Khan Yunis.
Precise intelligence has undoubtedly prevented many civilian casualties. Israel's intelligence and operational capabilities certainly yield a high-resolution picture of its targets, allowing it to be extraordinarily accurate.
The Shin Bet can accurately locate senior commanderד in the terrorist organization, in a particular room within a building, as well as identify who else is around them. The same is true with "targets" that have been under surveillance for shorter periods of time, such as a rocket-launching squads preparing to attack Israel.
The Shin Bet knows when they set out to carry out their mission, what vehicle they're in, and what road they intend to take and has drones or helicopters waiting for them and ensuring that they don't reach their destination.
This extremely valuable intelligence would be worthless if the IDF and Shin Bet were unable to translate it into real-time operations within a matter of minutes. Here, credit goes to the operational headquarters personnel of the Air Force and to the combat pilots, of drones, and helicopters of the Air Force, who demonstrated their expertise in planning and executing missions in the critical minutes when the target is "active. "
Indeed, the Gaza Strip is a small territory, allowing the Air Force to be constantly present in its airspace and carry out near-instantaneous operations. However, this small and densely populated area of the Gaza Strip requires highly precise real-time intelligence and the ability to close the operational radius accordingly. Without this, many civilian casualties would occur.
Despite these successes, there is a matter that the IDF has yet to solve - the continued rocket launches into Israel. Both the Jihad and Hamas hide missile launchers underground and operate them remotely from far away. These concealed launchers, whether buried in the ground or hidden in residential buildings, still pose a threat to the Israeli home front.
Another question is whether the IDF, the Shin Bet, and the Mossad have similar capabilities on other fronts. Will they be able to deal with senior Hezbollah commanders and the Iran-backed group's infrastructure or with Palestinian entities who have recently begun launching attacks from Lebanon, as they do in Gaza?