The inside story of Operation Cast Lead

The tactical successes of Israel's recent Gaza operation, based on superb intelligence, began with air attacks on terrorist targets, which were extremely accurate and caused Hamas to go underground. The second phase, the ground attack, was a well-coordinated effort "in a fashion never done by the IDF before," according to a background briefing.  There was much more of what the American military calls "jointness," or cooperation, between ground and air forces.

Successful tactics included: night maneuvers with sophisticated optical equipment; senior commanders on the battlefield with the troops leading to better tactical decision-making, as well as wounding of several brigade commanders; entry into potentially booby-trapped houses was effected through the side walls, not through doors and windows; and almost all units were accompanied by a  canine unit. The dogs were very effective in uncovering hidden terrorists and explosives, thus protecting soldiers; however the casualty rate among the dogs was quite high.

Use of Electronic Warfare and False Casualty Reports

Another innovation was the use of electronic warfare. The IDF was able to jam all radio, TV and cell phone communications. "In addition, the IDF was also able to call thousands of Palestinian homes to warn of an impending incursion," the briefer said. He noted that the psychological impact of the electronic jamming was important as well. "The Palestinians believe we could triangulate on terrorists' cell phones to find them, even when the phone was turned off," he said. "Whether we could or we couldn't or we did or we didn't doesn't matter. They believe we have the capability."

An authoritative report was published indicating that Hamas had duped gullible world media by doubling the numbers of persons killed in Gaza. Every civilian death is a regrettable tragedy. But the report of an experienced Italian journalist in the respected Corriere della Serra deserves scrutiny. The reporter quoted a Palestinian doctor at the main Gaza hospital -- where Hamas leaders hid in underground rooms -- as saying: "The deaths could not be more than 500 or 600 at most, mainly youths who were enlisted by Hamas, which sent them to their deaths." It would not be the first time that the media accepted wildly false Palestinian casualty figures. In 2002, Palestinians claimed a "massacre" of 1500 people in Jenin. It turned out that 45 terrorists, 9 civilians and 23 Israeli soldiers had been killed.

Hamas Gunmen Fled

The Italian journalist quoted Gaza civilians as complaining that Hamas gunmen prevented them from leaving while firing from their homes. The gunmen told the civilians "we are all destined for paradise, are you not happy to die together?" An Israeli journalist embedded with an IDF unit said:  "Hamas fighting prowess hardly inspired awe."  He explained that "Hamas' Iranian-devised military doctrine was based on stopping or at least slowing the IDF outside Gaza City. But the Hamas gunmen -- in full view of the people of Gaza -- abandoned the arena and fled into the crowded neighborhoods where they hurriedly shed their uniforms."  The areas from which rockets had been fired were quickly abandoned.  "The offensive array of bunkers and tunnels and booby-trapped buildings -- set for remote detonation -- were captured intact."   Hamas did take advantage of the fog of war to torture and kill 70 Palestinians from the rival Fatah movement; the torture included gouging of eyes of suspected informers.

One of the Israeli government's goals was to ensure that the ties between Hamas and Iran are well documented, according to the briefer. "We know that the Iranians supply Hamas with sophisticated weapons and train Hamas fighters in Iran."  An entire unit of Hamas gunmen trained in Iran was eliminated. The defeat of Iranian proxies, quietly cheered by many in the Arab world (though Palestinian casualties provoked indignation), is a major blow to Iran's aspirations for regional hegemony. The scheduled third-phase of the offensive that was to follow the air strikes and ground campaign was suspended when the truce commenced.  Asked if there was one message he would like to convey, the briefer concluded, "There can be no return to the status quo," i.e., incessant Hamas firing on Israeli civilians.

The Future is Clouded

The key to peace in Gaza remains cessation of Iranian arms supplies to Hamas.  It was therefore encouraging to hear leaders of six European countries -- France, Britain, Germany, Spain, Italy and Czech Republic offer -- in Egypt and Israel -- to provide troops and technical assistance to prevent Hamas from smuggling weapons and terrorists into Gaza.  French President Sarkozy said "the EU would never harm the security of Israel." Dissonant in this display of European unity was the fact that Turkish Prime Minister Erdogan could speak only in Egypt and not in Jerusalem.  Erdogan's ardent backing of Hamas coupled with Iranian-type castigation of Israel, plus anti-Semitism inspired by his AKP party, has damaged Turkey's image as an aspirant for EU membership.   Erdogan may have opted for leadership of the Muslim world, rather than a place in the EU.     

While one can understand Israel's rationale for declaring a truce after inflicting major damage on Hamas' military capabilities (this is not World War 2, where total victory can be achieved), it is likely that further pre-emptive action by Israel will be necessary.  The credo of Hamas is that Israel must be destroyed.  There is scant chance of durable peace with an enemy which indoctrinates children to believe there is a religious duty to kill Jewish civilians. Ending Hamas misrule would entail heavy and largely undesirable costs for Israel, including possible reoccupation.   

Egypt is not likely to seriously curb smuggling of Iranian arms through tunnels for several reasons, including that Egypt likes to see Israel bleed, and that cracking down on Hamas would enrage millions of Egyptian adherents of the Muslim Brotherhood, of which Hamas is an offshoot. 

Since Hamas continues to view Israeli civilians as targets for murder and Palestinian civilian casualties as useful sacrifices for obtaining international support, it is almost certain that we will be returning to this sanguinary subject.  Israel's main achievement was demonstrating that Hamas will pay a severe price if large-scale rocketing is resumed.   The tunnels can be reopened, but they can likewise be redestroyed.   

Ominous reports are surfacing of Iranian frogmen delivering arms to Hamas.  The US Navy is supposedly monitoring this development. 


Joel J. Sprayregen, a Chicago lawyer, returned recently from Israel where he consulted with military and academic sources.  He is associated with JINSA (Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs) and other think tanks dealing with international security issues.
The tactical successes of Israel's recent Gaza operation, based on superb intelligence, began with air attacks on terrorist targets, which were extremely accurate and caused Hamas to go underground. The second phase, the ground attack, was a well-coordinated effort "in a fashion never done by the IDF before," according to a background briefing.  There was much more of what the American military calls "jointness," or cooperation, between ground and air forces.

Successful tactics included: night maneuvers with sophisticated optical equipment; senior commanders on the battlefield with the troops leading to better tactical decision-making, as well as wounding of several brigade commanders; entry into potentially booby-trapped houses was effected through the side walls, not through doors and windows; and almost all units were accompanied by a  canine unit. The dogs were very effective in uncovering hidden terrorists and explosives, thus protecting soldiers; however the casualty rate among the dogs was quite high.

Use of Electronic Warfare and False Casualty Reports

Another innovation was the use of electronic warfare. The IDF was able to jam all radio, TV and cell phone communications. "In addition, the IDF was also able to call thousands of Palestinian homes to warn of an impending incursion," the briefer said. He noted that the psychological impact of the electronic jamming was important as well. "The Palestinians believe we could triangulate on terrorists' cell phones to find them, even when the phone was turned off," he said. "Whether we could or we couldn't or we did or we didn't doesn't matter. They believe we have the capability."

An authoritative report was published indicating that Hamas had duped gullible world media by doubling the numbers of persons killed in Gaza. Every civilian death is a regrettable tragedy. But the report of an experienced Italian journalist in the respected Corriere della Serra deserves scrutiny. The reporter quoted a Palestinian doctor at the main Gaza hospital -- where Hamas leaders hid in underground rooms -- as saying: "The deaths could not be more than 500 or 600 at most, mainly youths who were enlisted by Hamas, which sent them to their deaths." It would not be the first time that the media accepted wildly false Palestinian casualty figures. In 2002, Palestinians claimed a "massacre" of 1500 people in Jenin. It turned out that 45 terrorists, 9 civilians and 23 Israeli soldiers had been killed.

Hamas Gunmen Fled

The Italian journalist quoted Gaza civilians as complaining that Hamas gunmen prevented them from leaving while firing from their homes. The gunmen told the civilians "we are all destined for paradise, are you not happy to die together?" An Israeli journalist embedded with an IDF unit said:  "Hamas fighting prowess hardly inspired awe."  He explained that "Hamas' Iranian-devised military doctrine was based on stopping or at least slowing the IDF outside Gaza City. But the Hamas gunmen -- in full view of the people of Gaza -- abandoned the arena and fled into the crowded neighborhoods where they hurriedly shed their uniforms."  The areas from which rockets had been fired were quickly abandoned.  "The offensive array of bunkers and tunnels and booby-trapped buildings -- set for remote detonation -- were captured intact."   Hamas did take advantage of the fog of war to torture and kill 70 Palestinians from the rival Fatah movement; the torture included gouging of eyes of suspected informers.

One of the Israeli government's goals was to ensure that the ties between Hamas and Iran are well documented, according to the briefer. "We know that the Iranians supply Hamas with sophisticated weapons and train Hamas fighters in Iran."  An entire unit of Hamas gunmen trained in Iran was eliminated. The defeat of Iranian proxies, quietly cheered by many in the Arab world (though Palestinian casualties provoked indignation), is a major blow to Iran's aspirations for regional hegemony. The scheduled third-phase of the offensive that was to follow the air strikes and ground campaign was suspended when the truce commenced.  Asked if there was one message he would like to convey, the briefer concluded, "There can be no return to the status quo," i.e., incessant Hamas firing on Israeli civilians.

The Future is Clouded

The key to peace in Gaza remains cessation of Iranian arms supplies to Hamas.  It was therefore encouraging to hear leaders of six European countries -- France, Britain, Germany, Spain, Italy and Czech Republic offer -- in Egypt and Israel -- to provide troops and technical assistance to prevent Hamas from smuggling weapons and terrorists into Gaza.  French President Sarkozy said "the EU would never harm the security of Israel." Dissonant in this display of European unity was the fact that Turkish Prime Minister Erdogan could speak only in Egypt and not in Jerusalem.  Erdogan's ardent backing of Hamas coupled with Iranian-type castigation of Israel, plus anti-Semitism inspired by his AKP party, has damaged Turkey's image as an aspirant for EU membership.   Erdogan may have opted for leadership of the Muslim world, rather than a place in the EU.     

While one can understand Israel's rationale for declaring a truce after inflicting major damage on Hamas' military capabilities (this is not World War 2, where total victory can be achieved), it is likely that further pre-emptive action by Israel will be necessary.  The credo of Hamas is that Israel must be destroyed.  There is scant chance of durable peace with an enemy which indoctrinates children to believe there is a religious duty to kill Jewish civilians. Ending Hamas misrule would entail heavy and largely undesirable costs for Israel, including possible reoccupation.   

Egypt is not likely to seriously curb smuggling of Iranian arms through tunnels for several reasons, including that Egypt likes to see Israel bleed, and that cracking down on Hamas would enrage millions of Egyptian adherents of the Muslim Brotherhood, of which Hamas is an offshoot. 

Since Hamas continues to view Israeli civilians as targets for murder and Palestinian civilian casualties as useful sacrifices for obtaining international support, it is almost certain that we will be returning to this sanguinary subject.  Israel's main achievement was demonstrating that Hamas will pay a severe price if large-scale rocketing is resumed.   The tunnels can be reopened, but they can likewise be redestroyed.   

Ominous reports are surfacing of Iranian frogmen delivering arms to Hamas.  The US Navy is supposedly monitoring this development. 


Joel J. Sprayregen, a Chicago lawyer, returned recently from Israel where he consulted with military and academic sources.  He is associated with JINSA (Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs) and other think tanks dealing with international security issues.