Dr.Salim M.Al Zanoon
Israel’s discovery and destruction of the third tunnel indicates its ability to neutralize the strategic assets “tunnels”of the Palestinian resistance. Tel Aviv is looking to end the tunnel threat until the end of 2018 in order to redraw the political and security scene in any future military confrontation with the Gaza Strip noting that this aspiration faces a number of overlapping and complex challenges, the neutralization of the tunnel system does not mean neutralizing the strategic threat existed in the missile system capable of threatening the Israeli home front. In contrast, the Palestinian resistance movements face a number of challenges, on the forefront are the neutralizing the tunnel system, the deterioration of infrastructure, and the failure of reconciliation.
The features of the next military confrontation are shaped by the ability of the parties to invent and create new tools. Based on the experience of other organizations in the face of the adversary, the features of the post-tunnel confrontation in the Palestinian arena is likely to be based on four tools: the missile war, the naval war, the drone War (drones) and Cyber war. In return, Israel is working on four other tools: updating the security doctrine, developing the defense industry, continuing to neutralize tunnels, postponing the confrontation, and returning to the policy of assassinations.
First: Israel between achievement and challenges.
The Israeli security establishment considers to have achieved an achievement in a long conflict in the face of the tunnel war. The tunnel neutralization process adopts an integrated strategy based on four main pillars: operational , linked to the construction of the underground wall along the Gaza border, equipped with sensors to detect the movement of work in the tunnels The second is technology, linked to the development of modern technologies capable of detecting tunnels , the third is information and intelligence, linked to the ability to obtain tunnel maps, and the fourth is operational , linked to direct precise strikes against the tunnels after discovery. However, these achievements encounter important challenges such as the inability to neutralize the missile system and the weakness of the Israeli home front.
1. Tactical vs. Strategic.
The Israeli failure to confront the tunnels during the 2014 war pushed attention to confront the “tunnel problem” and pushed the rest of the failures, such as rocket threats, underground rocket launchers, rocket launchers (cells), to the margins. All these matters have been put aside in favor of overcoming the tunnels failure.
This indicates to pay attention to tactical threat (tunnels) in return the neglect if strategic threat (missiles) , In comparison of threats , the tunnels are considered to be of limited risk compared to missiles. Tunnels can be used in kidnappings, deaths, and insecurity in the cities of Gaza envelope, but rockets can paralyzing the entire state movement, starting from closing ports, airports, down to the high economic damage.
2. The fragility of the home front
The Israeli home front received severe blows during the 2006 Lebanon war. Israel received between 120-250 rockets per day. In the Gaza War of 2014, the Israeli home front received 5,000 rockets and mortar shells. The Israeli home front is expected to be at the heart of any future war which Israel has never seen before.
Second: The challenges of the Palestinian resistance movements.
1. Neutralize strategic assets “tunnels “.
Israel’s discovery and destruction of three tunnels in recent weeks indicates that it has succeeded in finding a defensive solution to the tunnels, exacerbating the dilemma of the Palestinian resistance movements in how to deal with the gradual denial of one of its main offensive assets.
The neutralization of the tunnels has an impact not only on limiting the ability of Palestinian organizations to use offensive tunnels to carry out operations against Israel, but also in parallel, it leaves its impact on the future of the internal tunnels network under the Gaza Strip, which constitute the essence of the defense plan in the event of Israel’s reoccupation of Gaza. The ability of Israel to locate and destroy tunnels, the internal tunnels network will be threatened if Israel decides to carry out a ground operation. This equation requires Palestinian organizations to decide whether to respond and use the remaining tunnels before they are discovered and embark on a new military round, or refrain from doing so and the risk of loss of strategic assets.
2. Deterioration of infrastructure.
All the components of infrastructure in Gaza strip in a continuous deteriorating state noting that in the most crowded area in the world, the purchasing power of the population has recently fallen to a third, with the number of truckloads entering Gaza dropping from 1,000 to 300 trucks a day , in addition 95% Of Gaza’s water is unfit for drinking . Hundreds of thousands of cubic meters of sewage flow daily to the sea, threatening the spread of contagious diseases. The unemployment rate in the Gaza Strip is about 60% of the world’s highest.
3. Reconciliation faltered.
So far, the Palestinian reconciliation is not only slowly progressing but appears to be faltering and the leaders of Hamas are talking about its collapse, and the parties are starting to blame each other for the reasons for failure. The failure of reconciliation and the possibility of its collapse will indicate to the next danger. The internal crisis and the political and economic crisis facing Hamas in Gaza in the event of a failure of reconciliation, would push it to a corner where there is no choice but to take another military round against Israel. The last three wars in the Gaza Strip have been triggered by a similar set of circumstances, with the addition of the strategic assets of “tunnels “, all of which create the public environment and push it towards confrontation.
Third: the features of confrontation, in the post-tunnels phase.
It seems that Israel is on the way to neutralizing the strategic assets of Palestinian organizations. According to the security establishment, it will be able to do so by the end of this year, and the features of the next military confrontation will be more clear in the phase after neutralizing the tunnels in the ability of the two parties to invent new tools in the confrontation.
1. On the Palestinian level.
The Missile War.
The missile system will be more effective if a military confrontation breaks out in Gaza and capable of threatening all Israeli cities. There is certainly a difference between the capabilities in the 2014 war and the current capabilities. In this context, Yahya al-Senawar pointed out that in 51 minutes Hamas could strike Tel Aviv Which had hit it in 51 day , in addition to the system of anti-tank missiles.
One of the goals of the Palestinian organizations in the coming confrontation will be to infiltrate into Israeli cities via the sea to carry out attacks, similar to the Zakim operation, along with strikes on Israeli gas wells at sea, the distance between the Gaza Strip and the gas wells is 40 kilometers which is in the Gaza missile range.
War of unmanned aircrafts “Drones” .
Some other organizations used armed drone aircrafts to carry out operations against opponents. Hezbollah used them in the Syrian war, and used by the terrorist organization “ISIS” against the Iraqi army. Every few minutes, they fired 3-4 planes and detonated them at certain points. The Jihadist organizations in Syria attacked the Russian air base “Hameem” and the Russian fleet base in Tartous, with squadrons of bombers loaded with explosives. The aircraft can carry explosives and drop them on a target or fall and crash on it. The camera in it allows the possibility of being directed by the operator towards the target. It is difficult to detect these drones and intercept it because the radar in it is similar to the radar of phantom aircraft.
It is possible that the Palestinian resistance will reproduce this experience in the next military confrontation. Every few minutes, a bomb aircraft will be dropped on the settlements or at the positions of the Israeli army and the sensitive positions in the country, especially since some Palestinian organizations used this technique in the 2014 war.
During the past three years, a new front has emerged: “Electronic warfare” between the Palestinians and Israel. This type of war is equivalent to military war. It reaches sensitive places such as military bases, airports and banks, and can cause serious losses and it is a threat to the national security.
In 2015, Palestinian hackers hacked dozens of Israeli websites: the Ministry of Defense, Education, Intelligence, the Stock Exchange and the Tel Aviv Police. The Palestinians appear to have established technical divisions and units to counter Israeli attacks and prepare counter-attacks. And in case of the confrontation, each party will work to target the other party and damage its interests electronically.
2. At the Israeli level.
Updating the security doctrine.
Ben-Gurion laid the foundations of the State’s security doctrine, which is based on three main pillars: deterrence, warning and the settlement. After the war in Lebanon, the fourth pillar was added in 2007, namely, the defense of the home front, in which public facilities and family shelters were fortified and the establishment of the National Emergency Authority and the development of the new dome missile system alongside the systems of missiles: Haaretz , and “David’s sling” to create a defense system for the home front consisting of three layers.
In light of lessons learned from the recent wars, the Israeli security doctrine is being updated, in the context of intensifying training and fortifying national infrastructures and public buildings, working to improve the coordination of all branches working in this field, creating functional sharing of responsibilities and delineating clear powers between these arms However, despite of all these , things are slowly going on, and there are many areas waiting for decisions and budgetary allocations. The State Comptroller’s report in Israel indicates that 1 in 3 citizens has no shelter during the war.
Development of defense industries.
Israel faces three important challenges in confronting the development of the opponent’s abilities. Israel’s defense industries have been in the process of developing technology for three years to achieve success to confront the tunnels, and now they need more effort, time and money to cope with other developments, such as unmanned aircraft (drones) that can be used by the adversary. Attacks, and need to confront the naval war to hit the Israeli gas platforms, the development of sensors along the beaches and at sea, and identify the location of marine mechanisms and divers that can launch attacks in the event of confrontation, and cyber warfare is another area poses new challenges that requires Israeli action to address it .
Neutralizing tunnels versus delaying confrontation.
Depriving the Palestinian resistance of strategic assets is the first priority on Israel’s agenda. Therefore, providing a quiet environment for the continuation of the construction of the underground wall limits the Israeli considerations regarding the possibility of engaging in confrontation with the Gaza Strip to the extent to the possibility of exceeding the launch of rockets in relative terms even if it continues for a long time.
The historical experience of Israel indicates the tendency to adopt the policy of assassinations as an effective way to push the adversary toward inward retreat, to put him in a defensive position, to pay more attention to maintaining the security of his leaders and thus to decrease movement and planning attacks against Israel. And in the light of transferring leaders from Hamas movement to work in Lebanon and strengthening the relationship with Hezbollah and Iran, it is possible that the number of assassinations in the Lebanese arena and other areas could increase.
Until now, in the light of the priorities of the parties, things are not moving toward comprehensive military confrontation in the foreseeable future. Israel has managed to neutralize tunnels, but the most dangerous strategic situation in the event of a confrontation is in the missile system and the fragility of the internal front and the ability to transfer confrontation to other squares such as the Navy War, Drone war and the Cyber War.
Rawabet Center for Research and Strategic Studies