Al-Zaytouna Centre for Studies and Consultations in Beirut has published a new Arabic book entitled Resistance Rockets in Gaza: A Palestinian Deterrent Weapon. The book, authored by Basem Jalal Elkassem and supervised by Dr. Mohsen Moh’d Saleh, is a scientific documented study which casts light on the development of Palestinian rocket capacities from 2001 to 2014.
Thirteen years after the launching of the first missile from Gaza Strip (GS), during which Israel waged three destructive wars, the last of which was in 2014, this weapon has proved its effectiveness and role in determining the course of war. Furthermore, it developed from a mere marginal nuisance in al-Aqsa Intifadah in 2000, which did not attract the attention of decision makers in Tel Aviv, into a mounting danger that could be a strategic threat which the occupation cannot deal with at the moment or get rid of it for good.
Title: Sawarikh al-Muqawamah fi Ghazzah: Silah al-Radi‘ al-Filastini (Resistance Rockets in Gaza: A Palestinian Deterrent Weapon)
The first chapter of the book presents the stages of development of Palestinian rocket capacity, where the first stage started with producing rockets in GS. During this stage, Palestinian Resistance faced lots of obstacles, mainly in lack of needed material in the occupied territories. This prompted engineering and development military units to use domestically developed material to build rockets.
Israel tried to prevent the arrival of weapons and needed material into the hands of resistance forces by imposing a tight siege on the Palestinian territories in the West Bank (WB) and GS. It even prevented raw material entry needed by Palestinian industry, most notably “cleaning” material believed to have dual-usage, of which the resistance forces would manufacture rockets. The occupation also tried to prevent entry of some material used in agriculture, especially “urea nitrate” which is a powerful improvised explosive.
Such measures and restrictions affected the manufacturing of explosive material needed for building rockets and other military industries. This prompted resistance forces to to use domestically developed material. Sources in al-Qassam Brigades, the military wing of the Islamic Resistance Movement—Hamas, confirm that they succeeded in using dung to extract some of the gases and chemical material that could be used in manufacturing rockets.
In this respect, Abu Obeida, al-Qassam spokesperson, stressed that all rockets until 2007 were domestically developed rather than imported. He also said that TNT was replaced by locally manufactured materials of equivalent efficiency.
According to a report in the German daily Der Spiegel, “the raw materials for one large rocket cost up to €500.” The report also mentioned that one of Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) affiliates tasked with manufacturing rockets said that they would bring TNT from Sudan via Egypt through the smuggling tunnels. Other material reached GS by boats from Eastern Europe. As for raw material used in Palestinian missile industry, a CNN report mentioned that the rockets are “propelled by a mixture of sugar, oil, alcohol and fertilizer.”
Resistance factions benefitted from Hamas’s military control of the GS in mid-June 2007, for previously there was security coordination between the Palestinian Authority (PA) and Israel. Thus, introduction of rockets, their manufacture, storage and test operations became far from monitoring and targeting by Israeli forces. Consequently, the accuracy of launching rockets improved and their range was increased.
In contrast, security coordination between the PA and Israel in the WB played an important role in curbing the ability of Palestinian Resistance to transfer missile technology from GS to WB. In fact, Oslo commitments were not the sole motive of the PA, but there was a stronger motive represented in the PA’s fear that Hamas would control the WB after it had controlled the GS in mid-2007, especially after the peace process failure, and the increased settlement building in the WB.
In the second part of the book, Elkassem highlights Israel’s focus on countering the development of Resistance rockets in the GS, and preventing the transfer of missile technology to WB. It employed its political and military arms to limit the smuggling of rockets to the Strip. Israel also executed military and security operations beyond the borders for the same end and it has succeeded, as of the time of writing, in preventing the transfer of rockets to the WB thanks to the “achievements” of continued security coordination between the PA security forces and the Israeli army. Nonetheless, it has not succeeded completely on limiting the smuggling of rockets and their raw materials to the GS.
Regarding the rockets manufactured or introduced to the GS, Israel has produced the Iron Dome system for the interruption of these rockets; however, such a system has not proved full success until this date. Thus, while Israeli Deputy Army Minister Matan Vilnai announced that the Iron Dome is at best 80% effective at intercepting incoming rockets, military experts have stressed that the system’s success on the ground is barely 5%.
The problem of the Iron Dome is not only limited to its inefficiency, but also extends to its high cost as compared to the Resistance rockets. Thus, while one Iron Dome anti-rocket system costs around $60 million and each interception costs $100 thousand, the Resistance missile costs a few hundred dollars, while the cost does not exceed a few thousand dollars in the case of Grad rockets.
In the third section of the book, the author casts light on the impact of Palestinian rockets and their role in Palestinian Resistance. At first, it discussed their role in Israeli withdrawal from the GS in 2005, where these rockets acted as an essential and important element in that decision. This was due to the high security and military cost the Israeli army had to pay to protect around eight thousand settlers living in Gaza settlements.
According to Israeli military sources quoted on the eve of implementing the disengagement plan, the Resistance factions have targeted settlement blocs in GS with more than 5,626 rockets and mortars since al-Aqsa Intifadah broke out in 2000.
These rockets had a deterrent role during the three wars Israel has waged against the GS. Indeed, Israeli material, economic, financial, and military losses prompted ceasefire negotiations. The improvement of these rockets was quite apparent where there was a remarkable development in missile ranges and their capacity. Actually, during the Israeli aggression on GS in 2008–2009, the rockets reached Beersheba, which is 40 kilometers to the east of GS, and more than 750 thousand Israelis became under Gaza’s range of fire. As for the Israeli war on GS on 14–21/11/2012, the M-75 rockets reached Herzliya in north Tel Aviv, which is 80 kilometers to the north of GS. Also, the Resistance targeted Jerusalem, Tel Aviv, besides Beersheba and more than 5 million Israelis were in the resistance range of fire.
The 2014 Israeli war on GS, the Resistance rockets reached a range of 160 kilometers, as the R-160 missile reached Haifa and Khdaira (Hadera), which are more than 100 kilometers far from GS, and more than six million Israelis in the Gaza’a range of fire. In addition, most major cities in the occupied territories became within the range of rockets including Tel Aviv, Haifa, Jerusalem, Dimona, Hadera, besides Ben-Gurion Airport and a number of military airports and bases.
In the last section of the book, Elkassem discusses the development of rockets in terms of quantity, quality and range throughout the past thirteen years. He reveals that there are major differences in Israeli figures regarding the number of Palestinian rockets. This disparity reflected the state of confusion within the Israeli institution, and was probably meant to serve a misleading propaganda. Sometimes exaggerating numbers was meant to cover the results of Israeli attacks on Palestinians, and sometimes conveying smaller figures was meant to maintain cohesion in the internal front and to limit accusations of negligence to the military institution.
An article by Gideon Levy in Haaretz said that in 2001 four rockets were launched from Gaza, and in 2002 a total of 34 rockets were launched compared to 155 rockets in 2003 and 281 in 2004.
According to a Shabak report, 400 rockets fell on Israeli settlements in 2005 compared to 1,722 in 2006 and 1,263 in 2007. Israel’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs stated that in 2006 the number reached 861 rockets. An Israeli statement to the Security Council on 22/1/2008 regarding the situation then in GS and Sderot said that Palestinians launched from Gaza more than two thousand rockets in 2007.
In 2008, the Resistance launched 2,048 rockets and 160 rockets in 2009, excluding the period of Gaza war at the end of 2008 and beginning of 2009. The Resistance launched 150 rockets in 2010; 676 in 2011; 1,731 in 2012 and 55 rockets and projectiles in 2013. In 2014, the Israeli army said that more than 4,382 rockets were launched from Gaza to Israel during the assault, yet primary estimates show that the Resistance launched more than eight thousand mortars and rockets.
Table: Number of Rockets Launched Annually from Gaza to the 1948 Palestinian Occupied Territories From 2001 to 2014
|Year||Number of Rockets|
|2011||676 rockets and mortars|
|2013||55 rockets and mortars|
|2014|| Around 8 thousand rockets and mortars
during the 2014 assault
The book shows in the end that besides development of Palestinian missile industry, the Resistance has developed strategies and tactics for using these rockets where it used tunnels as launch pads thus reducing the ability of Israeli jets to discover and target them. Launching rockets was never a reaction or a rushed act, but it rather followed set tactics and strategies where Israeli targets were shelled every day in the three wars, thus leaving the enemy confused about the size of missile stockpile and how far the Israeli shelling affected launching of rockets. In addition, there was particular focus on more important targets such as airports and major cities, besides intensified use of mortar shells and short range rockets, which could not be dropped by the Iron Dome, in order to target the Gaza envelope.
This book is one of the few books that conducted a comprehensive study on the Palestinian Resistance rockets, tracking their development since the early beginnings until the summer of 2015. It is considered a reference for those interested in this field, especially that it has been written according to the criteria of scientific research and its data has been documented accurately.