The Washington Institute for Near East Policy asserted that Hamas and its Palestinian militia allies improved rocket, ground attacks as well as command and control in the latest war with Israel, In a report, the institute said Hamas developed capabilities to overcome Israel’s overwhelming conventional military superiority.
“In the current round of fighting, Hamas has demonstrated improvements in three broad military dimensions,” the report, “Operational Wisdom Amid Strategic Distress,” said.
Authors Alon Paz and Nadav Pollak cited at least three Hamas achievements in the July war. Paz, a senior Israeli reserve officer, said Hamas withstood massive Israeli air strikes in the first days of the war. This in contrast to the wars in 2008 and 2012, in which Israel’s first strike killed up to a third of Hamas fighters and most of its long-range rockets.
“This time, Hamas’s military wing seems to have been prepared for an Israeli counterstrike,” the report, dated July 22, said. “The military leaders went underground, logistical units ensured that valuable assets were protected, and the organization dug in for a protracted fight.”
The report said Hamas and its allies doubled the size of their arsenal since the 2012 war. The arsenal included the first long-range rocket, called R-160, deemed a variant of the Syrian-origin M-302. So far, Hamas has been directing the launch of as many as 120 rockets per day.
“Firing this many rockets at varied targets allows Hamas to pursue three key objectives: (1) to subject as much of the Israeli population as possible to constant rocket fire; (2) to try to exceed the saturation point of the Iron Dome air-defense system through heavy barrages;
(3) and to prove that Hamas can stand on its own feet in the fighting, even as Israel operates in Gaza,” the report said.
Hamas also unveiled what was termed an elaborate tunnel infrastructure meant to allow attacks on Israeli communities. The report said Hamas was using its tunnel network to evade Israeli and ground strikes as well as attempt to kill numerous civilians.
“A second offensive purpose of the tunnels is in allowing Hamas units to outflank Israeli forces in and around Gaza, and to attack them from the rear — a known military vulnerability,” the report said.
Hamas has combined new skills with its long-practiced use of suicide bombings. The report cited the mission of a suicide bomber who blew himself up near an Israeli military bulldozer as well as infiltration squads.
“Finally, Hamas has demonstrated very effective command-and-control capabilities and resilience during this conflict,” the report said. “After two weeks of fighting, Hamas still seems able to maintain communication lines between rocket units, ground units, and military leadership, as evidenced by each entity’s adherence to its operational plan — with each plan prepared and practiced over years. Furthermore, Hamas successfully launched combined operations involving artillery and infiltration of ground forces into Israel.”
Paz and Pollak said the current Hamas war resembles the achievements of the Iranian-sponsored Hizbullah in its 33-day campaign in 2006. They said other insurgency groups, from Al Qaida’s Islamic State of Iraq and Levant to Nigeria’s Boko Haram, would draw lessons from Hamas.
“Despite its clever tactics and well-planned military strategy, Hamas still has insufficient fighting capabilities to match Israeli intelligence, and defensive and offensive capabilities, on the battlefield,” the report said. “Other terror organizations, however, do have substantial capabilities, and they will likely employ enhanced Hamas tactics in the future.”