Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Hamas New M-75 Missiles Can Hit Tel Aviv

The build-up to war continues:

Just 15 months after Israel sought to drastically reduce the rocket threat from Gaza in Operation Pillar of Defense, Hamas has substantially bolstered its capacity to fire on Jerusalem, Tel Aviv and the rest of central Israel.

The Gaza Strip’s Islamist rulers have invested heavily in producing their own M-75 rockets, with a range of 75 kilometers and more, and now have an arsenal of dozens of the rockets, The Times of Israel has learned. They will have dozens more by the end of this year.

This means that the next round of conflict with Gaza will be focused on central Israel, with the Israeli military braced to defend the heart of the country against unprecedented salvos of M-75s directed at Tel Aviv, the rest of central Israel, and Jerusalem.

It is not clear how effectively Israel’s missile defense systems will be able to deal with the expected launch of numerous M-75s in large, simultaneous barrages. During the eight days of Operation Pillar of Defense, in November 2012, only about 10 of the M-75 rockets were launched at central Israel and Jerusalem, so the current threat is seen as many times more serious.

Hamas realized after Pillar of Defense that firing on central Israel immensely bolstered its prestige, and the Hamas prime minister in Gaza, Ismail Haniyeh, was recognized and hailed as only the second Arab leader, after Iraq’s Saddam Hussein, to have hit central Israel.
Since that conflict, therefore, Hamas has focused on improving its capacity to build such rockets, establishing a domestic production capacity rather than relying on smuggling rockets and components into the strip. Domestic production of the M-75 has become Hamas’s flagship project.
At the same time, Hamas has also committed considerable resources to the construction of a substantial network of tunnels — dozens of miles of underground networks in key areas of the Strip — which will immensely complicate future military confrontations for Israel, The Times of Israel has learned.

Ultimately, however, Israel’s military assessment is that another round of conflict is simply a matter of time. Some in the security hierarchy believe that a substantial Israeli ground offensive, possibly even a long-term operation, may be unavoidable, but there is no consensus on this.
What is clear, The Times of Israel has learned, is that when the next round of conflict does come, the IDF and the home front will be facing a Hamas with immensely greater capabilities to fire on central Israel, thanks to its domestic rocket production, and a much-enhanced capacity to defend itself against Israeli air and ground capabilities by virtue of its new underground networks.

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