(December 22, 2019 / Israel Hayom) Much has been said about the complex defense and security challenges Israel faces as a Jewish state in the Middle East. Being the sole democracy in one of the toughest neighborhoods on the planet means that Israel must employ various means to achieve and sustain its national security goals, as well as create and maintain deterrence vis-à-vis its enemies, both near and far.
The past decade has seen Israel deal with more than a few tactical and strategic developments, including the introduction of the cyber sphere as a major theater of battle alongside land, sea, air and space; the rise of subterranean warfare and the evolution of the Iranian threat, to name a few. Looking back at this period, there have been many incidents and occurrences that could easily make any nation’s list of “greatest defense hits.” Here is a countdown of some of the most significant events of the decade in the realm of Israeli national security.
5. Southern exposure: The Israel-Gaza wars
Over the past decade, Israel’s border with the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip has emerged as a tinderbox that threatens to ignite at any given moment. Numerous flare-ups between the Jewish state and the Islamist terrorist group have taken place over the past 10 years, each growing progressively worse in intensity.
Two of these flare-ups spiraled into full-fledged military conflicts: “Operation Pillar of Defense” in 2012 and “Operation Protective Edge” in 2014. Each saw the Israeli home front sustain massive rocket fire, while the Gaza Strip was left in ruins.
“Operation Pillar of Defense” was an eight-day military campaign launched on Nov. 14, 2012, in the wake of the targeted assassination of Hamas military chief Ahmed Jabari via an Israeli airstrike.
Hamas retaliated by firing over 100 rockets at Israel in the following 24 hours and staging two separate terrorist attacks against Israeli troops deployed in the Gaza sector, prompting the Israeli government to order a full-scale counter-terrorism operation in the coastal enclave.
According to Israel Defense Forces data, Gaza terrorists fired some 1,500 rockets at south and central Israel during the operation. Four Israeli civilians and two soldiers were killed in Palestinian rocket attacks and some 250 Israelis, including 10 soldiers, were injured.
According to the United Nations Human Rights Council, 174 Palestinians, 107 of them civilians, were killed in the fighting and about 1,000 were injured.
Israel found itself in a similar situation only two years later. In June 2014, Hamas operatives abducted and murdered three Israeli teenagers. This gruesome attack prompted the IDF to launch “Operation Brother’s Keeper” across Judea and Samaria, in which dozens of Hamas operatives were arrested.
Gaza’s rulers retaliated with massive rocket salvos on Israel, firing nearly 250 rockets on Israel in the span of three weeks and triggering the 50-day “Operation Protective Edge.”
The campaign included massive airstrikes as well as a ground incursion, which included several fierce battles. A total of 67 Israeli soldiers were killed, and Hamas was able to abduct the bodies of two soldiers, Golani Brigade Staff Sgt. Oron Shaul and Givati Brigade Lt. Hadar Goldin. It is still holding their remains. Another 469 soldiers were injured. Four Israeli civilians and one Thai national were killed by terrorist rocket fire, and hundreds of Israelis were wounded.
One of the most important developments in Israel’s air defense capabilities came on the scene in 2011, when the now-world-renowned Iron Dome defense system became operational, proving to be a game-changer in terms of home-front defense.
Developed by Rafael Advanced Defense Systems and Israel Aerospace Industries, Iron Dome, declared operational on March 27, 2011, is designed to intercept and destroy short-range rockets and artillery shells fired from distances of between 4-70 km (2.5-43 miles) and according to IDF data it has a 90 percent interception success rate.
Iron Dome’s performance is so impressive that, in addition to its land-based deployment, the military plans to deploy it at sea in the future, to protect Israel’s offshore gas platforms in conjunction with Israel’s Barak 8 missile system.
Iron Dome has proved essential in protecting the Israeli home front from the ever-increasing terrorist rocket fire emanating from the Gaza Strip: During 2012’s “Operation Pillar of Defense,” Iron Dome intercepted 428 projectiles, and during 2014’s “Operation Protective Edge” it downed 735. Since then, and through the various flare-ups noted between Israel and Hamas, the system has intercepted thousands of rockets.
The military credits “breakthrough technology” for the fact Iron Dome confronts multiple threats simultaneously, in all weather conditions. These features have made it highly attractive to other nations facing various airborne threats.
So far, Iron Dome has been acquired by the militaries of Azerbaijan, India and Romania. According to the defense establishment, the defense ministries of several NATO member states have also expressed interest in acquiring the system.
Iron Dome batteries are currently deployed nationwide, providing the first line of aerial defense for the home front. Its steady success rate has had a strategic impact on how the military conducts its operations, while also providing a much-needed sense of security for the Israeli public, earning it the top spot on this list of most notable defense moments of the decade.
This article first appeared in Israel Hayom.
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