Faced with the high success rate of Israel’s Iron Dome defense system against mid-range rockets, Hamas in the Gaza Strip has reportedly been redoubling its efforts to produce shorter-range projectiles, which proved deadlier during its summer 2014 war with Israel.
According to a report in the Hebrew-language newspaper Makor Rishon over the weekend, Hamas’s decision to focus on producing and testing – by firing out to sea — rockets with a range of up to 30 kilometers is also due to a shortage in explosives.
“Almost all of the tests that are aimed at the sea are of short-range rockets,” a senior IDF officer was quoted by the report as saying. “They’ve recently been putting a lot of effort into short-range rockets.”
Hamas, the anonymous officer said, had likely “drawn its conclusions” from the war in Gaza, and realized that Iron Dome had limited its ability to inflict casualties on Israel through the use of mid-range and longer-range rockets.
According to official IDF figures, Iron Dome intercepted roughly 90 percent of the projectiles it targeted during the war, including rockets fired at Jerusalem and the Tel Aviv region.
Hamas and Islamic Jihad refuse to specify the number of rockets they currently possess, but they were severely depleted by the Israeli assault, which included fierce ground combat.
Israel’s ground invasion was also aimed at destroying the hundreds of tunnels Gaza’s Islamist groups had built, both for smuggling supplies and for attacks on soldiers inside Israel.
“The fact is,” the Israeli officer was quoted as saying, “it’s also harder to smuggle munitions into the Strip, and the tunnels along [the border with Egypt] are almost completely closed.”
In recent months, Egyptian soldiers have destroyed virtually all smuggling tunnels under the Gaza-Egypt border, and in October, they began razing parts of the Egyptian border town of Rafah.
Last week, in a rare public appearance, the head of Hamas’s military wing said that although his group was not actively seeking another round of violence with Israel, it had continued to stockpile rockets in anticipation of a future war.
Marwan Issa, a top commander for Hamas’ Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades, made the comments during a conference organized by a Hamas-linked think tank, his first public appearance in over three years, Ynet reported.
“We are not seeking confrontation with Israel, but we continue to strengthen our capabilities by producing more rockets” he said, and assured participants that “Israel’s statements on this matter are of no interest to us.”
More than 2,000 Palestinians were killed during the summer war, according to UN figures, which said most of them were civilians. Israel said some 1,000 of the fatalities were Hamas operatives and other gunmen, and blamed Hamas for all civilian casualties, arguing that the group attacked Israel from within residential areas.
Hamas and other terror groups fired over 4,500 rockets and projectiles at Israel, and staged several deadly attacks against IDF soldiers through cross-border tunnels. Seventy-three people on the Israeli side, 66 of them soldiers, were killed during the operation.
AP and AFP contributed to this report.