2021 Roundup: Gaza in Seif Al-Quds, the first & last line of defense
The real achievement for the Palestinian resistance in 2021 is that it emerged as the exclusive spokesman for the Palestinian people. It silenced all voices that called for the fruitless compromise and recognition of the occupation.
It is difficult to find a weapon that changed the nature of the war between Palestinian resistance in Gaza and the occupation, such as rockets. The importance of such weapons has been proved by the occupation's army focus on destroying the infrastructure related to the manufacture of these armaments during the last Seif Al-Quds battle.
A brief story of the al-Qassam
Gazans tell that heavy weapons in the second Intifada were so scarce that the Gazan resistance fighters called the 120 MLM tube mortar when it reached the besieged Gaza strip, "the mortar missile."
The story of the martyr Nidal Farhat, one of the manufacturers of the first copies of Qassam rockets, tells the path of many resistance men and leaders. In 2003, Farhat was martyred in an assassination operation while developing the Ababeel-1 drone with a group of his companions.
The technological battle with the occupation has been going for some time. It is difficult to comment on the technical and operational development that the resistance factions in Gaza have reached without enumerating the enormous number of martyrs of leaders and designers. The current level of development seems miraculous given the number of martyrs; these men were always the first to be targeted by the occupation and its local agents.
The first Qassam rockets were mere metal tubes filled with rocket fuel, composed of sugar and agricultural fertilizers. In order to facilitate the manufacturing process, the stabilization fins were welded onto the rocket's tail directly. Such fins aim to stabilize the rocket by forcing it to rotate following its launch to reduce drag, thus stabilizing its trajectory, consequently increasing its accuracy. The available technology made the process of more complex manufacturing quasi impossible.
The weight of the rocket's explosive warhead did not exceed a few kilograms. It was a mixture of anti-friction iron balls, which can be found in any wheel bearing of civilian cars, and from the explosives manufactured locally in the previously mentioned method, or by reusing air and land launched shells that the occupation used to Gaza. "Recycling" explosives and shipping them back to the source-destination has remained one of the primary methods by which the resistance has obtained high-quality explosive materials to this day, it declared on many occasions.
The liberation of 2005 gave the resistance in Gaza the margin it had dreamed of to operate freely and launch its development process, mainly with its local efforts. The development was through a process of error and trial. Deterring the occupation army, armed to its teeth with modern armaments, indiscriminately massacring the population of Gaza was not going to be an easy task.
Every year or two, a new model of the Qassam rocket would come out. In 2002, the Qassam-2 missile came out, with a maximum range of 12 km. In 2005, the Qassam rocket reached the range of 15-17 km. In 2006, the Quds-3 missile, developed from the Soviet Grad missile, appeared, giving the resistance more capability to respond to Israeli attacks on Gaza. In 2009, the balance of power changed again, as the resistance revealed it had rockets that could reach 40 km from the borders of occupied Gaza. These rockets were factory-made, which meant that they had much smaller manufacturing tolerances; thus, they had higher operational efficiency.
In 2012, during that year's war on Gaza, the balance of power changed once more, as the resistance targeted "Tel Aviv" for the first time using Fajr-5 rockets, locally made M-75 and J-80 missiles. Not only has the range of its rockets changed, as they increased in size, but the size of the explosive head also increased, from several kilograms in the first Qassam rockets to tens of kilograms in the Fajr and M-75.
The development trajectory continued from 2014 till the battle of Seif Al-Quds, and striking the occupation's strategic depth became more frequent. The number of medium and long-range rockets continued to increase. The A-120 missile type, named after the fallen leader in the resistance Raed Al-Attar, was uncovered, as well as the A-250 missile which has the furthest range so far. The latter was named after the fallen engineer and Resistance leader Yahya Ayyash.
The "Iron Dome"
In a report published by The Conversation, the US writer specializing in security affairs, Michael J. Armstrong, revealed interesting details regarding the last war. Armstrong says the Palestinian resistance managed to launch 137 missiles in just 5 minutes, conveying information from the Israeli media. The writer continues, saying that although this number is still less than the capabilities of the artillery batteries of regular armies, it has greatly improved in comparison to the rate of fire in the last wars.
This pace allowed the resistance to "flood" the Iron Dome batteries, not only in terms of numbers but also by limiting the ability of its radars to analyze and direct interceptors to targets. According to an Israeli media report, in one of the incidents, an Iron Dome battery dome failed to engage targets.
The writer presented the possibility of the Iron Dome's batteries themselves coming under fire. He states that a barrage of resistance missiles did indeed try to do so on one occasion, though the rockets weren't accurate enough to accomplish the mission. On the other hand, Armstrong talks about a study he conducted in 2018, in which he said that airstrikes, during previous operations, did not succeed in reducing the frequency and number of missiles fired, claiming that only the ground attack did that.
Armstrong said that the same scenario repeated itself in the battle of Seif Al-Quds. The Israeli occupation forces (IOF) did not initiate a ground offensive in the last war, as it seems that its generals were well aware of the high cost such a choice would imply. The assessment of such costs has been significantly affected by the numerous losses the IOF ground forces suffered in its attempt to invade Gaza in 2014, particularly its elite Golani Brigade.
In another study from 2014, Armstrong predicted the previously mentioned Iron Dome's weakness when the system becomes "flooded" with targets and consequently overwhelmed. The study speculated that that "high-performing interceptors can seem 'fragile' — once their capacity is exceeded, damage on the ground soars." In that regard, one can discuss the actual 'benefit' of systems similar to the Iron Dome and the danger of over-relying on it. The political and geopolitical circumstances surrounding "Israel" indicate that it will face trouble in a large-scale war that involves a multi-front engagement.
A war of willpower
If we take a look at the point from which the Palestinian struggle against the occupation started within the framework of the more extensive Arab struggle, and at the type of armaments used over the years, we will find something of interest. It is true that in the eighties, the Palestinian resistance used rockets to shell the occupation settlements situated on the land Palestinians were forcefully evicted from, but now their use has become standardized.
Broader political goals were achieved in that regard, as occurred in the recent Seif Al-Quds battle, in which the Palestinian resistance in Gaza emerged as the exclusive spokesperson for the Palestinian people in 2021. It silenced all voices that called for the fruitless compromise and recognition of the occupation. The same occupation that refused all previous calls to allow the ethnically cleansed Palestinians to return to their home and continued with its expansive and aggressive policies and actions.
The Israeli occupation knew that defeating all the people of the region refusing its colonial and supremacist nature in one fell swoop is off its capabilities, therefore, it always used a strategy of separating the fronts and neutralizing them one at a time. This strategy is reflected in the Palestinian community itself. That is, the son of the West Bank is forcefully separated from occupied Al-Quds, both of the previous are separated from the residents of the 1948 occupied Palestine, or the besieged Gaza.
In the case of an extended or multi-front war, the so-called Iron Dome will be incapable of intercepting the bulk of the missiles fired at the occupation's installations; the IOF knows this very well. Therefore, the IOF utilizes the Shock and Awe doctrine that consists in making the war as violent and short as possible. Neither the number of interceptor missiles is sufficient, nor is the number of Iron dome battalions, in the light of these facts, the concept of a conflict of willpower re-emerges. The psychological role of the Iron Dome also emerges clearer than ever; in giving settlers temporary and virtual safety, and in consolidating the idea of the 'mighty Colonizer,' whose shiny shield shall not be scratched by the arrows of the 'natives'.
The difference in material losses, in the static numerical sense between the resistance and the occupation, was definitely in the occupation's favor, no sane person will dare to dispute this fact, but the conflict extends to more than numbers. Yahya Al-Sinwar, a senior leader of the Hamas movement, made a speech that followed the Seif Al-Quds battle; a glimpse on the Israeli media coverage of that speech can tell a lot.
Several speakers on Israeli TV channels were resentful to the audacity and pride with which Al-Sinwar spoke, "as if he were the victor." Neither the resistance nor its people in Gaza are crazy, as many Western media outlets and researchers like to portray them. Instead, they know who occupies their land, as they are aware of the inner fragility of "Israel" in this regard. Israeli decision-makers realize this fragility too as they act with the slightest change in the balance of power as an existential threat.
The people of Gaza and its resistance realize that the conflict may not be resolved in 2022 or maybe in the coming years, but as the people of this region, who are fighting for their cause and the future of their children, they know that the victor in this war will be the one with the longest breath.