With over 1,000 rockets fired at Israel from Gaza so far, between Monday evening and Wednesday morning, Israel has relied heavily on the locally developed Iron Dome anti-missile air defense system. The system has had a successful interception rate of 85%-90% during the current Israel-Gaza conflict, dubbed Operation Guardian of the Walls, and has saved the lives of hundreds of Israeli civilians.
But Iron Dome cannot be Israel’s sole defense strategy in any violent escalation, according to experts.
“You cannot wage a war only by defensive means. A good offensive capability has to complement the Iron Dome,” Prof. Danny Orbach, a military historian from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, told The Media Line.
Dealing effectively with a violent escalation “always involves a combination of denial,” Orbach said, such as reducing the enemy’s ability to launch missiles, “and deterrence, the destruction of strategic assets of Hamas and assassinations of senior commanders and leaders.”
Israel’s deterrence policy during the current operation has focused on killing senior Hamas and Islamic Jihad officials, including Hassan Kaogi and Wail Issa, the leader and deputy respectively of Hamas’s security intelligence brigade, and Gamal Zabda, Hamas’ “rocket man,” who is the point person for the group’s rockets program.
The offensive part of the strategy is crucial because Iron Dome is not impenetrable: So far six Israelis have been killed as a result of rockets fired from Gaza.
The Iron Dome was never supposed to be 100% effective. It was clear from the beginning that it would block only a certain percent of the rockets
The current interception rate of 85% to 90%, according to the Israel Defense Forces, means that Israel should have expected some 85 rockets to 127.5 rockets to still fall free of intervention, which has led to deaths and dozens of injuries.
Orbach says that a major purpose of the Iron Dome is to give Jerusalem time to react and that it was never expected to have a perfect record.
“The Iron Dome was never supposed to be 100% effective. It was clear from the beginning that it would block only a certain percent of the rockets,” he said. “A high percent, maybe, but never 100%.”
“It gives Israel strategic breadth – that is, rockets do not do that much damage and many of them are intercepted; it widens the strategic space we have to maneuver in because we don’t have to react and escalate immediately,” Orbach added.
Dr. Shaul Shay, terror expert at the Interdisciplinary Center in Herzliya and former deputy head of the Israel National Security Council, says that, so far, Israel has carried out the same strategy now, as it experiences the biggest barrage from Gaza since the 2014 war, as it did nearly seven years ago.
“It’s the same response, more or less, as 2014. The challenge is to convince Hamas to stop firing to create as much damage to the other side,” he told The Media Line. “It’s necessary to be patient because it takes time.”
Shay does not believe that that the current escalation will last as long as the last Gaza war, in 2014.
“I believe that in a few days, the losses of Hamas will be high enough to convince them it’s better to return to calm,” he said.