May 14, 2021 | Insight

Tehran’s Terror Proxies in Gaza Escalate Attacks on Israeli Civilians

May 14, 2021 | Insight

Tehran’s Terror Proxies in Gaza Escalate Attacks on Israeli Civilians

Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) have targeted Israeli civilians with a greater volume of rocket fire this week than in previous rounds of conflict. A closer analysis shows why the two terror groups’ evolving tactics and weapons pose a greater threat, but also demonstrates the effectiveness of Israeli technology – particularly the Iron Dome system – in saving the lives of thousands of Israelis who might have otherwise been killed.

According to an analysis published by The New York Times, 470 rockets were fired from Gaza in the first 24 hours of the conflict this week, “compared to a peak of 192 rockets per day in 2014 and 312 in 2012.” As of Friday, terrorist groups in Gaza had launched more than 2,000 rockets at Israel, including at Jerusalem, Tel Aviv, and other population centers. Of the total rockets launched, the percentage of long-range attacks against Tel Aviv more than doubled compared to a similar round of attacks in 2014.

Hamas and PIJ clearly wanted to overwhelm Israel’s Iron Dome missile defense system and inflict the highest possible death toll on Israeli civilians. If not for Iron Dome, thousands might have been injured or killed. As of Friday, eight Israelis had been killed.

Iron Dome’s performance in this recent round of violence appears to mirror its success in previous conflicts – intercepting approximately 90 percent of rockets headed toward populated areas. Israel sometimes decides not to intercept inbound rockets when their trajectory suggests they will not threaten lives or critical infrastructure.

Iron Dome’s impressive capabilities are of interest to the United States, which has purchased two Iron Dome batteries. The U.S. Army may deploy the systems around the end of the year. The service is also conducting a “shoot-off” later this year to determine, among other things, whether the U.S. Army will utilize components of the Iron Dome system for its next-generation Indirect Fire Protection Capability.

Iron Dome’s success is no small thing given both the volume and the broad array of rockets that Israel has confronted, including a new munition revealed this week: the Ayyash 250 rocket.

Al-Qassam Brigades, Hamas’ military wing, unveiled the Ayyash 250 on Thursday, calling it their “most powerful rocket.” The group claimed it had launched the rockets toward Ramon Airport, located north of Eilat in southern Israel. The rockets reportedly landed in an unpopulated area outside the city, causing no injuries or damage.

The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) were reportedly surprised by the range of the rocket, which flew over 200 kilometers. According to The Times of Israel, the IDF previously believed the terror group’s rockets could not range farther than 160 kilometers.

The rocket is named for Yahya Ayyash, a former al-Qassam Brigades chief bomb-maker responsible for the deaths of many Israelis. He was eventually killed in a targeted operation by Israel in 1996.

Mohammed Deif, the military chief of al-Qassam Brigades, gave the order to use the Ayyash in an attempt to stop international airlines from operating in Israel. The IDF has attempted to kill Deif numerous times, including in 2014.

Al-Qassam Brigades also employed other rockets, including the SH-85, J-80, A-120, S-40, and Q-20. The numbers in their names normally indicate their maximum ranges in kilometers.

The terror group launched A-120 rockets at Jerusalem on Monday, marking the first time Hamas has targeted the city with rockets since 2014. The rockets hit a home but did not cause any injuries. The SH-85 was used against Ben Gurion International Airport on Wednesday, according to the group.

The A-120 is named for Raed al-Attar, and the SH-85 is named for Muhammad Abu Shamala – both al-Qasssam Brigades commanders killed by the IDF.

For its part, PIJ claimed it launched 100 rockets against Tel Aviv, Ashdod, Beersheba, and other cities. One of those was Ashkelon, an Israeli city near Gaza on the Mediterranean Sea. PIJ claimed that it launched Badr-3 rockets at the city of approximately 140,000 people.

Hamas and PIJ have developed many of these rocket capabilities with the help of the Islamic Republic of Iran. That is an awkward fact for the Biden administration, which is currently engaged in negotiations that may result in an agreement with Tehran that provides billions of dollars in sanctions relief and has no provisions to restrict the regime’s support for terrorist groups.

Regardless, Israel today is confronting rocket and missile threats that provide a preview of the indirect fire threats that American forces will face in the future. For the sake of both Israeli and American security, Washington and Jerusalem would be wise to strengthen their military research and development efforts to stay ahead of growing threats.

Bradley Bowman is senior director of the Center on Military and Political Power (CMPP) at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies (FDD). Joe Truzman is a research analyst at FDD’s Long War Journal. For more analysis from the authors, CMPP, and the Long War Journal, please subscribe HERE. Follow the authors on Twitter @Brad_L_Bowman and @Jtruzmah. Follow FDD on Twitter @FDD and @FDD_CMPP and @LongWarJournal. FDD is a Washington, DC-based, nonpartisan research institute focusing on national security and foreign policy.


Iran Iran Global Threat Network Iran-backed Terrorism Israel Jihadism Military and Political Power Palestinian Politics The Long War