Over the past eight months, the security apparatus assembled joint teams comprised of Military Intelligence, Shin Bet, and Air Force representatives who “sat” on the Islamic Jihad leadership figures in the Gaza Strip, anticipated their future moves, and, in effect, followed their every move, News 12 reported Sunday morning.
Those young men and women in MI, the Shin Bet, and IAF knew these high-ranking figures as closely as was conceivable, according to a source privy to the details of the operation, who said their level of familiarity with those Jihad commanders was “more intimate than with their spouses.” They knew all their associates, their vehicles, and what time they prayed, and devote enormous resources to learning more.
In addition to all this information, Israel’s security apparatus had additional capabilities that were perfected at three levels: visual intelligence (using unmanned aircraft that followed those commanders everywhere), human intelligence (informants inside the Gaza Strip), and Sigint intelligence – communication surveillance through advanced cyber capabilities. These allowed Israel to know where the senior officials were, down to the level of which room inside a given apartment, in addition to information about who was there with them, which impacted the decision of whether or not to attack.
The teams were able to keep up their deep level of observation even after the initial attack that took out three Jihad commanders, in the consequent rolling operation, and still manages to offer quality intelligence to help take down three additional senior commanders, one within hours of his appointment.
However, no matter how mind-boggling Israel’s intelligence capabilities are, they cannot be used to influence change inside the Gaza Strip. The best they can do––which is still very impressive––is sever any given senior terrorist. It cannot determine who would succeed him, and, more important, it cannot impact policy.
And so, while the Israeli lesson has likely not been lost on the Islamic Jihad, nor the real rulers of Gaza, the Hamas, in the end, the Jihad can celebrate its own success, albeit limited: for five days, it managed to hit Israel with close to 1,000 rockets (the rest, about 300, fell in Gazan territory, killing several Arabs). As a result, despite its clear military inferiority, the Jihad caused a freeze of civic life in southern Israel, and managed to have the last word: it was a Jihad volley of rockets that came in just before the ceasefire went into effect Saturday night.
Meanwhile, by resolving to leave Hamas alone and focus only on the Jihad, Israel has established Hamas as the unquestioned owner of the Strip. It was a little like those cautionary tales about the villagers who killed all the snakes, only to discover that their fields became flooded with rodents. If Israel is developing a doctrine of a state of symbiosis with Hamas – this would be a destructive doctrine which, coupled with Israel’s faith in the ability of the Iron Dome system to block 90 to 95 percent of incoming rockets, would result in catastrophe.