Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Rockets pose bigger threat to Israel than nukes

Hezbollah Katyushas: ready to strike
Israeli Towns

Terrorists have recently fired rockets at Israeli towns from Gaza-- a situation that has the potential to become much more serious than people realize due to the opening of Gaza's border with Egypt.

Now there has been a rocket attack from Lebanon:

Northern Border Quiet after Barrage

The spokesman for the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine in Lebanon announced that two of its operatives were lightly wounded Wednesday morning in an IAF strike against their bases in Lebanon. The strike came hours after the northern town of Kiryat Shmona was hit by Katyusha rocket fire.

The IAF confirmed that it carried out an air strike early Wednesday against a base belonging to the PFLP, a small Syrian-backed non-Islamist terror group in southern Lebanon. Wednesday's air raid was the second on Naameh since the Israeli troop withdrawal from Lebanon in 2000.

The PFLP denied that they were behind the Katyusha attack against Israel. Hizbullah likewise denied responsibility.

OC Northern Commander Maj.-Gen. Udi Adam said the IDF knew which of the Palestinian groups was responsible for the attack on Kiryat Shmona. He said the Palestinian terrorist organizations in Lebanon were trying to escalate the violence in the area.

Maj.-Gen. Adam added that he hoped they understood the message, otherwise, he warned, the IDF would help them understand. He stressed that the army's response was balanced, and will continue in the same manner.

"The main message that we passed, and we are trying to give, is that the Lebanese government must take responsibility for what happens in its territory," Adam told The Associated Press. "If Kiryat Shmona residents don't sleep quietly," the northern commander said "then the residents of Beirut won't sleep quietly. This is an unequivocal message."

"This is in response to the firing of projectile rockets last night toward Israeli communities," the IDF said, and noted that it views such attacks with "extreme severity" and holds Lebanon responsible. Complete Article.
Iranian nuclear weapons would, of course, be the most serious threat of all-- not only to Israel but to the entire region. However, it seems pretty clear that Iran does not have nukes at this time.

But terrorist forces in Lebanon do have conventional rockets at this point. What makes them so dangerous is the tremendous number that they have, their mobility-- and their range.

Here is a brief excerpt from an article in The Middle East Quarterly that gives a very clear picture of the dangers involved:

Hezbollah's Strategic Threat to Israel
by Patrick Devenny

In May 2005, as international pressure increased for Hezbollah's disarmament, the group's spiritual leader, Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah, announced, "They say [we have] 12,000 rockets ... I say more than 12,000 rockets."It was the first time Nasrallah had ever publicly quantified Hezbollah's arsenal.

The risk of escalation has increased in recent years as internal events in Lebanon become less predictable and as Iranian and Hezbollah activities and interests have come into greater conflict with U.S. and Israeli security concerns. A number of scenarios exist in which Hezbollah might order a missile strike against Israel. As the Iranian government works to develop nuclear weapons, both the U.S. and Israeli leadership may consider a military strike to delay achievement of that capability. Hezbollah may also be tempted to apply its deterrent to Israeli actions in any renewed conflict with Palestinian groups or strike at Israel as it lays a claim to a greater regional role or to Jerusalem.

The Threat
The Hezbollah missile threat to Israel has expanded not only in quantity but also in quality. In recent years, the group's operational artillery reach has grown. Experts and analysts generally put the Hezbollah rocket force somewhere between 10,000 and 12,000 missiles. The heart of this arsenal remains rooted in Hezbollah's massive stocks—perhaps 7,000 to 8,000—of 107mm and 122mm Katyusha rockets, virtually all of which were supplied directly from existing Iranian army stocks.

Of far greater concern to Israel than these antiquated and relatively short-range projectiles are Hezbollah's growing stocks of Fajr-3 and Fajr-5 rockets. Iran began large-scale delivery of the Fajr-3 in 2000 and the Fajr-5 in 2002, with the approval of Syrian president Bashar al-Assad. Iranian cargo and passenger jets transport the weaponry from Iran to Damascus International Airport where they can be off-loaded by Hezbollah agents and members of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps.

The weapons are then trucked to the Bekaa Valley. Other reports suggest some Iranian cargo flights land at Beirut International Airport, providing Hezbollah with a more direct supply route although this process may have changed with the Syrian withdrawal from Lebanon and the change in Lebanese government.

The Fajr-type rocket represents a significant upgrade to any threat assessment of Hezbollah. Designed by Iran with aid from China and North Korea, both classes of weapons are fired from mobile launchers, including customized Japanese trucks, and carry 200 pound high-explosive payloads. The Fajr-3 has a range of 25 miles while its more powerful upgrade, the Fajr-5, has a range of 45 miles. Accordingly, the Fajr extends Hezbollah's strike range well beyond Haifa.

Adding the Fajr rockets to the mix, however, raises the threat. Haifa, Israel's third largest city with a population of some 270,000 people, now lies within Hezbollah range. Even a modest barrage of 75 Fajr-5 rockets hitting the city would represent 15,000 pounds of high explosives detonating in the midst of a densely populated cosmopolitan area. The coastal cities of Acre and Nahariya—with populations of 55,000 and 41,000 respectively—might expect an even heavier assault due to Hezbollah's ability to target them with both the Fajr-3 and Fajr-5 models. While the Fajrs are not very precise—the sheer number of rockets at Hezbollah's disposal makes Israel vulnerable.

Any Hezbollah barrage will not likely be random, however. The group's external intelligence service has concentrated recently on targets and trajectory algorithm selection. In January 2005, Israeli security detained Danish citizen Iyad ash-Shua after he was caught filming northern Israeli military installations on behalf of Hezbollah.[9] The arrests of other Hezbollah agents have indicated the group's special interest in fuel refineries and military bases around Haifa.

Credible Defense?
Discovering the missile positions has been a challenge for the Israeli military. While the bulk of the short-range Katyushas are situated in the southern border region of Lebanon controlled by Hezbollah since the Israeli withdrawal of May 2000, the Fajrs are more elusive. Hezbollah has likely pre-selected a network of firing positions close to the Israeli-Lebanese border that would enable rapid launch procedures and accurate targeting measurements. Truck-mounted launchers, though, can be disguised to travel on civilian roads without attracting attention.(cont'd)

More background information:
Why Hizbollah may be the next target for the U.S.
The Lebanese-Israeli border (analysis and photos)

(Cross posted on A Deeper Look).


Epaminondas said...

Israel's security, and in this PARTICULAR set of circumstances, ours, might actually be increased IN THE END, if there is a cataclysmic regional war.

We have to think clearly to the end game.

If there is gooing to be a strike at Iran (and I believe there is..must be after the idiot racist nebbish twerp of Iran's words) then Israel simply cannot ignore the other virulent racists, named here, Hizballah. Hizballah WILL strike as well in retaliation. So take them out first.

I'm thinking off the top of my head, and not yet saying this would be a good thing to do, but...

unaha-closp said...

A targeted Israeli strike on Iran's nuclear facilities would prove difficult logistically. Iran is both farther away from Israel than was Iraq, and its nuclear sites are dispersed over a wide area. Iran would likely respond to any Israeli strike on its nuclear facilities with a Hezbollah missile barrage, thereby exacting revenge while maintaining its own distance. The aggregate Israeli conventional threat against the Iranian nuclear program is minor in comparison to a potential Hezbollah response targeting Israel and its economy.

What chance an Israeli nuclear attack against Iranian facilities? As pointed out the mission will be logistically difficult, but this could be made less so with the use of nuclear warheads.

Krishna109 said...

Sometimes I wonder if some of the things public officials say are just for propaganda purposes. For instance, an Iranian nuclear attack vs. Israel-- Israel is so tiny (about the size of New Jersey) that a nuclear strike anywhere in Israel would probably also eliminate all of the "Palistinians"!!! Look at the map:

(The blue area is actually Israel + the West Bank + Gaza-- Israel proper is much smaller!)

The other thing that people don't often mention-- Israel's existance is crucial for all the Aran states (& Iraq). They would never wipe them out!