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Research Report

The Missile Threat from Gaza:: From Nuisance to Strategic Threat

Uzi Rubin
Copyright Date: Dec. 1, 2011
Pages: 81

Table of Contents

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  1. (pp. [i]-[ii])
  2. (pp. [iii]-[iv])
  3. (pp. 1-7)
    Uzi Rubin

    When the first Qassam rocket landed in the town of Sderot in October 2001, few observers, if any, perceived it as the harbinger of a protracted and increasingly furious campaign by the radical Palestinian groups in Gaza against Israel's population centers adjacent to the Gaza Strip (the so called "Gaza envelope" communities) by ballistic weapons. This campaign, in the ensuing eight years, would see the firing of close to 5,000 rockets and 2,500 mortar bombs, killing 27 people,¹ causing heavy economic losses and leading to partial evacuation of residents. It would swell to such intolerable proportions as to compel the...

  4. (pp. 8-12)

    The use of rockets as weapons of war rather than for entertainment (such as firework shows) probably began in China about 1,000 years ago. In the 17th century, local rulers of India already possessed effective rocket artillery with a range of several kilometers, some with explosive warheads fired from multiple-barrel launchers. The rapid rate of fire achieved by simultaneous launchings ("salvo fire") compensated, to a large extent, for the poor accuracy of each individual rocket. The British, embarking upon the conquest of the Indian sub-continent, were so impressed by the rocket weapon of their local foes that they adopted the...

  5. (pp. 13-26)

    The first rocket was fired from the Gaza Strip toward the Israeli town of Sderot, located northeast of Gaza, in October 2001 – about one year into the second Palestinian uprising (the "Second Intifada" or "Al-Aqsa Intifada," which broke out on September 28, 2000). In contrast to the rockets hitherto fired on Israel, mostly from Lebanon, this harbinger of the Gaza offensive was a homemade rocket designed and manufactured by the Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades, the military arm of Hamas. The available literature does not offer many details on the motives of Hamas' military wing in selecting rocket artillery as...

  6. (pp. 27-58)

    Artillery rockets of all kinds, including those fired by the Palestinian organizations, are in essence indirect fire weapons – for all intents and purposes indistinguishable from artillery shells or mortar bombs, except for their mode of propulsion. Direct fire projectiles have low flying, flat trajectories that can be blocked by erecting barriers across their path (such as protective walls around buildings). However indirect fire projectiles, like artillery rockets, follow high ballistic trajectories that overfly ground barriers; hence, they require more elaborate responses. Four categories of responses – both offensive and defensive – can be envisaged:

    a) Preemption - Denying the...

  7. (pp. 59-62)

    While an in depth study of the behavior and mood of the population and local officials in the targeted areas as well as the general Israeli public and leaders is beyond the scope of the study, a short review is offered here.

    The public attitude among residents of the Gaza envelope towards the rocket campaign can be divided into two stages: a stage of equanimity followed by a stage of apprehension. The first stage was characterized by a low level of attention to what was considered a mere nuisance, due to the relatively low rate of rocket fire, little amount...

  8. (pp. 63-67)

    The Gaza rocket offensive has continued for more than nine years. In its early stages, in the latter part of 2001, it was no more than a footnote to the Al-Aqsa Intifada raging across Israel at the time, but after the Hamas takeover of the Gaza Strip in June 2007 it turned into a full-blown conflict between the State of Israel and the Hamas government in Gaza. By September 2010 (time of writing) the campaign had been relatively quiet for over 18 months, with the rocket fire dwindling to a "trickle" and with no major Israeli military action against Hamas...

  9. (pp. 68-70)

    In the 10 months that have passed since the publication of the Hebrew version of this study, the intensity and general pattern of the Gaza rocket offensive has evolved in a predictable manner. On the whole, the "drizzle" of rocket fire has persisted over this period, interrupted by brief cycles of escalation that subsequently petered down again to a "drizzle".

    Two escalation cycles have been recorded to date: one in early April 2011 and the second in late August 2011. In both cases, the rocket fire intensified after Israel attacked targets in the Gaza Strip, killing Palestinian combatants or civilians....

  10. (pp. 71-77)