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Nov 15, 2012 | 16:48 GMT

Israel: Long-Range Rockets From Gaza

Israel: Long-Range Rockets From Gaza
Uriel Sinai/Getty Images
Summary

A rocket reportedly fired from Gaza had a range far in excess of anything launched from the Palestinian territory. The rockets fired from Gaza struck Rishon LeZion, a southern suburb of Tel Aviv well within Israel's central metropolitan area. Given the range of the suburb from Gaza, Stratfor believes that the rockets used could be Fajr-5s.

According to Israel Defense Forces, the Israeli air force struck some 20 targets across the Gaza Strip, including bunkers and storage sites hosting Fajr-5 rockets, following the targeted strike on Ahmed Jabari. After the Israeli air force strikes, the Israeli defense minister stated that most of the Fajr rockets had been hit. The Israeli military also released video feeds and imagery of what it claimed to be Fajr-5 rockets and launch sites in Gaza.

Range of Gaza Rockets

Range of Gaza Rockets

The IDF's decision to stage the coordinated strike is very likely linked to its confidence that it has identified the vast bulk of the Fajr-5 rocket sites. With one coordinated strike, the IDF believes it has knocked out the majority of the Fajr-5 sites. The Gaza militants also recognize that the Fajr-5s will be a high priority, and they will be under pressure to use them before they are destroyed. 

Nov. 14 was not the first time that the Israeli air force struck Fajr-5s in Gaza. On March 11, a spokesman for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said that the Israeli air force had targeted a Fajr-5 launch site. The Nov. 14 strike, however, represented the first coordinated and simultaneous strike on multiple Fajr-5 rocket sites.

The Fajr rockets, and in particular the Fajr-5, pose a significant threat to Israel. The Fajr-5 is a solid propellant 333 mm diameter rocket with a maximum reported range of 75 kilometers (about 46 miles). The Fajr-5 packs a sizable warhead weighing 90 kilograms (200 pounds) that can use high explosives, incendiary or fragmentation explosives or even submunitions. With its reported range, Fajr-5 rockets fired from Gaza can reach Dimona, Jerusalem and Tel Aviv.

It is much harder for Israel to intercept the Fajr-5 in comparison to shorter-range Katyusha-type rockets. On Nov. 4, shortly before the launch of Operation Pillar of Defense, the Israeli Defense Ministry announced that a series of tests on the upcoming fifth Iron Dome anti-rocket battery had succeeded. The newest Iron Dome battery, which is equipped with an upgraded radar system and computing ability, will theoretically be able to intercept Fajr-5 rockets.

Aside from the Nov. 15 reports that rockets were fired at Rishon LeZion, reports from Nov. 14 also indicated that rockets fired from Gaza had struck Dimona, a city in the Negev Desert in close proximity to the Negev Nuclear Research Center and the Nevatim Israeli air force air base. Dimona is located approximately 70 kilometers from the Gaza Strip, placing it beyond all known rocket ranges in the Gaza militants' arsenal except the Fajr-5.

The Israelis have repeatedly indicated that striking Tel Aviv or other major cities such as Jerusalem would cross a redline and would likely cause massive retaliation on militant positions. Given the fairly large dimensions of the rocket — the rocket is approximately 6.5 meters long (about 21 feet) — it is far harder for militants in Gaza to conceal the rockets in comparison to the smaller Qassam or Grad rockets in their inventory. This makes it far easier for Israel Defense Forces to locate the rockets in comparison to the larger number of smaller rockets in Gaza.

The Nov. 14 coordinated strike clearly demonstrates that Israel has been successful in its consistent efforts to collect intelligence on the location of significant Gaza militant weapons and stockpiles. The strike was very similar to the initial airstrikes undertaken in the early stages of the 2006 Lebanon War, when the Israeli air force largely dismantled Hezbollah's longer-range rocket arsenal. This reinforces the fact that while these bigger rockets provide a greater capability, they are also more visible and therefore less survivable.

Visit our Israel page for related analysis, videos, situation reports and maps.

Significantly, it was only Oct. 23 that the Israeli air force is believed to have carried out a deep penetration strike to destroy a weapons cache in Khartoum, Sudan. In that strike, a series of explosions shook the Yarmouk munitions factory in Sudan. Satellite imagery later showed a series of craters similar to the ones that would result from airdropped ordnance. There is reason to believe that the Yarmouk facility was used either to produce Fajr-type rockets or as a transit point for the rockets coming from Iran and heading to Gaza. Eliminating a substantial shipment of rockets before it reached Gaza would have been crucial to mitigate the risk of the current fight. If true, this demonstrates the IDF's seriousness and resolve in keeping this capability out of Hamas' arsenal.

As the fighting between Israel Defense Forces and the militants in Gaza escalates, the IDF will continue to place a very high priority on dismantling any remaining Fajr-5 rockets. As it stands, the Israeli military is reporting that it is fairly confident that most of the rockets have been destroyed. Still, it will continue to closely monitor the information generated by its intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance assets for any sign that some of the Fajr-5s are still operational.

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