There's No Way to Completely Stop Rocket Fire, Top Israeli Officer Says

High-ranking air force figure says Israel is working to eliminate launchers and top Hamas militants; adds: Gaza-area communities may always face rockets.

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Cars hit by mortar shells fired from Gaza, in a kibbutz near the border, August 22, 2014.Credit: Police spokesman

Under the current circumstances, areas of Israel that are close to the border with the Gaza Strip will continue to face rockets and mortar shells fired from the territory because there is no way to completely stop this activity, whether from the air or the ground. That, according to a high-ranking officer in the Israel Air Force, who spoke Sunday on condition of anonymity.

The officer said that in response to the recent increase in mortar fire, the Israel Defense Forces has in the past two days been “working relatively aggressively.” He added that the focus is on obtaining intelligence on launch sites in order to facilitate strikes on their operators.

The IAF has noticed that over the past few days Hamas has been firing mainly mortar shells and short-range rockets, and very few mid- and long-range rockets that can reach greater Tel Aviv and beyond. “Mortar fire is the main threat that harms us, and so the mix of assignments has changed. But we are prepared to continue fighting — no one will stop us,” said the officer, who said the IDF and the IAF were now focused on hitting mortar launchers and senior Hamas operatives.

When asked if last week’s assassination attempt on the head of the Hamas military wing, Mohammed Deif, was considered a success, the officer said that in his opinion the fact that Israel was able to locate him was a success. “And I hope Military Intelligence will slowly bring us the information we are hoping for,” he added.

The IDF has not changed its policies with regard to trying to avoid civilian casualties, he said, but he added that the Israeli military has identified mortar and rocket launch sites near schools, hospitals and buildings where displaced Gazans have found refuge during the fighting.

Though several Israeli communities have been hit by rockets over the past few days, the IAF does not think the Iron Dome system has become less effective. The air force said the interception rate remained at 85 percent to 90 percent. New systems to provide active defense against mortar shells are in the process of development.

According to IAF data, at least 10 shoulder-fired anti-aircraft missiles targeted IAF aircraft during the fighting, but none were hit. “To a certain extent, we were surprised by the advanced level of shoulder-fired anti-aircraft missiles they have [in Gaza],” the officer said.

He declined to comment on reports that an Israeli intelligence drone had been shot down over Iran.

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