How Israel Spirited Five Boats Out of France and Transformed Naval Warfare Forever

In 1961, the Israeli navy, seeking a way to overcome its small size and small budget, began research into an unprecedented idea: arming small craft—too small to be equipped with heavy cannon—with missiles. These ships could blow much larger ships out of the water, and sophisticated radar would give them a high likelihood of hitting their targets. After a decade of intensive research and development, Jerusalem contracted with a French shipyard to build the vessels, which the IDF would later arm and equip. But, after seven of twelve were delivered, Charles de Gaulle got cold feet.

Abraham Rabinovich tells the gripping story of how Israel snuck the ships out of France, and the even more gripping story of their first battle—by which time the Soviets had built missile boats of their own and given them to their Arab allies. And the IDF had learned that the Styx missiles on the Soviet vessels had nearly twice the range of those on their own:

Guessing at the electronic parameters of the Styx radar, the navy’s chief electronics officer, Ḥerut Tzemaḥ, [had] devised electronic countermeasures to divert incoming missiles. He also recommended as a backup rockets firing chaff—strips of aluminum that confuse radar. The efficacy of this anti-Styx umbrella could be tested only in combat. If he had guessed wrong, the war at sea would end quickly.

The first time the entire missile-boat flotilla engaged in maneuvers was the first week in October 1973. The boats returned to their base the morning before Yom Kippur, a day before the war’s outbreak. On the first night, four Israeli missile boats engaged three Syrian missile boats off the Syrian port of Latakia in the first-ever missile-to-missile battle at sea. The Syrians, as expected, fired first.

The Israeli sailors watched fireballs arcing into the sky and then descend straight at them. All knew that every Styx fired at an Israeli target until now had hit. The crewmen’s lives hung now on Tzemaḥ’s educated guess regarding the Styx. In the final seconds of their trajectory, the missiles succumbed to an unseen force tugging at them and plunged into the sea. The Soviet-built boats in the Arab fleets had no such electronic defenses.

The Israeli vessels off Latakia closed range and destroyed two of the Syrian missile boats with Gabriels as well as two other warships. The captain of the third Syrian missile boat, witnessing what happened to his comrades and with no missiles left, drove his boat onto the shore so that he and his crew could escape. In a reprise two nights later, three Egyptian missile boats were sunk near Alexandria.

Read more at Jerusalem Post

More about: Charles de Gaulle, IDF, Israeli history, Israeli technology, Naval strategy, Yom Kippur War

Only Hamas’s Defeat Can Pave the Path to Peace

Opponents of the IDF’s campaign in Gaza often appeal to two related arguments: that Hamas is rooted in a set of ideas and thus cannot be defeated militarily, and that the destruction in Gaza only further radicalizes Palestinians, thus increasing the threat to Israel. Rejecting both lines of thinking, Ghaith al-Omar writes:

What makes Hamas and similar militant organizations effective is not their ideologies but their ability to act on them. For Hamas, the sustained capacity to use violence was key to helping it build political power. Back in the 1990s, Hamas’s popularity was at its lowest point, as most Palestinians believed that liberation could be achieved by peaceful and diplomatic means. Its use of violence derailed that concept, but it established Hamas as a political alternative.

Ever since, the use of force and violence has been an integral part of Hamas’s strategy. . . . Indeed, one lesson from October 7 is that while Hamas maintains its military and violent capabilities, it will remain capable of shaping the political reality. To be defeated, Hamas must be denied that. This can only be done through the use of force.

Any illusions that Palestinian and Israeli societies can now trust one another or even develop a level of coexistence anytime soon should be laid to rest. If it can ever be reached, such an outcome is at best a generational endeavor. . . . Hamas triggered war and still insists that it would do it all again given the chance, so it will be hard-pressed to garner a following from Palestinians in Gaza who suffered so horribly for its decision.

Read more at Washington Institute for Near East Policy

More about: Gaza War 2023, Hamas, Israeli-Palestinian Conflict