Islamic Jihad and Hamas Are Getting Better at Making Rockets

September 21, 2022 | Uzi Rubin
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During its brief conflict with Israel last month, Palestinian Islamic Jihad managed to fire an average of 588 rockets and mortars per day. Put into the context of previous confrontations, that is a dramatic escalation over the average of 400 projectiles fired by terrorist groups in Gaza during the 2021 war, and 220 during the brief 2019 conflict. Uzi Rubin delves into these and related data to argue that the minimal casualties and physical damage Israel suffered during these exchanges are the product of the IDF’s ever-improving defensive capabilities, rather than any failings on the part of its enemies. He explains the implications:

Since even a failed launch causes alarms to be sounded in Israel that send the population to the bomb shelters and disrupt routine life, it is perhaps more cost effective for the armed Palestinian militias in Gaza to invest more effort in increasing the quantity of their rockets rather than spend the costly and time-consuming effort to make them more reliable.

With everything else being equal, producing and firing rockets is cheaper than shooting them down. Contrary to Clausewitz’s dictum that defense is easier than offense, in the case of missile warfare, and at the current state of military technology, the opposite is true: rocket and missile offense is easier than rocket and missile defense. . . . Instead of investing in fancy decoys, [Palestinian groups] invest in larger stockpiles of missile and rocket and in ever-growing fleets of survivable launchers. The idea is to drown the defenses under a veritable deluge of rocket and missiles, synchronized with an onslaught of cruise missiles and UAVs.

[T]he evidence is that all of Israel’s efforts to block the smuggling of machinery, raw materials, and components to the Gaza production lines are not too effective and are unable to stem the Gaza rocket buildup. It stands to reason that this buildup will eventually peak since there must be some inherent limitations of manpower, production capacity, and launching sites in Gaza. By the same token, the growth of Israel’s defensive capabilities is also sure to hit some ceiling eventually, due to several limiting factors, most importantly that of finances.

In other words, Israel and Gaza are locked in a technological arms race and, Rubin concludes, “there is no assurance that Israel will ultimately prevail.”

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