The Israeli Air Force bombed 40 mosques in Gaza Tuesday night, July 30, in the most extensive operation against Hamas’ religious institutions-cum-military bases so far. In total, at least 50 mosques have been blown up along with their stockpiles of rockets and arms caches.
These concentrated air strikes on rocket arsenals are as integral to Operation Protective Edge as the ground work in destroying tunnels. They have been stepped up in advance of the preparations launched by the government on Wednesday for the possible termination of the IDF ground operation in the Gaza Strip and the withdrawal of troops.
debkafile's sources say that the order to end the ground operation in Gaza would not mean that the war is over. There are no illusions about the Palestinian extremist groups laying down their arms. In practical terms, therefore, Israeli troops will regroup and spread out along the border as a barrier against future Hamas attempts to keep up its terror offensive by means of cross-border commando raids using undiscovered tunnels and firing rockets and mortars into Israel.
Israel’s war planners believe the IDF ranged outside the Gaza border is capable of repelling these assaults by means of tank and artillery fire and air force drones.
The confrontation with Hamas will thus morph into an ongoing war of attrition.
This past week has also seen the first deployment in action of the Air Force’s brand new Hermes 900 UAV, an unmanned aircraft also known as the Star. Never before used in wartime operations, the drone’s debut was rushed forward because of its useful properties: The aircraft can fly nonstop for 30 hours at an altitude of 30,000 feet, the while conducting surveillance, gathering intelligence and relaying communications to and from military personnel in the field.
Star carries 300 kg of attack weaponry. Its cockpit and operating systems are superior to previous models, enabling commander, operator and crew to work together seamlessly.
It has been functioning almost nonstop in the Gaza operation with great success.
Manufactured by Elbit Systems, the drone had until this week only flown test flights and was not scheduled to become operational until 2015. But Operation Protective Edge called for an upgraded version of the Air Force’s Hermes 450 – a UAV that flies similar missions — and so the 900 was fast-tracked into the fleet.
As it is relatively untested in battle, the Star is only being used for certain types of missions. When the current war ends, the air force will resume further study of its performance in emergency situations and diverse altitudes and weather conditions.