Israel’s successful conclusion of Operation Breaking Dawn capped several achievements for the Israel Defense Forces that highlighted its technical prowess and vaunted intelligence capabilities. The clash also underscored the extent to which terror entities in Gaza have lost political capital in the two years since the signing of the Abraham Accords. During the conflict, the IDF excelled both offensively and defensively and Israel’s nemesis to the north, Hezbollah, has taken notice. The Iranian proxy militia has engaged in some saber rattling recently but it is keenly aware of Israel’s military capabilities and its own military and political limitations.
When it was first deployed just over a decade ago, Israel’s Iron Dome rocket defense system maintained a success rate of between 75 to 78 percent. Continuous software and hardware improvements to Iron Dome have made the system 97 percent effective.
According to information released by the Meir Amit Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center, in 66 hours between August 5, and August 7, the Palestinian Islamic Jihad fired some 1,175 rockets at Israel and 990 of these landed in Israeli territory. Iron Dome intercepted 450 rockets. The remaining rockets landed in open areas. Iron Dome is programmed to launch only if the system determines that the rocket’s flight path poses a danger to civilians or critical infrastructure, thus increasing its efficiency and cost effectiveness.
There was speculation that Israel also tested a new weapon called Iron Beam, which can destroy rockets at a distance of 4.5 kilometers, with laser pulses but the IDF has not confirmed this rumor. Iron Beam has three advantages over Iron Dome. First, it’s inexpensive. A burst from Iron Beam costs about $2 to $3 whereas each Iron Dome Tamir missile costs between $20,000 to $70,000 (depending on the source). Second, there is no need to manufacture missiles, and third, a hit from Iron Beam generates less debris.
However, Iron Beam also has its disadvantages in that its capabilities are degraded during inclement weather. In addition, the laser pulse needs to remain on target for about 4 to 5 seconds before detonating the rocket. Moreover, its effective operational range is less than Iron Dome’s though efforts are currently underway to increase its operational range to 12 kilometers. Israel is working at full speed to further develop Iron Beam and has partnered with the United States in this endeavor. It is expected to be deployed in the near future and will complement rather than supplement Iron Dome.
Hezbollah’s missile and rocket arsenals far exceed those of Hamas and the PIJ combined. It is believed that Hezbollah has amassed an inventory of some 150,000 rockets and missiles, ranging from primitive 107mm unguided rockets to guided Scud B and C missiles that are capable of leveling city blocks.
During the 2006 Second Lebanon War, the Israeli Air Force managed to destroy all of Hezbollah’s long-range missiles in the first few hours of the conflict, severely limiting Hezbollah’s strategic options, but short-range rockets were more difficult to detect, and these posed a nuisance to Israel’s northern communities up until the very end of the war.
Consequently, it is believed that in a future conflict with Hezbollah, Israel will quickly resort to boots on the ground to deny the enemy territory from which it can launch its rockets. Until that territory is seized, Israel will have to rely on its multitiered missile and rocket defense systems to keep Israeli communities safe. These would include Arrow II and III, David’s Sling, Iron Dome and perhaps even Iron Beam. In addition, all of Lebanon and parts of Syria would be covered with hunter drones and fighter jets on the prowl for targets, and these aerial elements would be supplemented by computer-directed artillery fire and Multiple Launch Rocket Systems (MLRS).
Operation Breaking Dawn also highlighted Israel’s superior intelligence capabilities. The IDF acting in concert with various intelligence branches was able to pinpoint the whereabouts of the PIJ’s senior commanders with remarkable precision. They were able locate the buildings, the floors and the rooms the terrorists were congregating at, and then fired missiles through the windows. That is an impressive feat, even by Israeli standards.
Israel was also able to detect and target PIJ terror tunnels which were promptly neutralized. Shortly after the conflict, Israel detected a Hamas tunnel that had penetrated slightly into Israel, though it failed to reach the underground anti-tunnel barrier that Israel had installed and posed no threat to Israeli communities. Nevertheless, the tunnel was neutralized. From December 2018 until January 2019, Israel detected and neutralized six Hezbollah tunnels that had taken years to construct, depriving the terrorist group of a major strategic asset.
Like Gaza, Israel has Lebanon and Syria under constant surveillance. Drones and satellites keep these failed states, where Hezbollah operates, under watch 24/7, 365 days a year. In addition, the majority of Lebanese despise Hezbollah and 80 percent of Lebanon’s citizens live at or below the poverty line enabling Israeli intelligence to draw from a vast, fertile pool of angry and impoverished Lebanese for information gathering and spying. There is little that Hezbollah can do without Israel knowing about it.
Finally, Operation Breaking Dawn highlighted significant political achievements for Israel. There was a time where any Israeli military action would produce instant condemnation from the Arab and Muslim world. This did not occur in this round of fighting. The Sunni Arab world, recognizing the inherent malevolence of Iran’s mullahs and its proxies, has slowly gravitated away from the formulaic, kneejerk dogmatic responses involving condemnation of Israel. This positive trend has only accelerated since the signing of the Abraham Accords, which witnessed the clinching of multiple peace treaties between Israel and her Arab neighbors.
Hezbollah’s military capabilities are far greater than the combined might of Gaza’s terrorist groups and their threats should be taken seriously. Nevertheless, should Hezbollah embark on another reckless adventure, it will experience devastation on an unparalleled scale, and the Arab world will be cheering from the sidelines.