Operation Cast Lead: Gaza strip 2008

(To Tiziano Ciocchetti)

From the 27 December 2008 to the 19 January 2009 the clash took place in the Gaza Strip between the IDF forces and Hamas militia.

The genesis of the short conflict occurs when a Hamas leader announces the end of the truce - which lasted about six months - with the State of Israel, resulting in the launch of rockets. Obliged to react, the Tel Aviv government launches the operation Molten lead. Since the beginning of the military activities, the IDF has shown the political difficulty of hitting an opponent, imbued with the ideology of martyrdom, who shields with about 1,5 millions of civilians residing in the strip.

The operation began with the simultaneous attack - against commands and police stations - of 40 F-16 which causes 160 dead among Hamas and 40 militia among civilians, partly affected during a patent delivery ceremony to policemen students.

The attack was budgeted for the 11,30 but was moved late in the afternoon due to adverse weather conditions. At this point the Hamas militia dispersed among the countless tunnels under the inhabited centers, where it was much harder to hit them. From densely populated areas have continued to launch rockets to Israeli centers, including those of Chinese manufacture from 122 mm with a range of 42 km, able to hit even three bases of aeronautics.

The Israelis responded by airborne, artillery, both land and naval attacks, still managing to eliminate 300 militias, including the pseudo interior minister of Hamas and other leaders. The terrestrial units of the IDF, with the wagons in mind Merkava IV, entered the strip operating attacks especially at night, being able to rely on a wide availability of thermal cameras night viewers.

The Israeli forces were obviously very careful not to expose their soldiers too much, but in an urban battle it is a very difficult undertaking, even if the IDF employ very protected infantry vehicles. In fact, the Army with the Star of David has armored vehicles for mechanized infantry made by modifying the hulls of battle wagons - such as the IDF ACHZARIT, obtained from the hulls of the T-55 of war prey, or i Namer, derived directly from the hulls of the Merkava IV -, able to collect shots that other means would not hold up. In addition, Israeli vehicles have the first active defense systems, capable of destroying approaching missile rockets and missiles, in this case by means of a sort of high density tungsten fragments discharge. It seems that this defensive system worked well, significantly reducing the number of damaged vehicles.

Some sources assert only one case in which an anti-tank rocket, launched by a Russian RPG-29 rocket launcher, managed to penetrate the spaced protection of a bulldozer D-9, used as a trailblazer of armored columns. THE Merkava II, III and IV, used in fights, were further protected with the addition of composite armor, despite these measures some were put out of action due to powerful underground explosive charges.

The fighting continued for several days, also affecting the tunnels with Egypt, through which pass large quantities of material for the Hamas militia and without any operation being put in place to evacuate the civilians from the strip; yet another proof of how complex the situation is.

Against the tunnel network, precision bombs were used with proximity spools (delayed), so that they exploded in depth, in order to break underground connections across the border.

From the beginning of the operation Molten lead, the Gaza Strip was divided into two segments, but no final assault was planned as the civilian casualties would have been too numerous. However in the course of the activities five units were used between armored and mechanized, with massive air support, both by aircraft and attack helicopters AH-64D Apache, as well as numerous UAVs in flight to monitor the situation.

The problem with the rockets is that they can be launched using timed devices, so that as fast as the reaction may be, militiamen can safely retreat into the tunnels, leaving the civilians exposed.

Compared to the two-year operation in Lebanon - operation Rain in the summer - The Israelis were quite adept at avoiding the militia's explosive traps. This time, no information has been released about the losses incurred and also for the press limits have been set to access the areas of operation.

The last ten days, the pressure of the IDF was continuous, without however intending to occupy densely populated areas, in the meantime a series of truces were agreed (three hours between the 12,00 and the 15,00), in which evacuation of non-combatants.

Despite the constant Israeli attacks, Hamas was able, albeit with great difficulty, to launch rockets (pictured below), although in an imprecise manner. In the end the 18 January 2009 came to a precarious cease-fire under pressure from international organizations. Following this agreement, the IDF withdrew from the territories of the strip by January 24, the date on which US President Obama took office.

Of course, Tel Aviv could not get an overwhelming victory, as it would have been an indispensable condition to occupy the entire Gaza Strip and seek Hamas militants among more than a million civilians. However, Islamic fundamentalists, backed by Iran, suffered severe blows and a part of the population realized that they were hostage and essentially defenseless.

It would appear that Israeli losses were contained, even though, unlike the 2006, much of the information remained secret.

The use by the Israelis of the TSEFA demining system, which consists of a rocket with explosive towing rope, a sort of evolution of the famous VIPERE (in the past also used by the Italian Army) e GIANT VIPER. In addition, the projectiles, with a time spool, have proved to be very effective from 120 mm Merkava, designed to accurately explode above targets, taking advantage of the possibilities offered by laser rangefinders.

The use of projectiles from 155 mm to white phosphorus, even with proximity spools, has caused considerable controversy, especially in the international sphere. This type of ammunition has the function of creating a dense smoke that impedes the vision of the enemy even in the presence of wind. It is also true that, if the IDF wanted to cause major losses, they could have used other weapons systems.

It seems clear that the solution can only go by removing the most radical wing of Hamas, currently in great difficulty, as it proved unable to support a military confrontation with the Jewish state and subjected the civil population of the strip to very serious risks. .

(photo: IDF)