The Drones of Hamas

The most important part of this July 16 article (while the war in Gaza is raging), which I translated from the Italian on-line defense magazine Analisi Difesa, are the last two lines. They reveal what should be clear to anyone who can count, and possesses a little knowledge of military technology; that is, the fact that the terrorist organization Hamas, that controls Gaza (hopefully not for long), actually has a certain strategic advantage over Israel.
Hamas is capable of producing large quantities of inexpensive low-technology rocket projectiles (or modifying existing ones), and now also simple unmanned aircraft, that can be launched into Israeli territory.
The Israeli military is forced to respond to the threat by developing and fielding anti-missiles systems (like Iron Dome and Patriot), which are much more expensive, and can be "saturated," for example by salvos of multiple rockets, fired simultaneously. A system like Iron Dome won't be able to follow and intercept all the rockets; and even if it did, the cost ratio between a Tamir missile (used by Iron Dome) and a ballistic unguided rocket is probably around 50 to 1. Not to mention the very high cost of the Patriot missiles (more than $ 1,000,000 each), used to shoot down cheap unmanned aircraft that cost less than an economy automobile. That is not sustainable, in the long term.
The only solution is to destroy the rockets and the drones where they are kept, before they are even launched; and that's another reason why Israel needs to regain control of the Gaza Strip.
You comments will be very appreciated. Thank you,
L. Pavese

Translated by Leonardo Pavese

After the long-range M-302 rockets, capable of reaching the whole Israeli territory, Hamas fielded the remote-controlled unmanned aircraft derived from the Iranian Ababil, built or modified in the Gaza strip; on July 14, 2014, at least one of them was shot down by an Israeli Patriot missile, from a launcher based near Ashod.
The Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades announced the launch of several drones from Gaza for “special missions,” and they stated that the flights “will continue for the next few days.”
According to the Islamic fundamentalist militia, the drones reached “the Israeli ministry of Defense, in Tel Aviv”. The announcement was met with jubilation from the minarets of Gaza, while al-Aqsa, Hamas’s TV continued to broadcast this new development all morning.

The fact that Hamas possessed unmanned aircraft was not really a surprise for the Israelis. During the past few days, the military broadcast service reported that, in the course of one of the Israeli air-strikes, several “kamikaze aircraft” had been destroyed; that is, aircraft that could have been fitted with a warhead and were meant to hit designated targets. On their part, the military wing of Hamas assured told the civilian population of Gaza that “that was only one of the many surprises they had in store for the enemy.”
Supposedly, Hamas’s drones are derivatives of the Iranian Ababil’s and Mohajer’s. They measure about three meters in length, and their wingspan is about three and one half meters. According to what Hamas declared, the engineers of the Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades have developed three basic models: one, equipped with a video-camera, is tasked with gathering intelligence-relevant imagery; one is designed to “attack the enemy,” launching weapons; and the third is the “suicide” version, which is meant to crash on selected targets, loaded with explosive.

According to Hamas, three waves of drones (each consisting of “more than one aircraft”) took off in three different directions. In the course of the operation, contact with one aircraft of wave no. 2, and one of wave no. 3 was lost. Nevertheless, the mission was deemed a success because the “drones,” as Hamas declared, “were able to reach the KiryĆ , the Israeli Defense Ministry, and make a video of it” although the images, so far, have not been divulged.
“We doubt that very much,” said the spokesman of the Israeli Air Force to military radio. “In any case, it would have been just a wasted effort, because the “drone” would not have uncovered anything that is not already visible on Google.”
In Israel the episode did not cause particular apprehension. At dawn, a Patriot air-defense system, deployed near Ashod (south of Tel Aviv), detected an unidentified aircraft and shot it down.


The Ababil is not a novelty in the sky of Israel. Two years ago, the Lebanese Hezbollah used it gather intelligence. On that occasion, too, one Ababil was shot down as it headed for the Dimona nuclear power plant.
The Israeli Defense Minister, Moshe Yaalon, called the remote controlled aircraft employed by the Palestinians “another example of the continuous attempts to strike us in any possible way,” but its immediate downing constitutes an example “of the readiness of the Israeli armed forces.”
The flight of the Palestinian UAV triggered the highest level of air alarm over the southern city of Ashod, and the creation by the Israeli military of an off-limits area around the Kibbutz Mordechai (just north of the Gaza strip) could be related to that.

For some time now, the threat represented by the UAVs employed  as flying bombs by Hamas and the Lebanese Hezbollah militia has gotten the attention of the Israeli military command. In November 2012, a military spokesman divulged a video shot by an Israeli UAV in which a Palestinian remote-controlled could be seen taxiing on the runway of Khan Younis in the Gaza Strip. At that time, the armed forces of Jerusalem had announced they had quashed Hamas’s attempt to build a fleet of unmanned airplanes.  But, last March, General Shachar Shohat, the air defense chief, expressed anew the fear that Hamas and Hezbollah could add a fleet of UAVs to the arsenals of unguided rockets.
“We will have to face dozens of unmanned airplanes, on both the northern and the southern front,” said the general during a March 11 conference in Tel Aviv in which he prefigured the risk of mass attacks, intended to saturate the air defenses, with dozens of mini-drones armed with a few pounds of explosives as well as larger ones carrying a greater war load.
Since the end of the 2006 war, Hezbollah has employed many UAVs for reconnaissance missions over Galilee, that were lost when intercepted by fighters or hit by antiaircraft fire. The Israeli estimate that the  Hezbollah’s fleet consists of 200 Ababil and Mohajer remote controlled aircraft of Iranian origin; and, last March, the Saudi newspaper al-Watan reported that Hezbollah had 14 Iranian drones based at its new military airport in the region of Baalbek.  
Supposedly, several disassembled drones reached the Gaza Strip through clandestine channels; and they were reassembled in the hidden workshops of the Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades, in which the relatively small Kassam rockets and the large M-302 rockets are also manufactured.

The UAVs are much slower and vulnerable than the rocket projectiles, but they are much more accurate because they can be remotely guided to the target, of which they can also transmit images up to moment from the impact. 
The Israeli air defense systems, like Iron Dome and Patriot, are capable of intercepting the drones, although at a very high cost. Within two years, Israel will also deploy a new laser-based air defense system, known as Iron Beam, which should be effective against rockets, artillery projectiles and small aircraft, at the cost of about $ 1,000 a shot, compared to the $ 20,000 of an Iron Dome’s Tamir missile and the $1,000,000, minimum, of a Patriot.

The images of the drones in the three-picture panel are from a video produced by Hamas. The image of the drone on the truck mounted launch rail depicts an Ababil UAV, and it's of Iranian origin. The last image shows Syrian vehicle launching unguided M-302's.

I'd like to thank J.J.P. for reviewing the English text.
L. Pavese  


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