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August 8, 2022 4:21 pm
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Israel Hails Military ‘Achievements’ Against Islamic Jihad as Gaza Tensions Remain

avatar by Sharon Wrobel

Palestinian Islamic Jihad militants gather at a mourning house for Palestinians who were killed during Israel-Gaza fighting, as a ceasefire holds, in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip, August 8, 2022. REUTERS/Ibraheem Abu Mustafa

As the ceasefire between Israel and the Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) held through Monday, officials on both sides claimed their victories, though analysts cautioned that the fighting did little to fundamentally alter the strategic calculus between Israel and militant groups in the Gaza Strip, none more important than Hamas.

“The strength and ingenuity of the Israel Defense Forces dealt a devastating blow to the enemy,” Prime Minister Yair Lapid said Monday. “It restored Israel’s deterrence. All our goals were achieved.”

During the fighting, which ended in an Egyptian-mediated truce on Sunday night, the IDF and its air force targeted and killed 12 PIJ fighters, including two of its senior commanders, Taysir Mahmoud al-Jabari and Khaled Saeed Mansour. In addition, the Israeli army took out a number of PIJ military sites and destroyed underground tunnels across the Gaza Strip.

“This was a very narrow tactical operation with limited targets and a huge tactical success,” said Tamir Hayman,  Managing Director at the Institute for National Security Studies (INSS), during a briefing Monday. “But there is no real change in the situation in Gaza and it did not relieve the problems of the Palestinian system which is controlled by the Hamas terror group. The lack of strategy and vision for a solution of the conflict has still not changed and this is the challenge that Israel is facing.”

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Jonathan Schanzer, Middle East scholar at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies (FDD), argued that it will take some time for the PIJ to rebuild its leadership structure and train the next generation.

“That said there is a risk that there could be a hydra that grows in its place,” Schanzer told The Algemeiner. “A more centralized leadership structure could follow. One could potentially imagine multiple nodes that would sprout up in its place with multiple cells and with multiple leaders which would make it harder for Israel to dismantle it.”

Th Islamic Jihad fired more than 1,100 rockets towards Israel during the operation, 990 of which crossed into the country while 200 misfired, landing in the coastal enclave leading to a number of civilian casualties, according to the IDF.

Schanzer emphasized the centrality of Iran in the three-day round of fighting, as well as in future conflicts.

“The primary funder, trainer and provider of arms is Iran, and its ability to provide all of that to Islamic Jihad, as well as Hamas and others, has not diminished in the least,” he said. “This means that future clashes are a foregone conclusion.”

Among the IDF’s successes was the performance of its Iron Dome air defense missile system, which shot down 380 missiles — showcasing a 96 percent success rate and leaving the country with minor damages and no casualties among its citizens.

Israeli defense officials noted that the system will inevitably be put through a harsher test.

“We saw the capabilities of the PIJ — one of the weakest terrorist groups surrounding Israel — which don’t really match the defense capabilities of the Iron Dome,” said Hayman, who is a former head of the IDF’s Military Intelligence Directorate. “The military capabilities of PIJ are now dramatically beneath the level of the capabilities of Hamas.”

Iran and its proxies dwarfed both Hamas and PIJ in their military capacity, he added.

Both Hayman and Schanzer agreed that the IDF’s accurate military targeting, intelligence activities and technical dominance were the keys to its achievements in the latest Gaza operation, dubbed Breaking Dawn.

“Israel’s near-total intelligence dominance over the last week probably sent something of a stark message to both Hamas, and perhaps Hezbollah and maybe Iran as well, that Israel has the ability to strike at the top leadership and to do significant damage without a lot of protracted battle,” said Schanzer.

“Whether that changes their calculus is another story, but it’s the thought that all proxies could bog Israel down in a painful conflict — I think they learned that the opposite was true,” he continued.

Defense Minister Benny Gantz warned on Monday that Israel will not hesitate to launch another preemptive operation to protect the lives of its citizens and defend its sovereignty and infrastructure.

“This is true on every front,” Gantz said. “From Tehran to Khan Yunis.”

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