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David and Goliath

Qassam rockets aren't really a threat to life according to Aviad's uncle who we visited in south-western Israel a year and a half ago. Here he is standing next to a few that he's got in his office:
Kibbutz Sa'ad
He lives on Kibbutz Sa'ad about 5 miles from Gaza. When the Qassam land in his carrot fields they don't explode because they don't really contain explosives, just fuel. If it looks like a metal pipe with sheet-metal fins welded on the side, that's because that's exactly what it is.

When the Israeli Defense Forces attack Gaza they largely do it from Boeing Apache helicopters each carrying 16 Lockheed Martin Hellfire II missiles, designed to destroy "urban targets". Hellfire IIs are laser guided and carry 9kg warheads. I imagine that when attacking houses they use the blast fragmentation / incendiary or thermobaric warheads. The missiles have an 8km (5 mile) range and the Gaza Strip is only about 12km wide at its widest point, and Israel controls Gaza's territorial waters they don't even need to fly above Gaza to kill any family they choose.


( 27 comments — Leave a comment )
Jan. 5th, 2009 07:15 am (UTC)
http://bit.ly/AQdf Wikipedia shows serious damage done by Qassams. They're not all as cute as the ones you've depicted here.
Jan. 5th, 2009 07:37 am (UTC)

That Wikipedia link shows one photograph claiming to show Qassam damage: said damage being a single hole in the roof of a structure, said roof being constructed in a way that makes it entirely possible, in my opinion, that a Qassam as described here could have done the damage.
Jan. 5th, 2009 07:49 am (UTC)
It's serious damage, but it's like being hit by a really big rock. Not like being hit by a bomb.
Jan. 5th, 2009 07:21 am (UTC)
Does the Israeli government choose to kill particular families in Gaza?
Jan. 5th, 2009 07:46 am (UTC)
Jan. 5th, 2009 04:23 pm (UTC)
I think the article you linked to makes it clear that it wasn't the family that was targeted, but a military leader who had publicly denied the right of Israel to exist.

Now, certainly there are a great many issues with the collateral damage that has been done by Israel, but this is not the same thing as directly targeting innocents and it is wrong to conflate the two.
Jan. 5th, 2009 08:35 pm (UTC)
It sure sounded like they were attacking the homes of political leaders rather than their offices. Anyway, that wasn't the point of my post. I was just pointing out the vastly different military capabilities.
Jan. 5th, 2009 08:43 pm (UTC)
It sure sounded like they were attacking the homes of political leaders rather than their offices.

It's not clear if they have (or at least use) offices. Further, there is a lot of evidence that certain members of Hamas use family members and/or other civilians as human shields to dissuade attacks and/or provoke rage against Israel when attacks inevitably cause civilian casualties.

Anyway, that wasn't the point of my post. I was just pointing out the vastly different military capabilities.

Indeed, and this is a very important point. And it was made perfectly right up until you said "kill any family they choose" (a very provocative statement) instead of "kill anyone they choose."
Jan. 8th, 2009 01:45 am (UTC)
As per the article, it is reported that the cleric in question had sent his own son as a suicide bomber against Israel. Perhaps it was assumed that his remaining family would do the same at his death? Although I'd like to think the family were unintentional collateral damage.

Separately, it was reported elsewhere (sorry, I don't have a link) that Hamas figures had already stopped going to their offices, which were in a large part destroyed by Israel while empty after this had occurred, and were mostly in hiding before this particular attack occurred. The cleric in question was to some extent defying/challenging Israel by deliberately staying at a known location. Perhaps he intended to become a martyr and hoped to die at this time to energize support against Israel. It is impossible to know the motivation of the dead.

(not disputing the military imbalance; just pointing out the claims of various reports regarding the incident in question)
Jan. 5th, 2009 07:40 am (UTC)
I think your point is that Israel is being a big bully, which I think is a relatively fair point, but....

my understanding is that a laser guided munition requires a laser to be trained on the target to work, so they probably _do_ have to be above gaza to use them accurately. In addition, any form of responsible deployment will require them to visually confirm that the target is what they think it is from the intelligence, which also requires them to be there.

Jan. 5th, 2009 07:48 am (UTC)
They're not always big with the responsible deployment at least as far as I can tell: http://www.facebook.com/video/video.php?v=1037755058264
Jan. 5th, 2009 07:56 am (UTC)
That's possibly true, though I haven't seen good evidence either way... my point was simply that to be responsible, they have to behave in a manner you were criticising - in my opinion your argument would be stronger if you pointed out the ridiculous difference in armaments and left it at that...
Jan. 5th, 2009 07:58 am (UTC)
Actually, I think that video may be bad:
Jan. 5th, 2009 08:02 am (UTC)
That's why it's so hard to form a good opinion on the responsibility or otherwise of the parties involved. Too much of the information getting to me seems potentially suspect (though to be fair, it's actually not an issue I do much research on, there may well be compelling evidence I'm not aware of).
Jan. 5th, 2009 08:01 am (UTC)
And we've recently sold them 1000 GBU-39s as well :

Jan. 5th, 2009 08:14 am (UTC)
No longer just Qassams
According to the NY Times (http://www.nytimes.com/2009/01/01/world/middleeast/01rockets.html?partner=permalink&exprod=permalink), in the past 18 months Hamas has upgraded its rockets beyond Qassams and are mostly using Katyushas now. It is suspected (see graphic) (http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/world/middle_east/article5425659.ece) they have some of the upgraded arsenal from Iran now.
Jan. 5th, 2009 07:06 pm (UTC)
Re: No longer just Qassams
Hmm, I hadn't heard about them having Katyusha before. Still, it sounds like they don't have that many of the more advanced rockets at their disposal.
Jan. 5th, 2009 08:38 am (UTC)
There was a similar montage of contrasting images of the relative impact of Israeli and Palestinian air strikes on a blog that was linked to from Ken Macleod's today. Although "Palestinian Mothers" is hardly going to be pro-Israel and you could rig this to look whichever way you chose (and some commenters disputed whether the Qassam images were fake or bowdlerised), the images from Gaza are horrifying.
Jan. 5th, 2009 08:40 pm (UTC)
Yeah, and I'm not trying to say that Palestinian attacks don't cause damage, but there's a clear, undeniable imbalance in military technology here.
Jan. 5th, 2009 10:25 am (UTC)
It's a difficult situation. Over 200 Qassams have been launched into Israel after the peace accord ended on Dec. 18th. They are obviously not as effective as Israeli laser guided missiles. Otherwise, there would be more than 4 deaths (6, actually, if you include the two Palestinian girls accidentally killed during a failed Qassam launch recently).

The problem is that you have one government facing a bombardment of over a hundred missiles in a several day period from another government. Property damage is considerable. There have been deaths. And people demand their government protect them. So Israel had to do something. Their weapons on hand were not Qassams, however. When they chose to decimate the Hamas military infrastructure, the results were deadly. The tragedy is that there have been civilian casualties (estimated anywhere from 30-40% of the total casualties). The shame is that some militants have based their attacks from residential areas which almost guarantees civilian casualties.

In my opinion, we shouldn't give Hamas a pass because 200 of their missiles were ineffective. There has to be some responsibility for acts of war, no matter how clumsy. However, if Hamas would currently cease lobbing Qassams into Israel, world opinion would likely force Israel to accept a cease fire and make a new peace accord more possible. It should be said, though, that Hamas didn't honor the last peace accord very well. During the "cease fire" Hamas launched 329 rockets & mortar shells compared to 2278 prior to the truce (according to http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_rocket_and_mortar_attacks_in_Israel_in_2008). Perhaps that is why Israel seems to have lost patience with the peace process. Not being there I really can't say.
Jan. 5th, 2009 08:46 pm (UTC)
I'd be surprised if the effects of Israel's embargo on food, fuel and medicine had more casualties than Gaza's retaliation.

Anyway, according to Tuvia (who lives on Sa'ad) as far as he can tell the flow of rockets is pretty constant but the government makes a fuss about it when they're trying to distract the country from scandal. Since Israel's in the middle of a corruption and parliamentary crisis and heading into early elections I'm not shocked that they've "lost patience".
Jan. 5th, 2009 10:37 am (UTC)
So, is your argument that the weapons stores that the Israelis are targeting and blowing up, where explosives obviously are, being done so under false pretenses? That the Israelis are using an excuse that is less than solid, to achieve other outcomes? Cause that would be nothing like any of the other wars the world has watched recently.
Jan. 5th, 2009 02:43 pm (UTC)
Whew, that's a relief. I'm so glad that the country which is using weaponry to target terrorists has the heavy firepower, and the country which is arbitrarily using it to terrorize civilians doesn't.

Hopefully it'll, uh, stay that way.

Jan. 5th, 2009 08:41 pm (UTC)
wait - which is which? I get confused.
Jan. 6th, 2009 12:45 am (UTC)
My understanding: neither is good, but, of the two, you don't want the avowed terrorists with serious platforms capable of delivering serious hurt. Hamas is after random violence, and it's only their impotence at inflicting it which makes the Israeli reaction damnable.

(As a pacifist, i firmly believe they're all fucking idiots, but that this is just par for the course with humanity. In this case, i feel it's a matter of who's further in the wrong and how, not who's right. Hamas must have expected retribution for their actions, and the IDF should have expected the international outcry when they reacted so heavy-handedly.)
Jan. 5th, 2009 10:48 pm (UTC)
What's most important is to consider that the people using these weapons intend to kill noncombatant civilians. Everybody's in the wrong here.

The Qassam is actually a well thought out munition for attacking a civilian home. You just need to drop a big, heavy weight from way up high on a wood ballon frame structure to cause heavy damage to it. And if you just want to damage ANY house, you don't need a guidance system. And it's cheap as dirt, so if you're an intermittently funded guerrilla force it's ideal.

The Hellfires are overkill here. However, I don't see what else the IDF would attack a house from the air with. Apaches were designed with the hellfire in mind to attack Soviet tanks in support of a ground force as well as be an upgraded gunship. Israel is surrounded by countries that use Soviet tanks and would invade from the land. It makes sense that they'd have them. And if you already have such expensive gear, you wouldn't want to employ a second expensive system when you could just use a different rocket. Non anti-vehicle versions of the hellfire are a kluge. Doesn't make what they're doing right, it just is what it is.

Like I said, what IDF and Hamas are using isn't as important to me as what they're doing. That they both intend to harm noncombatant civilians is the disgusting thing. Their relative choices of munitions doesn't make one better than the other in my eyes.
Jan. 6th, 2009 02:46 am (UTC)
I don't see what else the IDF would attack a house from the air with

generally 1 tonne bombs
( 27 comments — Leave a comment )