Israel and the Gaza Strip were in a state of emergency. While Hamas repeatedly fired volleys of hundreds of rockets (mostly of the Kassam type) at Israel, the Israelis try to repel them with their Iron Dome defense system. In retaliation, they also flied targeted air strikes on identified rocket positions and Hamas leadership. Until the ceasefire last Friday, Hamas bombed Israeli territory with more than 4,700 rockets.
In fact, Hamas has repeatedly succeeded in over-saturating the Israeli Iron Dome air defense system through the large number of missiles deployed. Despite the high success rate (it is assumed that more than 90 percent of the missiles intercepted), individual missiles managed to break through the defensive shield and hit Israeli territories. This increases the fear of the population, but at the same time increases the determination of the Israeli army.
Hamas’ Al-Qassam Brigades employing carefully considered tactics
Now a much more dangerous development is on the horizon. It has the potential to escalate further, with potentially far-reaching consequences. There were indicators that Hamas was not only using unguided rockets or, in some cases, anti-tank guided weapons against Israel, but also “kamikaze drones” loaded with explosives.
Analogous to the Qasef drones used by the Houthi rebels in Yemen or the Harpy 2 drones used by Azerbaijan in Nagorno Karabakh. The use of dirigible kamikaze drones by Hamas could be a “game changer.”
It appears that Hamas’ Al-Qassam Brigades are employing carefully considered tactics. The unguided rockets used by them were fired in volleys of 100 pieces. Immediately after their start, they were detected by the Iron Dome’s radar. This recognizes which launched missile represents a possible danger with its trajectory and fires corresponding defense missiles.
In this way, the system can be used with maximum efficiency. All sensors were aimed at the incoming rocket salvos. But Hamas has another, much more insidious weapon system up its sleeve.
Design reminiscent of the Iranian Qasef drone types used by the Houthis
On the first night of the attack, Hamas managed to hit an Israeli oil tank terminal south of Ashkelon (four kilometers northeast of the security fence to the Gaza Strip) near the coast. A lucky hit from a fired Hamas rocket? The opposite seems to be the case. Everything indicates that Hamas drones were also used during the rocket volleys.
So while all defense systems were concentrating on the missiles, Hamas was trying to steer kamikaze drones to Israel at low altitude and thus more difficult to detect. With initial successes, it seems.
The Israeli Air Force responded quickly. A short time later, the use of F16 fighter aircraft made it possible for the first time to detect and shoot down a low-flying kamikaze drone. In return, Hamas released a first propaganda video. It shows how Hamas fighters load drones onto launch pads and fire them.
The design of the drones, referred to by the Al-Qassam Brigade as “Shehab”, is strikingly reminiscent of the Iranian Qasef drone types used by the Houthis. Their characteristic is their small size, which makes them difficult to detect by defense systems due to the small radar cross-section.
The use of explosives loaded and controllable kamikaze drones by Hamas represented a clear escalation of the conflict. The unguided rockets of Hamas could be fought relatively easily by the Iron Dome system. Nevertheless, it was already possible to break through individual rockets and hit Israel again and again.