lifted from New York Times
The official, briefing reporters at military headquarters here on the condition of anonymity, in line with army protocol, added that the militant groups in Gaza were believed to have held on to 2,500 to 3,000 rockets, about a third of the stock they had before the fighting began on July 8. Hamas, Islamic Jihad and some smaller groups launched about 4,000 rockets, and the Israeli military estimates that it destroyed another 3,000 before a cease-fire halted the fighting a week ago.
Although Hamas leaders have presented the struggle as a victory for their organization, Israel has “good evidence” that Hamas and Islamic Jihad “suffered a huge, even dramatic hit,” the intelligence official said, arguing that success cannot be measured in numbers. He said that senior commanders were killed, probably thousands of operatives were wounded and significant damage was done to the groups’ military infrastructure.
Of the rockets fired by Hamas, 875 fell inside Gaza, according to the official — some of them fired at Israeli ground forces who had entered thePalestinian coastal territory, some that were aimed at Israeli territory but misfired. The official said he believed that still others were fired intentionally at the local Palestinian population, “from what I saw in the systems.”
A big difference between this conflict and Israel’s last ground invasion of Gaza, in 2008-9, he said, was that most sites used to fire rockets were concealed underground, and operatives were able to move through an extensive tunnel network from the insides of homes to launch sites and back again, remaining unseen and hard to reach.
On the contentious issue of Palestinian casualties, Israeli intelligence says it has confirmed the deaths of 341 Hamas operatives, 182 members of Islamic Jihad and 93 other militants who belonged to smaller groups or whose affiliation is not yet known. Another 706 of the 2,127 Palestinians killed have so far been identified by Israel as civilians, while 805 more casualties — 38 percent of the total — are listed as “unknown,” not yet categorized by Israel as either civilians or combatants. The United Nations and other monitoring groups say up to three-quarters of the Palestinians killed were civilians.
Hamas’s fighting force was divided into six regional brigades, according to the intelligence official, each one made up of 2,000 to 3,500 operatives. He presented detailed maps and diagrams found on the battlefield. One hardcover book contained up-to-date information about the Israeli military.
The intelligence official presented more evidence to bolster Israel’s assertions that Hamas waged its campaign largely by hiding behind its own civilians. An aerial photograph appeared to show a rocket firing site in the yard of a school in Shejaiya. In before and after pictures, a fabric canopy believed to be hiding the rockets appeared intact, then ripped. Another previously unpublished photograph showed a schoolyard in Beit Lahiya that was empty by day. By night, it was dotted with what looked like several rockets laid out on the ground and boxes that the official said contained more rockets.
One thing Israeli military intelligence did not foresee was that the conflict would go on so long. “I wouldn’t have thought it would take 50 days,” the official said, until Hamas accepted a cease-fire on the same terms that had been offered much earlier.
And there was one thing to which the official still had no answer: whetherMuhammad Deif, the Hamas military chief whose home was hit by missiles two weeks ago, was dead or alive.