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- The IDF says two thirds of the 10,000 rockets held by Gaza militants in early July have been expended or destroyed
- Iron Dome intercepted a notably smaller proportion of rockets fired into Israel during Operation 'Protective Edge' than during Operation 'Pillar of Defence'
The Palestinian militants in the Gaza Strip have suffered substantial damage and expended a significant proportion of their rocket arsenal during Operation 'Protective Edge', according to the Israel Defense Forces (IDF).
By weakening Hamas and the Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ), the IDF operation has reduced pressure on the Israeli government to lift the blockade of the Gaza Strip: a move that would allow the militants to rearm more rapidly.
The IDF said in a 5 August statement that the militants fired a third of the 10,000 rockets they were estimated to have at the start of the operation, saying 3,356 were launched against Israel and another 356 at its ground forces operating inside the Gaza Strip. The IDF said they had destroyed another third of the rockets before they could be launched.
IDF ground forces had withdrawn from the Gaza Strip by 5 August after completing their search for tunnels that threatened Israel. The IDF said 32 tunnels had been found and destroyed, 14 of which extended into Israel with another two having openings within 500 m of the border. The IDF released a video on 26 July to highlight the resources that the militants had invested in building underground structures, saying that 1,800 tonnes of concrete were used to make 3 km of tunnels.
The IDF said they also targeted 750-1,000 militants without saying how many had been killed. The UN Office for the Co-ordination of Humanitarian Affairs said on 5 August that at least 1,312 of the 1,814 Palestinians killed in the Israeli operation were civilians. While this leaves open the possibility that around 500 militants were killed, Israel has disputed UN casualty figures in the past.
The IDF suffered 64 fatalities and another 463 soldiers were wounded during the operation. Three civilians were also killed in Israel, one of them a Thai national.
When compared to similar figures released by the IDF at the end of Operation 'Pillar of Defence' in November 2012, the statistics for 'Protective Edge' appear to show a reduction in the performance of Israel's Iron Dome rocket interception system.
The IDF said Iron Dome, which only engages projectiles that it assesses to be a threat to populated areas under its protection, intercepted 421 rockets (28% of the total launched) and that another 58 landed in urban areas during 'Pillar of Defence'. If taken together, these figures suggest Iron Dome intercepted 87.9% of rockets that threatened populated areas, some of which were not protected by the system.
During 'Protective Edge', Iron Dome intercepted 578 rockets (17% of the total launched at Israel) and another 116 hit populated areas, indicating that the system intercepted 83.3% of rockets that threatened populated areas.
This reduction in the percentage of rockets that were intercepted came despite the deployment of additional Iron Dome batteries. However, the Palestinian militants have also expanded their longer-range rocket arsenal since 'Pillar of Defence', thereby increasing their ability to target more population centres.
It is also possible that the figures are not comparable because Iron Dome is deliberately engaging a lower percentage of the incoming rockets because its ability to assess which ones will hit populated areas has been improved since November 2012. This would mean that some rockets were unnecessarily intercepted during 'Pillar of Defence'.
Upgrades to Iron Dome's ability to assess rocket flight paths would have a less distorting effect on the figures for the accuracy of Palestinian fire that can be extrapolated from the IDF statistics. These suggest 68.2% of the rockets launched against Israel during 'Pillar of Defence' hit either in unpopulated Israeli areas or the Gaza Strip, compared to 79.3% during 'Protective Edge'.
The IDF assessed that 14.2% of the rockets fired during 'Protective Edge' unintentionally landed in the Gaza Strip: a significantly higher proportion than the 10.2% that fell short during 'Pillar of Defence'. This could be attributable to the militants' increased reliance on less reliable rockets that are produced in the Gaza Strip rather than smuggled in from outside.
The statistics also show that the rocket fire was significantly less intense during 'Protective Edge' than 'Pillar of Defence'. The eight-day 'Pillar of Defence' saw an average of 188 rocket launches a day, a figure that dropped to 128 during 29 days of 'Protective Edge'.