Behind the scenes: How did the IDF destroy Islamic Jihad terror infrastructure?

In Walla News report, intelligence officers the major success of Operation Shield and Arrow.

By Batya Jerenberg, World Israel News

While the majority of the world’s media attention focused on Israel’s targeted assassination of six leaders of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) in the recently concluded Operation Shield and Arrow, the IDF also recorded major success in destroying much of its terror-production infrastructure, Hebrew-language Walla News reported.

In an exclusive interview, commanders in the IDF’s intelligence branch described the high-quality targets that the air force destroyed over the course of five days earlier this month. More than a third, 12 out of 32, were obliterated within minutes of the opening shots of the conflict, when Israeli missiles took out three of the PIJ’s most important commanders.

Targets included a tunnel deep underground that contained the PIJ’s largest rocket-producing facility. A senior military intelligence official said that the Iranian proxy “was for sure surprised by our success in locating the factory, and certainly by our 90% destruction of it.”

Israeli Air Force (IAF) jets also demolished explosives-manufacturing laboratories, launch pits and weapons depots.

Hitting them so quickly “critically improv[ed] our protection [of civilians],” said a senior IAF officer. “We hurt their launch capabilities, prevented a greater number of rockets being fired… including without a doubt on the [central] Gush Dan area.”

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The PIJ still managed to launch 1,468 rockets at Israel, but most landed in open areas and 291 fell short in the Strip itself, killing several Gazans, including children. The Iron Dome interception system shot down 437 heading toward populated areas. Only two people were killed as a result of the few missiles that got through, one of them a Palestinian man from Gaza who was working in southern Israel.

Major A is in charge of the intelligence department in the research brigade whose hard work goes on year-round, with soldiers – including one on the autistic spectrum – who spend their days discerning hidden weapon-producing and launch sites as well as smuggling routes from pictures taken by Israel’s eyes in the sky that continuously patrol the Gaza Strip and its borders.

Once they have proven what the sites are, “we also recommend what to attack and how, and explain what the sensitivities are regarding each and every target,” Major A. explained. “The targets we hit during Operation Shield and Arrow are very significant, and each one of them is an achievement that took a tremendous amount of effort.”

One target that was particularly difficult but vital to find was a warehouse that stored chemicals that were laboriously smuggled into the Gaza Strip. It was built in a civilian area, as the Palestinians know that Israel tries to avoid civilian casualties in its war on terror as much as possible.

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“It’s a target we attacked in Operation Breaking Dawn,” Maj. A. said, referring to the three-day clash last August, when the PIJ fired over 1,100 rockets at Israel and the IDF responded with some 147 airstrikes against the terror group. “They rebuilt the site and we found it again and hit it. These precise actions create a sense of persecution in the PIJ.”

It’s a Sisyphean job, he acknowledged.

“It’s a continuous struggle,” he said. “The enemy does not give up and does not concede and is constantly thinking of how to trick us, how to improve and make it difficult [for us]. We need to constantly be creative in order to expose them and delay their processes.”

Some of that creativity was revealed by Lieut. E., a visual intelligence specialist, who told Walla that artificial intelligence was used in the operation as well as new, unspecified tools.

Lieut. Y., who heads the PIJ section in the intelligence unit, explained that the successful strikes on the weapons-production sites the unit had found will affect the terror group in the long run as well, as “they don’t have an endless supply of weapons.” The fact that the IDF regularly locates and shuts down smuggling routes in ways she refused to divulge also contributes to the shortage, she added.

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The officer estimates that it will be two years before the terror group manages to replenish what it had lost in these five days, which “pushes off the next war with the PIJ.”