from the August/September 2006 issue

The Katyusha War

Since July 12, Hezbollah has bombarded Israel with a variety of crude but deadly effective rockets that were stockpiled for six years ever since the IDF withdrew from Lebanese territory. These rockets, most observers suggest, originated from Syria and Iran. An average of 150 missiles per day have been landing in Israel, mostly fired from areas north of the present location of Israeli forces. As of August 13, more than 150 soldiers have died in the conflict while 41 Israeli civilians have been killed and hundreds wounded. Some 5,500 Israeli buildings have been struck, more than 300,000 Israelis have been displaced from their homes and more than one million are living in bomb shelters. More than two million Israelis live within Hezbollah rocket range. Every Israeli is aware that this situation can not continue. Any government that can not effectively provide practical protection is unlikely to last. The current government headed by Ehud Olmert is broadly seen as having mismanaged the running of the war.

Hezbollah's unguided and relatively unsophisticated missiles have left one of the world's best-equipped armies helpless for defending its citizens.

For Israel it has been a no-win war. Though equipped with state-of-the-art weaponry including night vision, drones and fighter jets Israel was unable to neutralize a Hizbollah force that is said to number not more than 5,000.

Hizbollah's main weapon is a crude rocket. known as "Katyusha" -- named by the Soviet troops who first used the designs -- which are low-cost because they are little more than metal tubes carrying an explosive warhead, in extreme cases several hundreds of kilograms, The range from 302mm rockets, weighing 165 pounds, that can fly up to 68 miles to a Haseb rocket weighing 14 pounds that can travel up to seven miles

Katyusha multiple rocket launchers are a type of rocket artillery built and fielded by the Soviet Union beginning in the Second World War. They are multiple rocket launchers able to deliver a devastating amount of explosives to a target area, in a short period of time, although with low accuracy. Compared to other types of artillery, they are fragile but inexpensive. They can be easily camouflaged and moved many of them were found by Israeli soldiers in orange groves.

Estimates suggest that at the outset of the war Hezbollah had 1,000 to 1,500 rocket launchers, many of them hidden or kept underground. After more than four weeks of aerial bombardments and ground skirmishes, the Israeli military estimates that it has destroyed about 300 of the launchers and claims that Hizbollah deployed them in or near civilian locations from which it launched the Katyushas. On some days more than 200 Katyushas rained down on Israeli villages and communities, including Haifa, Israel's third largest city.

Israel's Air Force using drones is able to identify the point from where the katyushas are launched. But it takes only half a minute to move katyushas launchers out of the way, and to a new location.

How to defend against katyushas and other rockets in the hands of highly trained terrorists is proving a dilemma for the Israel Defense Forces and probably for any army in the free world. For the time being there does not seem to be any practical solution.

Reprinted from the Israel High-Tech & Investment Report August/September 2006

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