IDF Chief of Staff: IDF Victory in Gaza War May Not Have Deterred Hamas

YERUSHALAYIM -
IDF Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Aviv Kochavi. (Flash90)

IDF Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Aviv Kochavi on Wednesday said that the IDF had to be “modest” in assessing the effectiveness of last month’s round of fighting with terror groups in the Gaza Strip, noting that tactical victories do not necessarily result in long-term calm.

“The Six Day War was a clear, decisive victory, and a short time later the War of Attrition broke out,” he said, referring to a three-year conflict between Israel and Egypt and Palestinian terror groups in Jordan.

In a speech, Kochavi again touted the IDF’s victories over the Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad terror groups in the Gaza Strip in the 11-day Operation Guardian of the Walls.

Kochavi stressed that the purpose of the campaign was not to topple the Gaza-ruling Hamas, but to achieve a degree of deterrence against the group and the Islamic Jihad, the two most powerful terrorist organizations in the Strip, and to seriously hamper their abilities to wage war in the future.

“Guardian of the Walls wasn’t meant to provide a decisive victory in Gaza, but to use military force in order to deny Hamas and the PIJ many of their capabilities and to create deterrence, which I’ll leave to the passage of time to determine how much we succeeded. But in terms of their capabilities, Hamas and the PIJ sustained a critical blow, no less,” Kochavi said, speaking at a conference commemorating former IDF chief of Staff Amnon Lipkin-Shachak at the IDF’s college north of Tel Aviv.

“We denied them massive capabilities in the areas of rocket and missile production and other weapons; we neutralized the subterranean domain, something they’d put stock in for 15 years, which they’ll have to think about how to proceed with going forward; we almost totally destroyed the air and naval capabilities that they had — and they did have them; we killed their members, including senior operatives; and no less importantly, we thwarted most of the attacks that they tried to carry out,” Kochavi said.

“During Guardian of the Walls, we struck three times as many targets — three times more and high-quality targets — than we did in previous operations,” he added.

But Kochavi added that those tactical achievements did not necessarily mean that Hamas would not again launch attacks against Israel shortly.

“We need to be modest about what deterrent effect this caused,” he said.

Kochavi said Israel needed to now develop clear policies regarding the Gaza Strip and Hamas in order to achieve a “strategic victory” over the terror group.

“We are planning for this. There won’t be a repeat of what has been, both in terms of our retaliations and in terms of our treatment of Hamas,” he said.

He acknowledged that the IDF failed to prevent Hamas and Islamic Jihad from launching rockets and mortar shells at the Israeli home front during the war, though he noted that most of the incoming projectiles that were poised to cause damage were intercepted by the Iron Dome missile defense system, which the IDF said had a roughly 90% successful interception rate.