Once more, the might of the Israeli military has battered against all 365 square kilometres of Gaza, the ancient oasis strip at the tip of the Egyptian Sinai peninsula. Now that a tense ceasefire has come into effect, it is possible for us to begin to reflect on the conflict and try and draw lessons. In this, one may begin by assessing its military strategy aspects, with special attention to the Israeli military. Here, the 2021 conflict seems to have brought forward a new military strategy that Israel seems to have developed against the Palestinians. First, let us note that the Palestinians are few and are severely under-resourced. Gaza has been under an increasingly tightening blockade imposed by Israel since 2007. Their border is fenced and is heavily policed by Israeli security forces. Any above-surface movement of goods and people through the Mediterranean is also monitored by Israel, which maintains a naval blockade of Gaza. At some point in time, Palestinian organizations began tunnelling under Israel border security. These tunnels were used to move fighters into Israel for strikes. However, the Israelis have simply built a heavily reinforced subterranean “wall” around Gaza, effectively shutting the door on tunnel-based resistance. In such a scenario, Palestinians have come to rely very heavily on crude, unguided, inaccurate rockets to offer resistance. This leads us to Israel itself. Its technologically advanced armed forces can very easily meet any challenge that the under-resourced Palestinians can throw at them in a conventional sense. However, it is faced with a dire situation when it comes to rockets. Despite being small, inaccurate and prone to misfiring or premature detonation, at least some of the rockets can go through. Usually, they can fall on Israeli cities and villages, causing at least some physical damage as well as fear, panic and public demoralization. The unpredictable rockets-based bombing of Israeli cities had been a key strategy Hamas and the Harkat-ul-Jihad al-Islami, two key Palestinian resistance organizations in Gaza, used to offer resistance. Indeed, even today, in these early days post-ceasefire, the Palestinians have tried to make much of their sustained rocket fire in face of overwhelming Israeli military might. To counter this last remaining threat from Palestinians, the Israelis have developed their so-called “Iron Dome” air defence system. The “Iron Dome” is a multi-layered system that is designed to effectively counter incoming rockets, missiles, drones and other air-based threats. Israel claims that the Iron Dome can intercept up to 90% of the incoming projectiles that it engages. Here, it is important to note that the Iron Dome only engages rockets that are likely to hit an Israeli city or town. It comes with its own extremely intelligent “battle management system”. This software uses radars to track incoming projectiles, quickly create projections on where those might land and, then, takes a decision on which projectiles to fire at. Generally, projectiles that are likely to land in open fields or rural areas are ignored by the system. This helps the Iron Dome conserve its firepower and use it more efficiently. Therefore, broadly speaking, detractors of the system divide the actual interceptions with total numbers of rockets fired to artificially inflate figures against the system and create a spectre of ineffectiveness. Rockets headed for open fields do not really count. When one reviews data on interception rate against the projectiles that the system does engage, it is hard not to concede that the Iron Dome can accurately intercept between 85 and 90 percent of incoming fire. The more conservative estimates also hover between 50 and 70 percent of incoming projectiles. At any rate, the system poses a very formidable challenge to Palestinian resistance. In this context, Palestinian resistance reviewed the situation and settled on a tactic, it felt, that could counter the Iron Dome: Saturation attacks. The logic is very simple. At any given point in time, an Iron Dome battery should be expected to have 60 to 80 rockets loaded and ready to fire. Once the ammunition has been spent, the battery would need to pause and reload. Thus, if one is to fire 81 or more rockets in a concentrated volley, it makes sense that the battery would simply be overwhelmed because it would lack the capacity to engage all the incoming targets. The one or more rockets above the battery’s capacity, would simply go through and strike targets. This is called a saturation attack. Please note that this is not how things work. This is just a very broad example to illustrate the tactic. Anyway, the Palestinians had thought they would fire rockets in large, coordinated volleys and simply overwhelm the system. Indeed, they had tried to implement this idea during the 2012 Israeli invasion of Gaza, when the Palestinian rate of fire was 215 rockets per day. Similarly, during the 2014 Gaza invasion, Palestinians fired more than 4,500 rockets over 49 days. While the rate of fire was less than half of 2012, the rocket attacks were sustained over a much larger period. Assessments of these two conflicts had led to lukewarm reviews of the Iron Dome. While the system intercepted large numbers of incoming rockets, many went through and caused casualties and damage in Israel. Similarly, the large numbers of un-intercepted rockets allowed Palestinians to claim that their saturation attack-focused strategy had won. All of this has changed in 2021, however. For the first week of their engagement with the Israelis, the Palestinians managed to sustain an impressive rate of fire of 420 rounds per day. Later, this rate fell slightly. Yet, in 11 days, the Palestinians managed to fire more than 4,340 rockets (an overall, average rate of fire of 394 rounds per day). The figures look impressive and one can see hallmarks of saturation attempts in them. Yet, did the saturation attempts succeed? Not really. Not if you look at figures being reported by Israel. For the first week of engagement, the Israeli military continued to claim above 90% effective interception of targets engaged. Later, they stopped reporting rates of interception. However, based on the information available at this time, it is possible to project that over 11 days, the Iron Dome intercepted between 50 and 60% of all incoming rockets (or, more than 2,000 interceptions). It is difficult to calculate an exact interception rate against engaged targets, at this time. We will know more soon. Anyway, it is important to note that the remaining include the considerable numbers that fell in fields, did not pose any grave danger to Israel and were never engaged. In brief, a shockingly low number of rockets managed to break through the Iron Dome and cause any damage. We can also look at Israeli casualty figures: A handful of buildings destroyed and just 11 killed and 114 wounded. If 4,340+ rockets recorded such low casualties, then we must pause to reflect on the tactic of heavy rocket fire. Making for the misfires and harmless detonations, this situation should mean that the Iron Dome has made it through concentrated barrages of rockets that are fired in coordinated volleys – for now. In other words, in this conflict, the Iron Dome has come out on top and has not been saturated. The bitter reality is that the Palestinian strategy of trying to overwhelm the system has not been successful. Here is the most significant takeaway from this conflict. Next, Israel has matched its Iron Dome’s effectiveness, with devastating air, naval and intelligence operations. Hundreds of Israeli air force jets have pounded Palestinian positions for 11 days now with extremely powerful guided bombs. In doing so, Israel has targeted Palestinian rocket production facilities, rocket launch sites and rocket launch crews. At this time, Israel claims to have wiped out nearly 100% of Harkat-ul-Jihad’s rocket production facilities and between 80 and 90% of Hamas’s production sites. In addition, it has hit Palestinian ammunition depots, command and control centers, military infrastructure, both above-ground and subterranean, Hamas’s naval asset and the resistance forces’ leadership. On the one hand, Israel claims to have “neutralized” dozens of Palestinian commanders, especially middle-ranks, has bombed others’ houses and, attacked (so far, unsuccessfully) its top leadership. On the other hand, Israel claims to have “neutralized” hundreds of Palestinian combatants. Not to stop at this, Israel ran an intelligence operation in which it tricked Palestinians into thinking it had launched an invasion of Gaza. Palestinian forces emerged from their cover and took above-ground and below-ground defensive positions. Soon after, more than 160 of the world’s most sophisticated fighter bombers struck Palestinian positions. As a result, numerous Palestinian fighters as well as the positions they were in – tunnels, bunkers, et al – were pulverized. It is important to note here that the above is only one example of Israeli intelligence operations. The scale and quality of Israeli planning, their accurate targeting of critical military infrastructure (such as secret ammunition depots or underground tunnels) and real-time tracking of middle- and senior-Palestinian leadership, should suggest that the 2021 conflict is very much a story of Israeli intelligence’s success. Above all, 2021 will go down as the year Israel demonstrated the extremely high levels of integration of its military forces. For example, it should be noted that Israel continues to claim it hit individual rocket-firing crews. This, in itself, means that its intelligence or reconnaissance units identify and track Palestinians in real-time. They note the location of their positions, relay them to completely separate combatant commands (e.g. army or air force) and, then, coordinate accurate strikes – at least in a few instances, even before Palestinian operatives can launch the rockets they are carrying! In all of this, an Israeli ground invasion – the hallmark of the older Israeli military strategy against Palestinian resistance – has not come. In its stead, the Israelis have very significantly degraded the Palestinian ability to fight. Their leadership is missing many ranks; dozens, if not hundreds, of their combatants, have been “neutralized”; command centres, ammunition depots, rocket production capabilities and all manner of their military infrastructure (including scores of kilometres of their tunnels, so critical to their defence) have been decimated; and, a fledgeling naval capability has been set back into near oblivion. All of this has come at the cost of just two Israeli soldiers killed and a handful injured. All of this has come, more importantly, under cover of the Iron Dome. The air defence system has not only blunted the main weapon the Palestinians had been left with, but it has also demonstrated that it can withstand concentrated, volleyed attacks meant to saturate the system. Therefore, we have now before us a new military strategy of Israel. The new strategy has two main pillars. One, effective neutralization of all manner of Palestinian capabilities, in particular, their rockets, even when concentrated into saturation-type attacks. Two, using the cover provided by point One, to force effective degradation of Palestinian ability to fight through well-planned, well-coordinated and highly integrated all-forces offensive. Of note here, then, is that Israel no longer wishes to even engage Palestinians in real combat, let alone wish to defeat them militarily. Its focus is now heavily on rendering Palestinians into an ineffective threat altogether. The Palestinian leadership and combatants “neutralized” as well as the ammunition stocks, military infrastructure and defensive positions will take vast resources (which Palestinians don’t have anyway) and a very long time to replace. Until such time as all that has been lost has been replaced or rebuilt, Palestinians will pose a significantly reduced challenge to Israel allowing it to continue a broad spectrum of policies that are aimed at wiping out Palestine. In short, the Palestinians need to simply redefine the entire gamut of their military tactics and strategy and develop a completely new way forward. For if they do not do that, they are now faced with the very real possibility of complete and irreversible destruction of their ability to resist, their identity, dream of a homeland and, total Israeli triumph.