Friday, December 18, 2020

Could Gaza Beat Israel in a War?

The Gaza Strip is a small section of coastal land located in Southern Israel. It is controlled by Hamas, with its military wing, the al-Qassam brigades. The al-Qassam brigades number an estimated 25,000 fighters. Their primary weapon against Israel are unguided domestically made rockets. In 2014 Israel and Hamas went to war, the outcome of which was basically a stalemate. 2014 was the most recent confrontation that proved the IDF is tough to beat.

What would a Hamas victory look like? Hamas and the al-Qassam brigades could certainly not defeat Israel in a conventional sense of conquering territory. A victory for the Gaza strip would look more like destroyed IDF vehicles and key targets being hit by unguided rockets. Both of these factors are difficult as the IDF protects its tanks and armored vehicles with the Trophy active protection system. Israel also defends its territory against rockets with the Iron Dome system that shoots down incoming rockets. The Iron Dome is not perfect, and many rockets still can get through at present.

The Trophy APS on a Merkava tank.

The Iron Dome system.

The al-Qassam brigades would have to find ways to get around these systems as well as avoid the powerful Israeli Air Force. There are several ways to get around Trophy, but not as many ways around the Iron Dome. 

The IDF has hundreds of warplanes, including the F-15, pictured below.

There are several ways around the Trophy APS. These include firing multiple RPGs at the target at once, putting a ballistic shield on the RPG and coating the RPG in radar absorbing paint. The IDF has placed the Trophy APS on all of its major armored vehicles. Its effectiveness was demonstrated in 2014, when no tank was destroyed by an RPG or ATGM fired by the Qassam brigades.

A Namer APC with the Trophy APS.

First, multiple RPGs could be fired at the same tank or APC. This would saturate the APS and only one RPG would be hit with the APS projectiles. Israel has begun to address this possibility with the "trench coat" upgrade, however.

Multiple RPG-29s could be fired on one target.

Another option is to coat RPGs in radar absorbing material. Paint containing ceramic microspheres and Ferrite are known to absorb radar waves, making the projectile invisible to the APS radar. It is unclear if Gaza would be able to produce such a paint. Another option is foam coated in Ferrite or Graphene and wrapped around RPGs. There are even commercially available radar absorbing foams.

The domestically made Yasin RPG or RPG-7 rockets could be coated with Radar absorbing paint or foam.

CFOAM is a commercially available radar absorbing material. How Gaza could obtain it is unknown and not likely. It may be able to produce its own version, however.

The third option is to attach a ballistic shield to RPG rounds. These shields would deflect APS projectiles and allow the rocket to hit the target. This would make them less accurate, but it would give them a chance.

RPGs could be covered with a ballistic shield.

Similarly, RPGs could be covered in armor to stop projectiles from detonating them.

To combat the "trench coat" upgrade of the Trophy APS, multiple RPGs could be fired filled with Chaff, a radar reflective material such as aluminum foil strips. This would blanket the air and blind the APS radar, allowing the main rocket to hit the tank.

A Domestically made Yasin RPG, now obsolete, could be repurposed by being filled with chaff.

What a chaff "blanket" would look like.

The Malyutka ATGM is the only external ATGM the Qassam brigades operates. Being that it is not tube launched, this ATGM could be coated in radar absorbing paint. This would allow it to be invisible to APS radar and hit the target. It could be armored, but this would likely make it difficult to control.

High and low velocity pneumatic "potato gun" cannons could be used to launch modified RPGs and even steel darts. RPGs could be constructed of carbon fiber, a material that absorbs most of the radar waves that hits it, making it hard for the APS radar to detect. It would be fired pneumatically to avoid using metal parts in the rocket motor. Two could even be fired from the same gun in rapid succession to further trick the APS.

A high velocity pneumatic cannon could be made to fire steel armor piercing darts at tanks. At 500-900 meters per second these could do serious damage, especially if it hit the hull. The steel dart would be partially encased in rubber to propel it out of the pneumatic cannon, this rubber would be shed once it hits the tank and penetrates. The hull of the Merkava is relatively thin in areas.

A qassam rocket could be mounted horizontally and fired at a tank. Its metal skin is likely thick enough to withstand APS projectiles, and its large warhead would cause sever damage to the tank. The rocket could be up-armored to make sure the APS projectiles don't destroy it prematurely.

Another unconventional anti-tank method is the tank trap. Large pits dug out and covered with plywood and dirt that would break if a tank rolled over it. This would be very effective in Gaza as open areas to advance in for tanks are quite limited.

Tank traps could be built on streets out of concrete in the outskirts of Gaza to potentially cause tanks to crash into them in an advance while under fire. This happened in Ukraine in 2014.

What the outcome of these methods could look like. Photo from the 2006 Lebanon war, before the Trophy APS entered service.

Rockets are the Qassam brigade's most iconic weapon. The Iron Dome system now shoots down a large percentage of them. There are a few ways around this. Many rockets could be fired at the same location, rockets could be coated with radar absorbing material, or rockets could be filled with no explosives and act as kinetic impactors and be unstoppable.

Qassam rockets.

The first option is to target specific areas with many rockets. This is difficult, as Gaza's rockets are unguided and inaccurate. Rockets could be built with specific ranges for preset targets like airbases and the Dimona nuclear reactor. If dozens or even hundreds of rockets were launched at once it would be difficult for Iron Dome to hit the majority of them.

Rockets being fired from the Gaza Strip.

The Iron Dome firing an interceptor rocket.

The second option is to make "kinetic impactor" rockets with no explosives in them. The Iron Dome works by detonating the rocket in the air, if there's no explosive in the rocket, there is nothing to detonate. The rocket would then crash down on its target. This would have a major psychological impact, as rockets could no longer be stopped.

 If rockets were able to hit airbases and the Dimona nuclear reactor, Israel would be in a bad position. The Dimona reactor itself is heavily armored, but surrounding structures and water cooling pipes could be destroyed by a rocket barrage, possibly causing a nuclear meltdown if rockets were to hit in just the right places.

The Dimona reactor itself is heavily armored, but surrounding structures like the cooling tower seen here are not.

Large rockets could have no explosives and serve as kinetic impactors.

Turning rockets into unguided "cruise missiles" would be a way around the Iron Dome. Placing small wings and launching rockets at a low, almost horizontal angle would allow the rockets to fly under the radar and interception altitude of the Iron Dome system. This would probably decrease their range, however.

Another unconventional method is to attach road flares to rockets, so if they are shot down or hit their target they cause fires to break out. These rockets would not carry explosives, just road flares attached to the outer structure of the rocket. The flares would be ignited before the rocket launches. 

A 30 minute road flare. Such a flare could be attached to a rocket.

To combat the Israeli Air Force, unguided rockets could be made to explode at certain altitudes in the air over the Gaza Strip during a war. In large numbers, these small "flak rockets" could down IDF aircraft.

Flak exploding around a US Air Force B-17 bomber during WWII.

A B-17 destroyed by flak.

A Israeli F-16 that crashed after being hit by a Syrian S-200 missile.

Small rockets could be turned skyward and made to explode in the air.

In conclusion, Gaza could not beat Israel in a conventional sense. It could cause so much loss in IDF equipment that Israel just gives up. This would look very much like a defeat to the Gaza Strip and the Israeli public.


  1. Total non sense. Homemade rockets intercepting IDF A/C. What would you use for fire control ? Even if unguided munitions were used you need some kind of fire control. Then either a timed or proximity fuse. Gaza would be hard pressed to produceeither the numbers or complexity of anythingy mo4e than a contact fuse