The 5-Day IDF Operation Shield and Arrow conflict officially ended at 10 PM on 13 May 2023 after an Egyptian-brokered ceasefire was reached between Israel and the Gaza-based Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ)terror group.
By Jonathan Hessen and Erin Viner
A rocket was nevertheless fired at southern Israel yesterday – 20 hours after declaration of the truce – in what the Gaza terror groups claimed had been a “technical error.”
The IDF said the single rocket landed in an open area, causing no injuries or damage.
Israel and the PIJ previously agreed to truces after a three-day conflict last year in “Operation Breaking Dawn,” and an 11-day Operation Guardian of the Walls in 2021.
Israeli “National Security Council (NSC) Director Tzachi Hanegbi, on instruction from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, thanked Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi and expressed the appreciation of the State of Israel for Egypt’s intensive efforts to secure a ceasefire,” read a statement released by the Prime Minister’s Office).
“The NSC Director made it clear that Israel’s acceptance of the Egyptian initiative means that ‘quiet will be met with quiet’, and that if Israel is attacked or threatened, it will continue to do everything that it needs to in order to defend itself,” stressed the statement.
PIJ Spokesman, Dawoud Shehab declared his group accepted the agreement, “and we will abide by it as long as the occupation (Israel) abides by it.”
Israel launched the surprise Operation Shield and Arrow overnight 9 May, exactly one week after the Iranian-proxy group fired 104 rockets and mortar shells at Israel’s southern communities. In a relatively limited response at that time, Israeli Air Force (IAF) fighter jets launched two waves of 16 aerial strikes on targets operated by the PIJ and the Islamist Hamas rulers of the Palestinian enclave.
1,468 Palestinian rockets were indiscriminately fired at Israel during the 116-hour hostilities. 473 rockets were shot down by Israeli aerial defenses, reflecting a 95.6% interception rate. 290 misfired and killed local civilians, including at least a dozen women and children.
Two people in Israel were killed during rocket attacks, including an Israeli-Christian resident of Rehovot and a Palestinian resident of Gaza who had been working in the country. The government officially recognized both as victims of terror, entitling their respective families to fiscal benefits.
The IDF retaliated against 278 targets, killing six senior Islamic Jihad officials and 15 other terrorists. Attacks on PIJ command and control posts destroyed its ability to manufacture arms. Multiple counter attacks and anti-tank rocket attacks were foiled in progress.
(See the full IDF assessment of Operation Shield and Arrow below).
Both Jerusalem and PIJ leaders living in Damascus claimed respective victory.
“Before starting the operation, the directive I gave, together with the Defense Minister, to the IDF and ISA amounted to two words: Initiative and surprise,” Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said at the start of his weekly cabinet meeting, congratulating IDF Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Herzi Halevi and Israel Security Agency (also known as the Shin Bet) Ronen Bar “with two words: Well done. Indeed, the operation was conducted perfectly.”
The Prime Minister went on to reiterate:” Whoever harms us or tries to harm us or even intends to harm us – will pay the ultimate price. Today, the enemies of Israel in Gaza and far beyond Gaza, know that even if they try to hide, we can, and we are prepared, to reach them at any given moment. This awareness was significantly strengthened during Operation Shield and Arrow. We changed the equation.”
NSC Director Hanegbi later revealed that despite outstanding success of the operation, the PIJ remains in possession of around 6,000 rockets, which he pointed out is just 25% the size of the arsenal and militants belonging to the Hamas leaders of the Palestinian enclave.
Both the Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) and Hamas refuse coexistence with Israel and preach its destruction.
Gaza residents flooded the streets of neighborhoods to declare the PIJ victory over Israel, with many cheering and drivers honking their car horns. “Five days of war and battle. But thank God it’s a victory, until the free of Al-Aqsa with God will,” Ayman Soboh said in reference to the terrorist’s quest to conquer Jerusalem.
While less in number, there seemed to be an apparent rise in the number of Gazans expressing hope for a permanent arrangement with Israel. “We want a truce built on principles,” said Munir Marouf, 43, stressing, “Not like each time, there is a truce and then after a month there are people who die.”
“The United States welcomes the agreement today for a ceasefire to bring an end to the hostilities in Israel and Gaza. We express our condolences to the families of civilians who were killed and those who were injured in the violence,” said a statement issued by State Department Spokesperson Matthew Miller, adding that the US “commends Egypt’s crucial role in mediating the ceasefire agreement, which will prevent the further loss of civilian lives. We also recognize Qatar’s robust efforts to de-escalate the situation and end the hostilities, as well as the international community’s support for the ceasefire. Our team worked tirelessly in cooperation with our partners to support these efforts.”
Spokesperson Miller went on to state that the “United States reaffirms our ironclad commitment to Israel’s security, as reflected in our ongoing support for Iron Dome and other Israeli missile defense systems. We will remain engaged with our partners to promote calm in the weeks and months ahead. We also will continue our efforts to improve quality of life for Palestinians and we urge the swift delivery of fuel and other critical supplies into Gaza. The United States believes that Israelis and Palestinians both deserve to live safely and securely and to enjoy equal measures of freedom, prosperity, and democracy.”
That commitment was also expressed on the final day of the conflict during a telephone conversation between US Deputy Security of State Wendy Sherman and Israeli Minister for Strategic Affairs Ron Dermer. “ The Deputy Secretary strongly condemned the indiscriminate launch of rockets into Israel from Gaza-based terrorist groups, which endangers the welfare of both Israelis and Palestinians,” said the State Department.
European Union Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Spokesman Peter Stano commented that, “It is unacceptable to see indiscriminate rocket-fire from Gaza at Israel. It is very important to stress, Israel has the right to defend itself against such indiscriminate attacks; on the other hand, Israel has also obligations to take precautions and all the possible measures to prevent civilian casualties in its operations and uphold international humanitarian law, of course.”
In contrast to a shared Western position, the PIJ’s patron Iran predictably voiced unequivocal support for the Palestinian use of violence against Israel.
In remarks at a ceremony in the city of Mashhad, Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) Quds Force Commander Brigadier General Esmail Qaani vowed Iran would “provide unwavering support for the Palestinian resistance until Israel has been fully annihilated.”
The IRGC Quds Force commander went on to boast that Iran-led “resistance” has expanded into “an extensive axis” of supporters joined together by “their longing to defend Islam.”
His claim was evidenced in Yemen, where hundreds of thousands of Iranian-backed Houthis Islamist rebels marched in Sana’a in a show of solidarity with the PIJ. “Death to America! Death to Israel! Curse the Jews! Victory for Islam!” shouted many in the crowd, as Houthi official. Ahmad Zabra declared, “Today from Sanaa, the crowds came out to confirm this victory and call on every free Yemeni, every free Arab and every free Muslim to stand by Palestine and by the resistance with their money, sons and weapons.”
IDF assessment of Operation Shield and Arrow 9-13 May 2023
The Main IDF Achievements
- Neutralization of six senior command officials and terror operatives of the Islamic Jihad terrorist organization.
- Negation of the Islamic Jihad’s rocket launching capability and harm to camouflaged rocket launchers.
- Severely damaging the Islamic Jihad’s force build up capabilities and weapon manufacturing capabilities.
- Striking of Islamic Jihad operational command centers.
- Prevention of response attacks and anti-tank missiles.
Data of the Islamic Jihad Terrorist Organization’s Failed Rocket Launches
- 1,468 total rockets launched
- 1,139 rockets launched from the Gaza Strip crossed over into Israeli territory
- 290 failed rocket launches fell within the Gaza Strip
- 39 rockets landed in the sea
- 1 of 5 rockets launched fell within the Gaza Strip.
The failed rocket launches caused the death of at least three residents of Gaza. The damage caused by the mortar bombs effected the movement in civilian crossings.
More than 430 successful interceptions made by the Iron Dome aerial defense system.
About 95% interception success rate according to the interception policy.
- 19 operational command centers
- 8 Islamic Jihad posts
- 122 rocket and mortar launchers
- 12 weapon manufacturing sites
- 21 neutralizations of terrorist operatives, 6 of which are senior
- 63 cane gun and mortar launching posts struck by the Gaza Division causing harm to 50% of the shootings
- 10 Surface-to-Surface Rockets and Mortars
- Neutralization of Six Senior Command Officials and Terror Operatives of the Islamic Jihad Terrorist Organization
Furthermore, 15 additional terrorist operatives were neutralized.
- Negation of the Islamic Jihad Terrorist Organization’s Rocket Launching Capabilities
Throughout the operation, the IDF struck 122 rocket launchers, with most of the launchers being hidden and camouflaged. The strikes caused significant damage to the Islamic Jihad’s rocket launching capabilities and prevented an estimated amount of 800 rockets from being fired toward Israel.
- Severely Damaging the Islamic Jihad’s Force Build Up Capabilities and Weapon Manufacturing Capabilities
During the operation, the IDF struck 12 weapon manufacturing sites belonging to the Islamic Jihad terrorist organization. The IDF severely damaged most of the Islamic Jihad’s manufacturing sites in the Gaza Strip.
- Strike on the Operational Command Centers of the Islamic Jihad Terrorist Organization
During the operation, the IDF struck 21 operational command centers belonging to the Islamic Jihad terrorist organization in the Gaza Strip. The operational command centers are infrastructures located in civilian buildings and are used by the Islamic Jihad’s operatives and rocket launching force to execute their attacks and direct the rocket fire toward Israel.
The operational command centers are a secret asset of the terrorist organization and are used to manage terrorist activity during combat. The strikes on the operational command centers were executed throughout the entire operation and resulted in the disruption of the offensive abilities of the Islamic Jihad terrorist organization.
Ten of the operational command centers were struck on the fifth day of the operation; six of them were struck in one wave. The operational command centers that were struck included the operational command center of Muhammad Abu Al Ata, the brother of Baha Abu Al Ata, and the operational command center of Khaled Azzam, a senior operative in the Islamic Jihad terrorist organization’s rocket launch force.
- Prevention of Response Attacks and Anti-Tank Missiles
The “Canopy of Fire” in the Gaza Division is responsible for a number of targets in various fields, including foray, anti-tank and mortars. The “Canopy of Fire” strategizes most targets in advance, but during an operation the main effort takes place in real time. This means identifying terrorist operatives on their way to execute a terror attack or immediately afterward and attempting to thwart them as fast as possible.
Throughout the operation, ten strikes took place which resulted in the injury of 19 terrorist operatives. Moreover, 19 mortar launchers were struck causing a decrease of approximately 50% in the mortar launches. This directly influences the Islamic Jihad’s ability to carry out attack frameworks.
The “Canopy of Fire” is capable of immediately aiming a strike to an exact target. This is possible thanks to the Gaza Division’s close cooperation with the Intelligence Directorate (J2), the IAF and the ISA.