Four pings on the Gaza war as climax in Rafah nears

Things aren’t going Biden Team’s way.

J.E. Dyer | The Optimistic Conservative | May 20,2024

These pings will be short.  Basically, I’m doing little more than teeing up posts on X/Twitter from the last week.  As each day gives hindsight on the day before, we see the signal of what’s going on emerge more clearly from the background noise, and find both concern and hope renewed.

The last comprehensive(-ish) summary is this one, from 9 May 2024.

At that point we were aware that the Biden administration had suspended a shipment of air-delivered bombs to Israel.  The shipment involved 2,000-lb and 500-lb bombs, which had been approved for shipment in March 2024 and were actually in fulfillment of a sales contract from 2008.  They weren’t part of the aid package Congress voted on for Israel, Ukraine, and Taiwan.  The reason for the suspension, according to the administration, was concern about civilian casualties in Gaza attributed by NGO analysts and the media to Israel’s use of the 2,000-lb bombs.

It always bears repeating that the civilian casualty rate from IDF aerial bombing is exceptionally low (lower than America’s; see link); the 2,000-lb bombs are used – very precisely, with JDAM precision-guidance kits and active targeting by aircrew – on Hamas’s tunnels and the ground-level infrastructure they hide under, which is among the best uses for such bombs; and in any case, the core of any civilian casualty problem is that Hamas uses civilians as human shields for its combat arrangements such as weapons storage, firing positions, and command posts.

Ping 1: Shaping the battle with arms delivery fulfillment

The Biden suspension remains in effect, however.  Shortly after it was announced, Biden was perceived by many to be changing course when his administration disclosed that a separate shipment of other arms had been authorized.  This was the one described as a $1 billion arms package.  (Links in the X thread below.)

The problem:  the shipment contained only munitions for infantry ground operations.  The air-delivered bombs were still being withheld.

Israel can fight much more effectively, and with lower own-force casualties (as well as fewer civilian casualties, in many cases), if the IDF can attack Hamas infrastructure using air-delivered bombs to prepare urban areas, in particular, before IDF troops enter.

This X thread of 14 May captures the essence of it.

 

 

 

If we recall from the 9 May TOC article, the IDF would probably run out of 2,000-lb bombs within about 16 weeks of starting a full-blown operation in Rafah.  It would run out substantially faster if Hezbollah opened a second front for Israel in the north.

The Biden administration appeared to be trying to limit Israel to fighting, and incurring more Israeli casualties, using ground operations, with less air-interdiction preparation and air support.  In fact, Biden appears to be trying to handicap the IDF by not replenishing the bomb inventory.

I’ll copy in here some summary observations made in separate correspondence.

The effect of this is to boost (though not all that significantly) Israel’s ability to wage a ground fight.  Everything in the list is a munitions package for infantry ops.

The air-delivered bombs are still withheld.  That’s what matters.  Israel doesn’t want to shift the fighting profile to more intensive ground ops with less air prep, interdiction, and air support. IDF on the ground is more vulnerable that way, and the ops profile is less efficient and everything takes longer.

Plus, the withholding of the bombs leaves Israel with the same original problem of how fast everything would run out if Hezbollah opened a major front in the north.  The bombs would be needed badly for Lebanon.  The IDF can’t afford incursions into Lebanon without massive air support.  Could well be the difference between keeping a fight on Lebanon’s side or having it cross into Israel and have to be defended/thrown back at greater cost.

Please don’t be fooled.  This is not a major concession from Biden.

Ping 2:  A pier in full makes its debut

On 16 May, the floating pier off Gaza was announced to be operational.  Again, see the 9 May article for a lot more on the pier.

 

 

 

By 17 May, trucks were being photographed rolling down the pier in gratifying numbers with their Meals-on-Keels cargo for Gaza, which had already had quite the scenic-route experience being transferred sometime between 11 and 16 May from the container ship M/V Sagamore to the Military Sealift cargo ship M/V/ Roy P Benavidez, apparently off Ashdod/Ashkelon on the Israeli coast, thence to proceed to the vicinity of the pier where it was shuttled to the pier in batches by U.S. Army landing craft.

 

The trucks were coming down the pier half-loaded, which isn’t promising as expeditious delivery is concerned.  But things were finally moving.

 

Alert analysts quickly recognized a presence on the pier, however.  Not one scintilla of an American uniformed boot has been observed on the ground of Gaza.  But the air space of Gaza is another story.

 

Perched on the pier, about 900 feet offshore by my estimate, is an Army counter-drone system called M-LIDS, which features a 30mm chain gun and a rocket launcher for maneuverable UAV-type drone-on-drone interceptors called “Coyote.”  The Coyote Block 2 rounds with this M-LIDS system can operate in powered, winged flight on a small jet engine.

And if they have to engage a drone near the pier, they will perforce be expending fires in the territorial air space of Gaza (administered for security by Israel), which extends to 12 nautical miles off the shoreline.

 

Readers will note that my X posts were sent on 17 May.  The import of the M-LIDS system on the pier was obvious as soon as it was seen.  It helps explain why Hamas complained that the U.S. was putting the pier in with the intent of bringing in military capability to Gaza.

 

The U.S. administration spoke appeasingly on the matter, but Hamas probably doesn’t believe our abject disavowal of belligerent intent.

 

 

Bonus notes: A C-RAM AAA intercept system has been observed on the landward side of the pier since pier installation.  This is presumably an IDF C-RAM, not being operated by U.S. troops.

 

Moreover, the pier’s aid flow instantly drew threats other than mortars and rockets from Hamas.  The UN says it hasn’t received anything from the pier since Saturday.

 

Ping 3:  Fronts, first and second

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May 21, 2024 | 1 Comment »

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  1. I find great difficulty in understanding Dyer and I do not have the TIME

    WHATS HE SAYING

    PS has he forgotten Gaza is Jewish land? Just a question. It’s not clear here.