Operation Guardians of the Walls – May’s mini-war bet ween Hamas in Gaza and Israel saw the advent of new drone technology on both sides of the battlefield, Jerusalem Post columnist, author and drone expert Seth Frantzman revealed at a webinar for the Australia/Israel & Jewish Affairs Council (AIJAC) on July 15.
On the Israeli side, the author of the recently published book “Drone Wars: Pioneers, Killing Machines, Artificial Intelligence, and the Battle for the Future”, told the audience how Israel had, for the first time in combat, used artificial intelligence to gather real-time data from multiple observation drones into what’s called “drone swarm” intelligence pools, giving the IDF the ability to respond to the source of Gazan rocket fire almost immediately.
Also in that escalation, Israel’s Iron Dome anti-missile system shot down a Hamas attack drone – an achievement given the unique flight characteristics of drones that make them a much different kind of target than the solid-fuel rockets the Iron Dome was originally designed to defend against.
Frantzman said Hamas used “used an Iranian Ababil-style drone, which is similar to what the Houthis have used in Yemen” and confirmed that the drone threat Israel faces both from Gaza, southern Lebanon and Syria are from Iranian-designed systems.
Indeed, Frantzman emphasised that the Hamas’ war against Israel was planned and said he also believed that the escalation directly served Iranian interests by testing Israeli missile defences against barrage attack.
“I think there’s a lot of evidence that [Hamas] put a lot of plans into this war that was not like 2014 or 2012,” Frantzman said, “And what that means is this war was not just spontaneous, like people said [at the time that] there were tensions [in] Jerusalem and then a Hamas fired a rocket. No, this war was carefully planned. They were waiting for the spark that would set it off. You don’t have 4,000 missiles ready to go because [you’re just] very angry and there’s a spontaneous war. This was this was a complicated plan, you know, like the German Von Schlieffen Plan [of World War I]… This was this was coordinated and choreographed, and there have been a lot of studies of it in Iran.”
Earlier this year, the IDF conducted an exercise simulating an attack from multiple fronts – a very plausible scenario in the event of renewed fighting in southern Lebanon – and Frantzman was asked during the webinar whether the IDF had the resilience to repel simultaneous attacks from Hamas in Gaza, Hezbollah in Lebanon and an uprising in the West Bank. While he stressed that the IDF is seeking to avoid such a scenario, Frantzman was confident Israel could withstand such a blow, though in doing so, it would likely sustain higher civilian and military casualties than in recent wars.
Further afield, Frantzman warned that Western acceptance of a Taliban takeover in Afghanistan would create a precedent for engaging with other problematic militant or terror groups. “I think everyone is trying to prepare the future in which the Taliban will be will be seen as a legitimate government or at least a partner in one,” Frantzman said, “And that’s very disturbing and bad…. [They’ll say next] well, we can meet why don’t why can’t we meet with Hezbollah? It’s part of the government. Well, why can’t we meet with Hamas – and we’re seeing that we’re seeing already.”
Frantzman discerned an emerging IDF strategy for war in the Information Age, a time when the power of social media plays into the hands of Hamas, Hezbollah, and other practitioners of asymmetric warfare.
“It means concentrating more power quicker and having a much faster war with much more impact and in a much shorter period of time,” Frantzman said. “That’s where they’re trying to get to.”