Mark Perry writes: [I]n training and deploying its rocket battalions, Hamas has modeled its strategy on other liberation movements. In November 1965, the United States’ 1st Cavalry Division faced off against a number of North Vietnamese regiments in the Ia Drang Valley, in western Vietnam. What was important about the Ia Drang battle was that the Vietnamese had purposely lured U.S. units into a close-quarters fight, where the Americans could not use their artillery or helicopter-mounted missile systems. As one Vietnamese commander said in a meeting with a U.S. military commander after the war, the North Vietnamese tactic was to “grab you by your belt buckle.”
Palestinians used these same tactics during the second intifada in April 2002, when militants battled the IDF in the streets of the West Bank city of Jenin. The Jenin battleground was a close-quarters fight in which the Israeli advantage in firepower was negated by having to fight house-to-house and street-to-street. Twenty-three IDF soldiers were killed, along with 54 Palestinians. The Palestinian Authority’s president at that time, Yasser Arafat, extolled the Jenin fight as a victory, comparable in importance to Stalingrad. “It is Jeningrad,” he said.
The Jenin model has had a powerful impact on the way the Palestinians have fought subsequent wars, including in Gaza. This time, Hamas’ rockets are the lure. To stop the rockets (and unearth Hamas’ tunnels), the IDF has been forced to fight in the streets and warrens of Gaza City and Palestinian refugee camps, thereby negating Israel’s huge firepower advantage and leading to increased Israeli military casualties. In that sense, although Hamas’ rockets haven’t taken large numbers of Israeli lives, they’ve called into question the IDF’s ability to defend the Israeli populace, choked off the country’s most important international airport, and helped level the military playing field. But all of that has only been possible because the Israeli government has overreacted to what has always been a minor material threat. [Continue reading…]