Some snippets of news for this weekend. From the Washington Post: Palestinians Fire Missiles Into Israel.
JERUSALEM, Sept. 24 -- Palestinian gunmen fired a barrage of homemade missiles from the Gaza Strip into southern Israel before dawn Saturday, wounding five Israeli civilians, a military official said. Attack helicopters responded hours later by striking a weapons factory and warehouse in Gaza, the first Israeli military operation inside the strip since Israel completed its withdrawal from the area this month. ...
Hamas, formally known as the Islamic Resistance Movement, accused Israel of firing missiles at the vehicle from an unmanned aircraft, which Israeli military officials denied. Witnesses said the explosion did not leave the telltale crater of a missile strike, a method Israel has used frequently against Hamas leaders and gunmen in the past.
Sharon's withdrawal was hailed as a step toward conciliation and peace, something that would enable Israel to regain the "moral high ground". It is isn't working that way yet. The provocation that Hamas cited as a reason for firing missiles into Israel was this incident reported in the New York Times:
Sept. 23 - A Palestinian pickup truck carrying rockets exploded today at a large Hamas rally as the group paraded its weapons through a densely packed refugee camp in the Gaza Strip. At least 15 Palestinians were killed more than 80 were injured, Palestinian medical officials said. ... The most likely cause of the blast appeared to be the rockets exploding by accident. A spokesman for the Palestinian Interior Ministry, Tawfiq Abu Khossa, said the cause was under investigation. However, Hamas said the rockets were dummies and did not contain explosives. The group alleged that an Israeli airstrike was responsible and said it would hit at Israel.
In Iraq, there's an infantry operation against the Anbar town of Ramadi, but I think more properly Ramadi and its neighboring towns on the Euphrates line. Bill Roggio has the details. (Speculation alert) My guess is that this is a fairly significant operation with a substantial Iraqi Army component, just like Tal-Afar. From CBC:
Heavy fighting surged Friday in the Euphrates River city of Ramadi, police and hospital officials said, and the U.S. military reported the deaths of two more soldiers around the militant stronghold ... Ramadi police Capt. Nasir Al-Alousi said American forces airlifted equipment into the city stadium before dawn Friday. He said clashes erupted in that area and spread to an industrial zone after sunrise, continuing until at least midday.
Without much fanfare, a number of improvements have been made to the US ability to fight within cities. One recent major effort involved training a larger number of controllers who could call down supporting fires at the smallest unit levels. The next was developing munitions suitable for use in cities -- smaller, but more precise supporting weapons. The Strategy Page describes a guided munition designed for urban defilades. "Viper Strike is a 36 inch long unpowered glider. The 130mm diameter (with the wings folded) weapon weighs 44 pounds. Because the Viper Strike comes straight down, it is better suited for urban warfare." Viper Strike is deployed on UAVs and may be carried in large numbers in AC-130s. Then there is the Air Force Hardstop, "a GPS guided half ton cluster bomb. The GPS and computer in the bomb control the dispersal of 54 smaller bomblets, that are designed to penetrate the roof of a building and explode inside." This basically guts a building while leaving the outer shell intact.
The Army News Services describes how the GMLRS Unitary rocket, a guided MLRS round, was used in combat at Tal-Afar.
The Guided Multiple Launch Rocket System destroyed two insurgent strongholds from a distance of more than 50 kilometers away. Battery B, 3rd Battalion, 13th Field Artillery Regiment fired eight guided rockets in Tal Afar Sept. 9 and 10, killing 48 insurgents, said Maj. Jeremy McGuire, deputy of operations, Force Field Artillery, Multi-National Corps – Iraq.
Lockheed Martin describes it having a variety of fuzing modes which make it useful against targets either in the open or in urban settings.
The GMLRS Unitary tri-mode fuze provides the warfighter with three distinct detonation options: Point Detonate, which detonates the warhead on impact with the target providing minimal collateral damage; Delay Mode, which detonates after impact with the target providing a penetration capability; and the Proximity Sensor, which detonates at a predetermined height above the target allowing a greater target area to be covered.
The availability of these new precision strike capabilities means that infantry does not always have to be risked in order to flush out enemy within buildings, one of the major sources of casualty in Fallujah. However, it increases the need for good intelligence and controlled manuever if these weapons are not to result in accidental civilians deaths or blue-on-blue incidents.
One of the unambiguous benefits of the Israeli withdrawal from Gaza was that it shortened its defense lines enabling it to treat the border like a border. Even the most pessimistic opponents of the Gaza withdrawal believed Hamas would observe an interval before attacking Israel from Gaza, but they have taken it on the trot. ABC News reports that an Israeli military response is being readied.
GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip Sep 24, 2005 — Israel's defense minister ordered ground forces to the Gaza border on Saturday and vowed a "crushing" response to Hamas rocket fire on Israeli towns. Israel also imposed a blanket closure on the West Bank and Gaza, barring thousands of Palestinian laborers from jobs in Israel.
The Gaza withdrawal may turn out to be far more dangerous to the Palestinian Authority than to Israel because it unleashed powerful forces which Abbas has been unable to control. It now threaten to drag him like a man whose foot has been caught in the traces of runaway horses. The sad trainwreck unfolds. Hamas blows up its own parade through stupidity. Unable to lose face, Hamas rockets Israel from Gaza. Sharon, loathe to concede the Gaza withdrawal may have endangered Israel, will kill a score of terrorist leaders and hit the Palestinians in the pocketbook to show he's tough. That will get the 'militants' all jumping up and down, while the PA teeters like a house of cards in a Category 4 hurricane and the peace movement hums an inspirational hymn indistinguishable from the shrieking of the wind.