An Israeli soldier keeps his position July 29 near Israel's border with the Gaza Strip. (Jack Guez / AFP)
TEL AVIV, ISRAEL — As Israel closes out the 22nd day of Operation Protective Edge, here’s some preliminary data measured against its 23-day, 2008-2009 Cast Lead campaign.
Both operations were launched in response to Gaza-launched attacks, started off with a week of punishing precision, standoff strikes and escalated to a combined arms ground war.
Both operations aimed to “extract a heavy price” from Hamas and restore “quiet” to civilians threatened by incessant cross-border salvos.
While data from the ongoing operation is rough, unverified and still in flux, this much is clear: Israel is paying a much heavier price against an enemy emboldened by new asymmetric attack capabilities.
As of late July 29, Israeli fatalities stood at 56.
That’s a fourfold surge from the Cast Lead incursion, which claimed 13 lives, four of them from friendly fire.
And that’s despite the remarkable protection provided by Iron Dome, which was still under development during Cast Lead.
According to the latest data from the IDF, Gaza militants launched more than 2,670 mortars and rockets at ranges that threatened most of the country.
Only three Israelis were killed.
Iron Dome intercepted more than 510 rockets. The rest, according to the IDF, fell in empty areas, into the sea or failed to cross the border, as was the case in July 28 attacks on a hospital and refugee camp in Gaza.
In Cast Lead, four Israelis were killed from 750 Gaza-launched mortars and rockets. At the time, the range of rocket arsenals in Gaza did not exceed 40 kilometers.
As for deaths in Gaza from Protective Edge, the latest July 29 data from the Palestinian Ministry of Health cites 1,210 “martyrs.” That marks a drop from the 1,440 reported killed during Cast Lead.
Israel fiercely disputes official Palestinian fatality data from the ongoing operation as well as the nearly six-year-old Cast Lead. It insists some 400 of those killed in the current campaign were combatants and other legitimate targets. Furthermore, it insists hundreds of others were cynically used as human shields in attempts to provoke international outrage.
But even when using Israel’s number of 400 combatants killed in the current campaign, plus another 200 it suspects may have been involved with Hamas, the figure still doesn’t match the 709 military targets it claimed to have killed during Cast Lead.
Despite a fourfold fatality hike in the current campaign, the IDF managed to kill far fewer enemies than it did in Cast Lead.
Here’s some random snapshot statistics from the two Gaza incursions at Day 22.
By their nature, snapshots must be viewed with caution. While they often can indicate a larger reality, they may just as well disprove it altogether.
Similarly, attempts to draw comparative lessons from different conflicts are ill-advised, especially where one continues to rage at the time of this writing. Data at this point comes directly from the IDF. It’s incomplete and circumstantial, but interesting nevertheless.
The IDF-launched Protective Edge in darkness, prior to the morning of July 8, using standoff strikes — mostly air power — to destroy 50 targets. At the end of Day 2, the IDF reported strikes against 440 targets, including 118 concealed rocket-launching sites; 10 tunnels; six Hamas official facilities and 10 command posts.
After Day 22, the IDF says it hit more than 3,941 targets by air, land and sea while destroying 16 of 32 tunnels discovered during the operation.
A similar amount of targets were destroyed in Cast Lead, although under different circumstances.
Israel kicked off that operation with a 220-second daytime blitz that killed more than 100 Hamas combatants and 50 targets. Another 170 targets and some 140 Hamas security personnel were killed by the end of the first day’s battle.
By the end of Cast Lead, Israeli airpower and combined air-land battle alone claimed 3,400 targets.
As for artillery, IDF gunners by the end of Day 22 fired more than 30,000 rounds, according to an unnamed battalion commander quoted in a July 29 account posted on the military’s official website.
In contrast, the IDF Artillery Corps fired only 7,000 rounds in Cast Lead.