"Horizontal attack" is how the IDF Navy defines its primary contribution to Operation Protective Edge. This tactic attempts to create an additional dimension of a naval front – a horizontal front – where fire is delivered from sea to shore.
Since the beginning of Operation Protective Edge, at the same time as the stand-off fire delivered by IAF, the Navy has kept the pressure on Hamas from the sea. "Missile frigates, Dvora boats, the Naval Commandos – we do our best to bring nearly all of our potential capabilities into this business of fighting, to shock the other side, to generate vulnerability, penetrability, to bring about a change in their operational logic, and that is what we deliver simultaneously with the other fire, intelligence and combat efforts," says a senior IDF Navy officer about the efforts made by his service during Operation Protective Edge. "The Navy generates fire against the Gaza Strip every day, every hour, night into day into night into day, with no letup. We deal with the production of additional intelligence and, naturally, surveillance, and fire every weapon in our arsenal: Tamuz (Spike-NLOS) missiles, Gil (Spike-MR) missiles, whatever we have.
"Horizontal penetration is different from kinetic penetration. It is different from their perspective and produces a different kind of vulnerability on the other side, we have actually seen it," says the senior Navy officer.
A part of the contribution made by the IDF Navy to Operation Protective Edge consisted of the continuous employment of the 13th Flotilla (Naval Commandos) in a series of covert operations in the Gaza Strip, of which only one operation by the Flotilla, in Sudaniya, became public knowledge, for the reason that four commandos had been lightly injured during that operation. The objective of the operation was to disrupt Hamas' steep-trajectory layouts, attempt to analyze a specific layout and then produce in that layout the friction that leads to mistakes.
"We went to a launching site in the Sudaniya area – by no means an unfamiliar territory. We viewed specific launches and knew where each rocket had been launched from. There is no point in dropping bombs if they fail to accomplish the objective. We also realized that they had prepared themselves for our kinetic capabilities. Every force that went forward was a formidable force. The actual contact with them was established while we were watching them and they were watching us and we saw them watching us; we saw them and we were watching them.
"Things happened in that place just like we wanted them to happen. Contact was established just as we wanted, we hit the terrorists," said the senior IDF Navy officer. "In this vertical attack situation – it is frightening; vulnerability, shock, capability. They run into a spot that they never wanted to run to. Suddenly they realize that they are under a ground attack. It was very confusing. It shattered the logic they had prepared for."
IDF Navy officials rejected the criticism voiced against the Naval Commandos' operation in Sudaniya: "I do not send someone out there just in order to make him personally vulnerable. There are risks that we take like the understanding you take into a maneuver. We consider the value of every single thing."
Among other things, the IDF Navy prepared for a defensive effort – to protect the offshore gas drilling rigs, including the "Tethys Ocean" rig.
On one of the days of remission – the temporary ceasefire – during the operation, the IDF Navy invited the military reporters to sail a Navy Morena (Moray eel) NSW (Naval Special Warfare) RHIB (Rigid Hull Inflatable Boat) and subsequently the Shaldag routine security boat: "A part of our duty is to enforce the naval blockade imposed on the Gaza Strip in order to ensure that there are no naval vessels inside the blockade area. They are now under full blockade, as they constitute a threat," says a Navy officer, "and such concepts will make them realize that they are being attacked and undermined on the naval front. We close (sensor-to-shooter) cycles independently in the Navy opposite IDF Southern Command, IAF and the Intelligence elements. They should feel vulnerable from every direction, 360 degrees."
The IDF Navy is prepared and conducts itself during the operation so that each one of its vessels, from the smallest to the largest, is fully protected against short-range missiles, anti-personnel fire, antitank weapons, small arms fire and, naturally, shore-to-ship missiles as well.
In reviewing the actual results, do you take into consideration the possibility that some arms smuggling attempts by ships likes the Klos C were successful as you had not prevented them?
"Based on what I know, I do not think that there were any other ships that delivered such arms. I do not think that there were any other cases of smuggling. There are minor cases of smuggling taking place through Egypt down there, right on the border in Rafah. Attempts were made and attempts will be made and the final chord of those attempts might paint a picture that I would not like to see. I do not want to see such damage on our side and I do not think there were any other ships like that one.
"This is what happened in the IDF: the 13th Flotilla are communicating through the C2 system of the ground forces. The commander on board the Dvora boat communicates with the company commander or battalion commander (on the ground). The fact that I launch a missile at the request of IAF or the ground forces reflects a high degree of maturity, openness and sharing of information."
Do the radars of the missile frigates deal with detecting rocket fire and provide alert of such launches?
"With regard to the radars of the missile frigates, it all depends on the parameters and the frequency they use and what they are aimed at. There are other systems that detect those launches, not the radars of the missile frigates."
The IDF Navy has not spotted any new attempts to smuggle arms into the Gaza Strip during the operation.
Are Hamas attempting similar operations to the landing near Zikim and the incursion into Eilat from Taba?
"It is logical to assume that they are attempting such operations. I do not really know. If I knew, I would have prepared for it," says the senior IDF Navy officer.
One of the primary cooperative efforts of the IDF Navy from the moment the ground operation began was the coordination with the IDF Nahal infantry brigade and 401st armored brigade that operated in the northern part of the Gaza Strip. The Navy's 916th Squadron, the routine security squadron operating out of Ashdod naval base, led the naval effort along with the 3rd Flotilla – the missile frigate flotilla.
"IDF Navy vessels currently carry PGMs – Precision-Guided Munitions. This enables the Navy to launch precision missiles from the sea, and those missiles can chase the terrorist target even through a window," explained the squadron commander, Lt. Col. A. "As far as support for the ground forces is concerned, the Navy is constantly hard at work developing suitable resources, operating methods and capabilities," he added.