"If we knew where the [Hamas'] long-range rockets were -- we would have struck them," a senior Israeli Air Force officer told reporters on Wednesday.
"We don't know everything, not everything can be attacked. We work with what we know and what we can attack. We will not strike a hospital that has long-range rockets stored in it," the officer told Israel Hayom.
During Operation Pillar of Defense in 2012 the air force destroyed the majority of the long-range rockets in the Gaza Strip as a result of good intelligence gathering. The aerial blitz on the rocket stockpile came shortly after the assassination of Hamas military wing head Ahmed Jabari. The long-range rockets numbered in the dozens at the time.
Analysis today points to hundreds of rockets with a range larger than 40 kilometers (25 miles) in the Gaza Strip. This week Hamas presented the M-302, which the defense establishment had not been sure Hamas had. Only a few months ago, the IDF sent naval commandos nearly a thousand miles off Israeli shores to intercept the Klos C arms ship, which had M-302s onboard.
According to the air force officer, the IAF does not always know or is not always able to attack those long-range rockets. "I did not imply that we are lacking intelligence data, only that even with the best intelligence gathering there are still limitations. ... The air force is attacking a very wide range of targets based on the intelligence we have. We are working alongside IDF Southern Command, the Intelligence Directorate and the Shin Bet security agency. Strikes are carried out based on our capabilities and the information we have," the official said.
This time, unlike the last two operations in the Gaza Strip, the IDF did not start the campaign with an opening salvo, such as a targeted killing or attack on Hamas' strategic capabilities (like long-range rockets). According to a senior defense official, the reason for that is that Operation Protective Edge was not a surprise operation. It is seen as a direct continuation of the hostilities after the kidnapping and murder of three Israeli teens and subsequent operation in the West Bank against Hamas, which has now become desperate.
The air force official said that militants had fired anti-aircraft missiles at Israeli jets over the Gaza Strip. The attempts included the Russian Strela anti-aircraft missile. "The threat is taken into account. We deal with it during the flight. It is a matter of opportunity for them."