From Cast Lead to Protective Edge
Lessons from Israel's Wars in Gaza
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For more than a decade now, Israel has clashed with Hamas in Gaza, in cycles of violence defined by periods of intense fighting followed by relative lulls. This report covers a five-year period of this conflict — from the end of Operation Cast Lead in 2009 to the end of Operation Protective Edge in 2014. Drawing on primary and secondary sources and an extensive set of interviews, it analyzes how an advanced military fought a determined, adaptive, hybrid adversary. It describes how the Israel Defense Force (IDF) operationally, organizationally, and technologically evolved to meet asymmetric threats. Most broadly, this report details the IDF's increasing challenge of striking a delicate balance between the intense international legal public scrutiny and the hard operational realities of modern urban warfare. In this respect, this report's title — "From Cast Lead to Protective Edge" — captures more than just the names of the two operations that chronologically bracket its scope; it also describes the tension the IDF confronted between the military necessities driving maximalist uses of force and the political imperative for more restrained operations. This report draws a series of lessons from the Israeli experience for the U.S. Army and the joint force: from the importance of armored vehicles and active protection systems to the limitations of airpower in urban terrain and of conventional militaries to deter nonstate actors.