Despite offensive, Gaza rockets still hit Israel

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FILE – In this file photo taken July 5, 2014, an Iron Dome air defense system fires to intercept a rocket from Gaza Strip in the costal city of Ashkelon, Israel. Israel says its punishing air assault on Hamas militants, their property and their weaponry has delivered a devastating blow to the Islamic militant group. Yet rocket fire at Israel has continued almost unabated. (AP Photo/Tsafrir Abayov, File)

FILE – In this file photo taken July 5, 2014, an Iron Dome air defense system fires to intercept a rocket from Gaza Strip in the costal city of Ashkelon, Israel. Israel says its punishing air assault on Hamas militants, their property and their weaponry has delivered a devastating blow to the Islamic militant group. Yet rocket fire at Israel has continued almost unabated. (AP Photo/Tsafrir Abayov, File)

FILE – In this file photo taken July 9, 2014, an Israeli missile hits an area in Rafah, southern Gaza Strip. Israel says its punishing air assault on Hamas militants, their property and their weaponry has delivered a devastating blow to the Islamic militant group. Yet rocket fire at Israel has continued almost unabated. (AP Photo/Hatem Ali, File)

FILE – In this file photo taken July 11, 2014, Israeli explosives experts carry the remnants of a long-range rocket fired by Palestinians militants from Gaza after being shot down by Israel’s Iron Dome air defense system and hit a synagogue in Tel Aviv, Israel. Israel says its punishing air assault on Hamas militants, their property and their weaponry has delivered a devastating blow to the Islamic militant group. Yet rocket fire at Israel has continued almost unabated. (AP Photo/Oded Balilty, File)

FILE – In this file photo taken July 9, 2014, a rocket fired by Palestinian militants from inside the Gaza Strip makes its way towards Israel, seen from the Israel-Gaza border. Israel says its punishing air assault on Hamas militants, their property and their weaponry has delivered a devastating blow to the Islamic militant group. Yet rocket fire at Israel has continued almost unabated. (AP Photo/Ariel Schalit, File)

FILE – In this file photo taken July 8, 2014, an Israeli missile explodes on impact in Rafah, southern Gaza Strip. Israel says its punishing air assault on Hamas militants, their property and their weaponry has delivered a devastating blow to the Islamic militant group. Yet rocket fire at Israel has continued almost unabated. (AP Photo/Eyad Baba, File)

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TEL AVIV, Israel (AP) — Israel says its punishing air assault on Hamas militants, their property and their weaponry has delivered a devastating blow to the Islamic militant group. Yet rocket fire at Israel has continued almost unabated.

The military says that due to years of generous Iranian shipments, thousands of rockets remain in Gaza, and there is no quick way to eliminate the threat.

It says its goal is to inflict so much pain on Hamas that it will be deterred from attacking Israel again — just like Hezbollah guerrillas in Lebanon have largely remained on the sidelines for the past eight years.

The military also says it wants to punish Hamas for the violence. But both goals are hard to quantify in the short term. A similar offensive in November 2012 was also deemed a military success, though it left Israel vulnerable to rocket fire. Israel also launched a large offensive in late 2008 that delivered a tenuous cease-fire.

“There is no knockout, it is more complicated,” said a senior military official involved in the fighting, who spoke on condition of anonymity under military guidelines. But, he added, “if there is a map of pain that the enemy sees, it will have to think about things.”

The rocket threat has been in the making for well over a decade. In the early 2000s, Hamas began firing rudimentary, homegrown rockets that were inaccurate, flew short distances and carried a tiny payload.

Today, the army says the group has an arsenal of some 10,000 rockets, including longer-range, foreign-made weapons capable of reaching virtually anywhere in Israel. The current round of fighting has seen air-raid sirens sound in Jerusalem, Tel Aviv and Haifa, Israel’s three-largest cities. There have been no fatalities, in large part because of dozens of interceptions by the high-tech “Iron Dome” rocket-defense system.

Israel launched its offensive last Tuesday in what it says was a response to weeks of heavy rocket attacks out of Gaza. It has carried out hundreds of airstrikes, systematically targeting what it says is Hamas’ rocket-launching production and launching capabilities.

On Sunday, Israel sent special forces into Gaza for a brief ground operation, its first in the latest fighting, in an attempt to take out rocket launching pads that could not be destroyed from the air.

Israeli analysts say that most of the remaining long-range rockets are believed to be stashed beneath residential buildings, and that the only way to completely remove the threat would be to re-conquer Gaza, from which Israel withdrew in 2005, and stay there for a lengthy period. Such a scenario would carry great risk, and Israeli leaders are wary.

“There is no attempt here to solve the conflict. We are talking about managing the conflict and as long as it goes on, quiet will only be temporary,” said Shlomo Brom, a retired Israeli general who is now an analyst at the Institute for National Security Studies, an Israeli think tank. “It’s a mistake to think that if you have established deterrence it will stay that way. Deterrence must be maintained.”

Israel cites the example of Lebanon as a potential blueprint. It battled a bloody monthlong war with Hezbollah in 2006 that saw thousands of rockets fired at Israel and 160 Israelis killed. About 1,200 Lebanese were killed in an Israeli air and ground offensive that hammered Hezbollah strongholds.

While the fighting ended in a stalemate, the border has remained largely quiet as Hezbollah, despite its fiery rhetoric, has refrained from provoking Israel.

Israel hopes

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