JERUSALEM – Some 170,000 rockets and missiles are currently aimed at Israel’s cities from Arab countries in the region, the head of Israeli Military Intelligence, Gen. Aviv Kochavi, said this week.
He termed this threat more dangerous to Israel than even Iran’s nuclear program.
"For the first time, the enemy has the ability to drop considerable amounts of munitions on the cities of Israel," he said at a conference held by a Tel Aviv think tank, The Institute for National Security Studies. Rockets and missiles are today the primary weapons of Israel’s enemies, he said, and they offer an enormous intelligence and technological challenge.
Israel is developing anti-missile rockets for the shorter-range threat, principally from Hezbollah in Lebanon and from Gaza. These have been used to good effect against fire from Gaza.
It is also developing other systems with American help to ward off longer-range missiles from Iran and Syria. It is not clear how the combined systems will be able to deal with a mass simultaneous firing but Israel is contemplating other devices, including lasers.
The Israeli Air Force, supplied with up-to-date intelligence, was able to knock out the most dangerous rockets in their hidden storage places in the opening hours of the 2006 conflict with Hezbollah. Four thousand rockets were fired into Israel in that conflict, causing 40 deaths.
The intelligence chief said cyber warfare, which can shut down entire systems, was an even greater potential threat.
"Cyber [warfare], in my opinion, will be revealed as a revolution greater than the development of gunpowder or the usage of aerial space at the beginning of the last century," he said.
Israel has faced hundreds of cyber attacks and the intelligence community has been targeted by dozens of attacks in the past year. "The vast majority were thankfully unsuccessful," he said.
Israel has significantly expanded its defensive and offensive capabilities in this field and the intelligence community has been expanded to meet the challenge.
Chief of Staff Gen. Benny Gantz said the need to expand Israel’s cyber security resources was "vital to the extreme." Given the challenges it faces, he said, Israel "must be at the level of a [cyber] superpower and it can be."