The latest round of violence was triggered by Israel’s assassination of Zuhair al-Qaisy secretary-general of the Popular Resistance Committees along with two associates in an airstrike on Gaza yesterday.
Minister of Home Front Defense Matan Vilnai stressed on Saturday that “the IDF is not planning on launching another military campaign in Gaza.
“This round of fighting began due to the targeted killing of a PRC operative who was in the midst of planning another attack. It was clear to the security establishment that this would lead to an escalation, but targeting him was necessary,” he noted.
Israel repeatedly trots out these two explanations for its attacks: that it is thwarting a Palestinian attack that is being prepared or that it is directly targeting rocket-launching sites. But if the escalation of rocket attacks on Southern Israel (apparently 100 rockets so far) is greater than the attack that has supposedly been thwarted, there’s little logic to this kind of “preemptive” attack.
As always, there seems to be greater reason to think that Israel initiates an action like this for political rather than security reasons.
Hamas’s political power is rising. It has struck a deal on joint governance with Fatah and in response to the Arab Spring is strengthening its ties with other branches of the Muslim Brotherhood while severing its ties with Syria. It now has growing political support from Qatar, Egypt, and Turkey.
In this context, Benjamin Netanyahu would no doubt prefer to see Hamas abandon its ceasefire with Israel. While he is internationally perceived as a man itching to start a war on Iran, a few dozen rockets getting fired at Israel is probably a welcome sight since it helps renew the appearance of Israel as victim rather than aggressor.
Hamas seems unlikely to rise to the bait and given that they already announced that they would not involve themselves in a war between Israel and Iran, many Israelis (especially those in the south) must be wondering how they are served by a defense force that might more accurately be called the Israel Provocation Force.