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May 30, 2018 12:51 pm

Hamas Prepares for More Violence and Bloodshed

avatar by Yoav Limor / JNS.org

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A Hamas military drill in the Gaza Strip in March 2018. Photo: Reuters / Ibraheem Abu Mustafa.

JNS.org – The rapidly increasing pace of security incidents on ‎the Israel-Gaza Strip border does not bode well. At ‎best, it indicates that Hamas is looking for new ‎ways to challenge Israel. At worst, it is the ‎beginning of a protracted escalation that could ‎easily spiral out of control. ‎

Israeli defense officials are monitoring the ‎situation closely, and the outlook is disturbing. Until the end of 2017, there were only sporadic, mostly civilian ‎incidents on the border; now ‎we are seeing daily events, including ‎outright attacks such as hurling firebombs and sending ‎incendiary kites over the border, and placing ‎explosives along the security fence.‎

It is doubtful that Hamas is actively seeking a full-fledged war, but it definitely wants to keep the ‎struggle on the border alive and kicking. Frustrated ‎by the failure of the border riots that it launched on March 30, Hamas ‎has loosened the reins and it no longer tries, or even ‎pretends to try, to stop terrorist attacks on the ‎fence. ‎

The explosive device planted on the border on Saturday ‎by Islamic Jihad operatives is an example, ‎as it is doubtful this would have been done without ‎consent by Hamas. If anything, the border riots ‎campaign has illustrated ‎exactly how tight Hamas’ grip is on the Gaza Strip.‎

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At this point, Israel is still pacing its response. ‎The tank strike that killed jihadi operatives on Sunday ‎was a tactical one, and the Israeli Air Force’s ‎strike on Hamas posts in Gaza was in line with the ‎known rules. ‎

It seems that both sides are wary of the kind of ‎operations that would lead to a full-blown war and, ‎despite their denials, are continuing to give ‎serious thought to the possibility of an Egyptian-‎brokered truce. ‎

However, if those efforts fail, Hamas will again ‎find itself painted into a corner. For this reason, ‎it aims to preserve the tensions on the border, which can be used as a pretext for an escalation, as ‎well as a way to keep international public opinion ‎focused on Gaza. ‎

Israel believes that it still has significant leeway in Gaza, as well as ways to generate ‎significant deterrence. This was one of the reasons that ‎the IDF decided to go public on Sunday with its ‎latest project: constructing a sea barrier off ‎Zikim beach, where a terrorist infiltration was ‎foiled during “Operation Protective Edge” in 2014. ‎

The message to Hamas is clear: Israel remains one ‎step ahead and all the money and efforts that Hamas ‎has been investing in terror tunnels and training divers are ‎in vain.‎

Past experience has proved that the IDF’s message is unlikely to sway Hamas, but that is ‎not Israel’s concern. The faster that the sea ‎barrier is completed the better, and hopefully, it will plug this security hole before the next Gaza ‎campaign. ‎

Yoav Limor is a veteran Israeli journalist and columnist for Israel Hayom.

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