Despite Progress, a New Israel-Hamas Clash Feels Imminent
JNS.org – The rocket salvo fired at Israeli communities near the Gaza Strip on Wednesday signaled another step on the way to a likely confrontation between Israel and Hamas — a confrontation that neither Israel nor Hamas wants.
The escalation follows the steady security deterioration of the past few weeks. Hamas is pushing the kite terrorism campaign, the IDF has had to intensify its response, and Hamas has had to escalate its reprisals, so as to maintain its image as the defender of Gaza.
This is a dangerous dynamic that leaves too much to chance. All it would take to trigger a full-blown conflict is an incendiary kite that burns down an Israeli house, or an Israeli strike that results in Palestinian casualties.
Israel is wary of this, but still — every day — the IDF inches closer to the point where it would no longer be able to control circumstances. Firing warning shots at kite terrorist cells has grown into strikes on Hamas vehicles transporting them, and while this is still far from targeted assassinations, it is merely one step away.
But offensive tactics are only one side of the Israeli solution. It is also pursuing a technological response, so far to only partial success, while enhancing and improving firefighters and Homefront Command teams’ response to the fires raging in the Gaza-vicinity communities as a result of Palestinian arson terrorism.
The IDF Southern Command believes that these joint efforts are proving successful, as shown by the decrease in the number of daily fires, especially large ones.
Still, it seems a little too early to show optimism. The battle against kite terrorism is far from over, and it may escalate into a full-fledged war before a solution is devised.
But even if kite terrorism becomes a thing of the past, Hamas will not relent. For the first time in months, its leadership has a feeling that its struggle is bearing fruit: Egypt has opened the Rafah crossing after four years, and Donald Trump’s envoys who visited Israel this week focused on the crisis in Gaza, not the Palestinian Authority.
A misinterpretation of the situation by Hamas could lead it to conclude that it should intensify its border riot campaign to mark more achievements. This would prompt Israeli countermeasures, which could then lead to an inevitable escalation.
The way to change this process runs through the parallel, behind-the-scenes efforts trying to broker an understanding between Israel and Hamas that could facilitate a long-term cease-fire. Quite a few individuals, both Western and Arab, are involved in these efforts, which have yet to come to fruition. This is a race against time between words and rockets, and sadly, the latter may have the upper hand.
Yoav Limor is a veteran Israeli journalist and columnist for Israel Hayom.