For Israel, there is no question that Hamas was involved, in one way or another,
in Thursday’s terrorist attacks from Sinai that killed eight
While the perpetrators belonged to the Popular Resistance
Committees (PRC), according to Israel, the smaller terrorist group is closely
affiliated with Hamas and in the past heeded its requests to hold its rocket
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The fact that the PRC was behind the attacks on Thursday is another
demonstration of how Hamas is losing control over the Gaza Strip as a growing
number of terrorist groups – some affiliated with al-Qaida and global jihad
elements – reject its authority and believe now is the time to begin escalating
the front with Israel.
At the same time, though, the IDF does not believe
the PRC could have carried out such a sophisticated attack – which included a
number of cells and close to two dozen heavily armed operatives – without Hamas
knowing, atleast to some extent. For that reason, Israel ultimately holds Hamas responsible
for the attack and the continued rocket fire into Israel.
On the other
hand, Israel also does not want a large military operation in Gaza at the
moment. With two weeks left to the beginning of the school year, the government
would prefer to end the current cycle in a way that will allow firstgraders from
the South to go to school on September 1, and not have to stay home in bomb
This is, however, not simple to achieve from an operational
On the one hand, Israel wants to retaliate for the attacks on
Thursday and the continued rocket fire from the Gaza Strip, to restore its
deterrence and ensure Hamas, the PRC, Islamic Jihad and other groups know they
will pay a price for their attacks. On the other hand, though, it wants to do so
in a way that will not lead to a larger conflict.
On Friday, the IDF
already turned things up a notch when it attacked a number of static targets in
Gaza in the middle of the day, for the first time, one IDF officer said, since
Operation Cast Lead two-and-a-half years ago. IDF responses to rocket attacks
almost always come at night, and attacks during the day are usually against
moving targets, such as rocket cells or terrorists the army has intelligence on
and knows are on their way to an imminent attack.
The IDF’s options vary
depending on developments on the ground. On the one hand, it could expand its
air strikes and begin attacking dozens of targets and manned outposts throughout
the Gaza Strip, something that would likely draw an escalation in the rocket
It could also send ground troops into Gaza in small, isolated
operations, for example isolating parts of northern Gaza, with the objective of
drawing out terrorists and sending a message Israel will not hesitate to enter
the Strip by land and to expand that operation if the rocket fire does not
Either way, the goal will likely be to end the new cycle of
violence within the coming days, to restore a level of deterrence and to stave
off a larger conflict to another day.
At the same time as the fighting
continued along the Gaza border, the IDF was contemplating the new reality it
faces along the border with Egypt. While there is hope that the Egyptian
military will make a greater effort to prevent attacks from its soil, the IDF
will need to make some operational changes.
First, the Southern Command
understands it was a mistake to open Road 12 last Thursday morning. The road,
which connects Mitzpe Ramon with Eilat, runs directly along the border and cars
traveling on it were targeted by the terrorists.
The road had been closed
the night before, as well as on previous nights in the days leading up to the
attack, but the IDF decided to open it to prevent the negative affects on
civilians who use the road.
Israel might, however, also need to bend the
Camp David peace treaty a little more and allow the Egyptians to deploy more
troops in the Sinai Peninsula, to give them a viable chance to restore order
there and prevent future attacks.