Hamas police cadets Gaza 311 AP.
(photo credit: Associated Press)
Defense officials said that the escalation in rocket fire over the weekend was
likely Hamas’s response to the Arab League decision on Thursday to authorize the
Palestinian Authority to open direct peace talks with Israel.
maintained a strict policy of abstaining from rocket fire since Operation Cast
Lead ended in mid-January 2009 and has, in some cases, even cracked down on
fringe Palestinian terror groups to stop their rocket attacks against
Arab league endorses direct talksEditorial: Hamas's violent message
Israeli officials said Sunday that the rocket fire over the
would likely not lead to an escalation of hostilities in the short term,
but was likely an attempt by Hamas to send a message that it should not be
ignored if peace talks are launched.
If the talks between Israel and the
PA pick up speed, some officials predict that Hamas will escalate its terrorist
activity in an attempt to force Israel to launch another operation in Gaza, a
move which would most likely derail the talks.
Prime Minister Binyamin
Netanyahu warned at the beginning of Sunday’s cabinet meeting that Israel holds
Hamas “directly responsible for any attack on Israel that originates in the Gaza
Strip, and this is how the international community must see
Netanyahu characterized as “miraculous” the fact that the Grad
missile fired Friday at the heart of Ashkelon did not cause any
“Israel reserves the right to defend its citizens and we will
continue to take all necessary measures in order to defend the State of Israel,
Israeli citizens and Israeli children,” he said.
Minister Uzi Landau (Israel Beiteinu) said before the meeting that Israel was
reaping “rotten fruit” caused by the failure of the IDF to “finish the job”
against Hamas during Operation Cast Lead.
Tourism Minister Stas
Meseznikov (Israel Beiteinu) said that Israel needed to make clear an automatic
“price tag” for any attacks from Gaza on Israel. Maybe, he said, Hamas would be
deterred if it knew clearly beforehand what price it would have to pay for each
If the government does not set a price tag, he said, there was no
difference between this government and the previous government under Ehud
Since coming into office last year, Netanyahu has said
consistently he would not tolerate the constant “rain” of missiles from Gaza
without responding harshly.
Hamas has significantly upgraded its military
infrastructure and capabilities since Operation Cast Lead last year and is
believed today to have thousands of rockets that have a range up to 20
kilometers, and hundreds more that have a range over 40 km.
Hamas is also
believed to have several dozen rockets – made in Iran – that are capable of
hitting Tel Aviv.
Hamas has made some modifications to its operational
plans. Overall, Hamas believes that its defensive plans – which included
roadside bombs, booby-trapped homes and dozens of kilometers of tunnels and
trenches – was the right plan, but that it was not effective during Cast Lead
because its commanders were inexperienced.
Since the Gaza maneuver, Hamas
has replaced several of its senior brigade and battalion commanders and has also
clearly defined each one’s specific area of responsibilities so it will be clear
– as it apparently was not during Cast Lead – which commander operates in which