Firefighter carries remains of Katyusha rocket 311 (R).
(photo credit: baz ratner/reuters)
While on the surface, the continued violence in the Gaza Strip looks serious, it
could be a great deal worse.
For one thing, the rocket fire this time
around is significantly less if compared to the previous round of violence
between Israel and Palestinian terror groups in Gaza in March.
Saturday, for example, terror groups fired 23 rockets into Israel. During most
days of the March round, over 40 rockets were fired into Israel, although then
the Iron Dome counter-rocket defense system was effective in intercepting some of
The Israel Air Force also carried out a larger number of air
strikes in March, like when in the span of three days it bombed 24 targets in
Gaza, killing 20 people.
This time around, there has yet to be 24 air
strikes and the fighting has been going on since Monday. In addition, the body
count in Gaza is lower, at 14 by Saturday night.
There are a number of
reasons for these differences. Firstly, neither Israel nor Hamas are really
interested in this round of violence but each is hitting back at the other to be
able to try and portray itself as winning this round.
Israel’s lack of
interest stems from a number of factors – a general desire to keep violence with
Gaza down to a minimum but also due to the upcoming summer vacation as well as
the government’s interest in staying focused on Iran and not being distracted by
Violence is also not beneficial right now for Hamas, which is
fighting hard to retain its control over Gaza in the face of a growing challenge
to its authority by Islamic Jihad and new global jihad groups.
addition, both Israel and Hamas are concerned about the way Egypt will react to
the violence and how it might impact the new leadership in Cairo’s relations
with either side.
As a result, neither side really broke out the big
guns. Hamas, for example, could have fired rockets at Tel Aviv if it wanted and
Israel could have bombed the Hamas bases it targeted during the day when they
were full and not at night when they were empty. The question both sides would
have to ask themselves, though, is what would have been gained by doing
So how will this end? Likely, the same way as each round of violence
has ended since Operation Cast Lead in the Gaza Strip in 2009 – with an
Egyptian- brokered cease-fire that will last until the next round, likely to
break out again in three to four months from now.
Unfortunately, this is
the reality for Israel when it comes to Gaza and it stems mainly from an
understanding within the IDF and the government that a military solution does
not exist for defeating Hamas and Islamic Jihad.
development during this past week of violence has been the relatively limited
use of the Iron Dome.
In March, the Iron Dome intercepted around 60
rockets in comparison to this past week when the three batteries intercepted
The reason is quite simple and has to do with where the
Palestinian terror groups have been firing their rockets.
In March, most
of the rocket fire – then done by Islamic Jihad – was long-range and in the
direction of cities like Beersheba, Ashdod and Ashkelon, which were protected by
the system. During this round of violence, a large percentage of the rocket fire
was short-range into places like Sderot or other towns located within a short
distance of Gaza.
This does not mean that Hamas has learned the way to
outsmart Iron Dome, since in a larger-scale conflict it would need to fire
farther and deeper into Israel, at places that are protected by the Iron
This is simply another sign of how this round of violence was real
but not as serious as it could have been.