IDF blames Hamas for escalation in rocket fire from Gaza

Gantz meets with top military brass after 5 Kassam rockets fired from Strip, IDF confirms strikes carried out against Gaza targets.

July 15, 2011 15:27
3 minute read.
IDF chief of General Staff Benny Gantz [file]

Benny Gantz 311. (photo credit: IDF Spokesperson)


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While Hamas is not directly behind the recent increase in Gazan rocket fire, senior army officers say that Israel will hold the terrorist organization responsible as it contemplates military action.

On Friday, IDF Chief of General Staff Lt.-Gen. Benny Gantz convened top brass to discuss the escalation in the south, including OC Southern Command Maj.-Gen. Tal Russo, Israel Air Force Commander Maj.-Gen. Ido Nehushtan and OC Military Intelligence Maj.-Gen. Aviv Kochavi.

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Following the meeting, senior officers condemned Hamas for not taking action to rein in other terrorist organizations in Gaza that the IDF believes are behind the recent rocket fire. Since the beginning of last month, almost 20 rockets have been fired into Israel.

A Kassam rocket exploded in an open area in the Eshkol Regional Council early on Saturday morning. No injuries or damages were reported.

Overnight Friday, an IAF strike wounded a Palestinian gunman in the Gaza Strip, Palestinian medics said.

An IDF spokeswoman confirmed that an aerial attack was launched under cover of darkness against terrorists preparing to fire a rocket.

On Thursday, five Kassam rockets were fired into southern Israel, and a mortar shell hit in the Negev on Friday morning. No one was hurt.

Israel responded late on Thursday night, bombing six targets in the Gaza Strip – including two arms-smuggling tunnels. Two children were reportedly lightly wounded in the strikes.

The recent escalation in rocket fire is viewed in the IDF as part of an effort by global jihad-aligned groups in Gaza to undermine Hamas’s authority and rule by attacking Israel. It is believed that Hamas is not currently interested in a large-scale conflict, and therefore is not sanctioning the rocket attacks.

Another possibility is that Hamas is turning a blind eye to the attacks as part of an effort to remind Israel, the Palestinian Authority and the world that it should be taken into account in ongoing efforts to get a diplomatic process back on track.

The Hamas leadership in Gaza is also believed to be increasingly frustrated with its failure to establish a unity government with Fatah and by the PA’s plans to declare statehood at the United Nations General Assembly session in September without taking the Gaza-based group into consideration.

Hamas said over the weekend that it was interested in maintaining the state of calm with Israel despite the recent spate of rocket attacks from Gaza.

Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh urged all Palestinian factions to abide by the decision to keep the state of calm, “so as not to give Israel an excuse to escalate its aggression on the Gaza Strip.”

Holding Israel responsible for the renewed tensions along the border between the Gaza Strip and Israel, Haniyeh said that his government has called on all groups to continue with the “tahdiya,” or calm.

“At the same time, Israel should stop its air strikes, because that’s what leads to escalation,” he said. “The occupation anyway does not need excuses to launch attacks against our people.”

Haniyeh’s remarks came after the Israeli air raids on tunnels under the border between Gaza and Egypt.

On Saturday, the body of 21- year-old Ibrahim Bayouk was discovered inside one of the tunnels that were targeted by the IAF two days earlier.

MK Shai Hermesh (Kadima) on Saturday blamed Defense Minister Ehud Barak for the recent barrage of rockets fired at communities near the Gaza Strip.

Hermesh, a resident of Kibbutz Kfar Aza around 3 km.

east of the Strip, said, “I accuse the defense minister [regarding] the situation we are in now, where Kassams are being launched freely into Israeli towns surrounding Gaza.”

He added, “[Barak’s] lack of response to the firing of mortars into the yards of kibbutzim near Gaza last Purim and his silence on rocket fire against children’s buses in Nahal Oz eroded the deterrence capability we gained in the wake of [Operation] Cast Lead.

“Hamas today enjoys full freedom of action, knowing that the army’s hands are tied, so we keep having to hide again and again like mice in our caves,” Hermesh said.

Jerusalem Post staff contributed to this report.

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