Beduin sheepherder with Iron Dome in background 370.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
After four days of conflict, the present round of clashes with terrorist
organizations in Gaza appears to have come to an end. Most parties had a vested
interest in avoiding an escalation.
Israel’s objectives in the current
violence were limited to containment of the fallout resulting from the targeted
killing of Zuhair Qaisi, head of the Popular Resistance Committees in the Gaza
Strip. Qaisi was viewed as a “ticking bomb” who was preparing an attack from the
lawless Sinai Peninsular similar to the one he engineered last
The aims of the PRC, Islamic Jihad and other “muqawama
“rejectionist” terrorist organizations heavily funded and backed by Iran have
been and remain kidnapping and/or murdering Israelis and drawing Israel into
direct conflict with post-Mubarak Egypt. And it was precisely these aims that
Israel wanted to foil by killing Qaisi.
However, Israel had no interest
in a major escalation that could result in many unintentional civilian
casualties in Gaza, especially considering the Palestinians’ policy of firing
rockets from population centers and using civilians as human shields. And though
the three Iron Dome rocket-defense batteries stationed in Ashdod, Ashkelon and
Beersheba provided important protection to tens of thousands living within
rocket range of Gaza, prolonging the conflict would have increased the risk of
Hamas, which holds the most control in Gaza, also had
no interest in escalation, although this could change down the road. The
terrorist organization is in flux, moving away from its old alliances with Iran
and Syria and trying to align itself with Sunni states, particularly Egypt,
where the Muslim Brotherhood, Hamas’s mother organization, is rising to power.
Hamas has a vested interest in showing Egypt and other “moderate” Sunni states
that it is capable of maintaining stability in Gaza.
This is particularly
true considering the fact that Egypt, which has undergone tremendous political
turmoil since Hosni Mubarak’s ouster, has troubles of its own – particularly
tensions between the military junta and the Islamists – and has no desire to see
a war on its northern border.
Indeed, Egypt played a key role in
facilitating the present cease-fire. Intelligence chief Murad Muafi and other
Egyptian military figures provided vital liaison between Israel and the
terrorist groups in Gaza.
Maj.-Gen. (res.) Amos Gilad, director of policy
and political-military affairs at the Defense Ministry, told Army Radio on
Tuesday morning that there had been no formal agreement with Hamas or other
terrorist organizations operating in Gaza, since Israel “does not deal with
Instead, he said, Israel had via the Egyptians relayed a
message of “quiet in exchange in exchange for quiet” while reserving the right
to carry out targeted killings when necessary.
But the cease-fire is
fragile. On Tuesday morning, several mortar shells were fired at southern Israel
from Gaza. And the PRC and Islamic Jihad, which have demonstrated that
they have many rockets, will continue to plan attacks against the “Zionist
More disturbing is the very real possibility that the political
interest of Hamas and Egypt to maintain calm in Gaza could change. Egypt’s
increasing radicalism in the post-Mubarak era was evidenced on Sunday when the
Egyptian parliament, now practically controlled by the Muslim Brotherhood, moved
toward a vote to halt the reception of more than $1 billion in US aid each
year. Islamist lawmakers are ostensibly upset over a case involving
American NGOs fighting for human rights in Egypt.
On Monday, the Egyptian
parliament voted to expel Israel’s ambassador and halt gas exports to Israel.
The vote was taken in a show of hands on a declaration by the Arab Affairs
Committee that Egypt would never be a friend, partner or ally of
Reducing American aid is seen as an attempt to block US influence
over Egyptian policies. This might give Egypt a freer hand in the coming years
to abrogate the Camp David Accords and adopt a more antagonistic position
Unfortunately, as the fragile cease-fire takes effect
and over a million Israelis in the South begin to return to normal life, there
are already signs of the next round of clashes on the horizon.