Analysis: Hamas understands that Israel has changed the rules of the game

Israel has decided to use every Gaza rocket launch as an opportunity to hit strategically important Hamas targets.

An IAF F-15I fighter jet (photo credit: REUTERS)
An IAF F-15I fighter jet
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Another round of blows between Israel and Gaza has been concluded successfully. The success can be found in the fact that both sides contained the events and they did not escalate the situation beyond control, which could have led them to the brink of a new war.
This is an achievement given that we are 26 months after the previous Gaza war and the quiet is being kept, more or less. What's more important is that the behavior of both sides makes it clear that they are not interested in another round of violence.
This is clear based on Thursday's events, which were actually a response to Wednesday's events. A rocket was fired at Sderot and hit a street, miraculously failing to wound anyone or cause damage to homes.
The rocket was fired by a salafi-jihadist group that represents ISIS in Gaza. It is the same organization that has fired all of the rockets in recent months. The group's goal is provocation - to cause great harm to people and property in Israel, in order to draw an aggressive response which will drag both sides into war. The jihadists hope that Israel's blows will bring about the collapse of Hamas rule in Gaza. Both sides are aware of this and are acting  to prevent the escalation.
Israel's response to the firing of the rocket was two-fold. First of all, the IDF directed tank fire at Hamas positions. This was a routine response of the type we have seen in the last two years, which is based on Israel's doctrinal position. Israel sees Hamas as the sovereign power in Gaza and therefore as the party that is responsible for what goes on there.
However, contained in Israel's response was another basic principle. It stems from a decision by the political and military echelon to take advantage of every such rocket launch to hit strategically important Hamas targets. Therefore, the IAF struck in Gaza, dropping a sizeable number of bombs. This is the second instance in which this has happened.
Hamas understands that Israel is changing the rules of the game from what they were up until about two months ago.
On the one hand, Hamas cannot allow Israel to implement a strategy that gives it the upper hand. On the other hand, the group understands that it is in a difficult political situation (internationally isolated), and that from a military standpoint, it has still not recovered and regained its capabilities in two areas: rockets and tunnels.
Therefore, the organization is showing restraint and issuing the obligatory threats, which as of now it cannot back up, and minor responses. That is what happened on Thursday. A rocket was fired at open territory in order to send a message, but not to take the chance that it would do harm.
Israel contented itself with sending a message of its own. The IDF responded to the rocket with tank fire alone, not deploying IAF aircraft to hit strategic targets. This was a clear signal to Hamas that, as far as Israel is concerned, this week's round is over - until the next time.