IDF reinforces Iron Dome batteries in the South

Palestinian Islamic Jihad is concerned Israel might target leaders over violence.

Iron Dome missile test (photo credit: DEFENSE MINISTRY)
Iron Dome missile test
(photo credit: DEFENSE MINISTRY)
The IDF will reinforce Iron Dome batteries in Israel’s southern region over concerns that terror groups in the Gaza Strip will continue to launch rockets.
According to Walla, the defense establishment is concerned that under pressure from Iran, Palestinian Islamic Jihad will exploit the situation in the Gaza Strip and continue to fire rockets and mortars into southern Israel.
While there has been relative calm between Israel and the Gaza Strip in recent weeks, tensions have been rising following the January assassination of Qassem Soleimani, the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps Quds Force commander, by the United States and the release of US President Donald Trump’s “Deal of the Century” peace plan, which has been rejected by the terror groups.
More than 11 rockets and mortars have been fired into Israel in the past week and a half and dozens of explosive balloons have been launched into Israel from Gaza and the West Bank.
Hamas has been promoting and possibly supporting the recent escalation in rocket and explosive balloon launches toward Israel, even though they have stopped them in the past.
PIJ, the second-most powerful group in the Strip, is funded by Iran, which is putting pressure on both the group and Hamas to carry out attacks against Israel in light of Soleimani’s assassination and to influence Israel’s third election campaign.
The report stated that the defense establishment is concerned PIJ will take advantage of Hamas’s inability to restrain the group and continue to launch rockets into Israel. PIJ, which is estimated to have 8,000 rockets – including some which can reach the center of the country – is reported to be behind the majority of the rockets launched in the past two weeks.
According to a report by Yediot Aharonot, PIJ has increased its security measures in fear of possible assassination attempts by Israel similar to that of PIJ official Baha Abu al-Ata in November. It sparked an escalation of violence between the two sides, with the group launching 400 rockets in 50 hours.
The group was reported to be concerned that PIJ commander Khalil Bathani is now also considered a possible target for assassination.
The past year saw the most serious peak of violence between Israel and terror groups in the Strip since the end of Operation Protective Edge in 2014. Some 1,295 rockets were fired in 2019, the vast majority (93%) having been fired during the violent rounds.
During those rounds of violence, seven Israeli civilians were killed by rocket fire and a Kornet anti-tank missile, the highest number of civilian casualties since Operation Protective Edge.
Army intelligence estimates for 2020 released in January stated that Hamas is wary of war with Israel and instead prefers the situation on the street in order to maintain their grip on the blockaded coastal enclave.
While the group is not interested in a full military confrontation against the IDF, Hamas will not hesitate to fire rockets at Israel during short rounds of violence lasting no more than several days, similar to the 12 rounds seen over the past year.
Tzvi Joffre contributed to this report.