Analysis: No one really wants this fight

While on the surface, the continued violence in the Gaza Strip looks serious, it could be a great deal worse.

Firefighter carries remains of Katyusha rocket 311 (R) (photo credit: baz ratner/reuters)
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.
On 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 them.
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 Gaza.
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.
In 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.
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.
Another interesting 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 barely 10.
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 Dome.
This is simply another sign of how this round of violence was real but not as serious as it could have been.