Did Islamic Jihad try to shift Israel's attention away from the North?

Its Iranian-backed leader Abu al-Ata does what he wants, when he wants.

Baha Abu al-Ata (photo credit: REUTERS)
Baha Abu al-Ata
(photo credit: REUTERS)
A sudden barrage of rockets toward the South on Friday night seemingly came from out of the blue. But in this region, everything is connected.
The rockets, one of which scored a direct hit on a home in Sderot, are believed to have been fired by Palestinian Islamic Jihad under the command of Baha Abu al-Ata.
While Hamas is the ruling party in the Gaza Strip, they have in recent years been losing control over the street, with the vacuum being filled by Ata, the military commander of the group’s northern brigade who has been personally named by the IDF as having ordered the firing of rockets toward the South in the past.
Backed by Iran and being the second largest group in Gaza after Hamas, PIJ has been assessed by military intelligence as being a major factor in increasing the risk of an escalation in the blockaded coastal enclave, since it is not under the direct control of Hamas but acts for its own interests.
But Ata is even more radical than his bosses in Damascus or even in Tehran.
He is independent – doing what he wants, when he wants.
The rocket fire came hours after the weekly “March of Return” clashes along the border fence. Close to 100 Palestinians were injured, but none was killed. There has also been a lull in violence in the South for the past month and a half, with Qatari funds being distributed to the Gazan population and the much-needed power supply improving.
So why did Ata choose to fire? Hamas is seemingly unable or unwilling to put a stop to his actions.
Ata understands that despite a minor improvement in Gaza’s economic situation, Hamas is losing its grip. The population is also losing interest in the weekly border riots, having realized that their demands are not being met.
It could also be that Ata wants to sabotage the quiet that Hamas is more than happy to have continue.
And we also have to look North.
Iran is in a bind in two countries that are key to their regional aspirations, with millions of people pouring into the streets of Lebanon and Iraq over the past month to protest the Iranian-allied governments and political elites whom they have accused of corruption and mismanagement of state finances.
An increasingly violent crackdown by Iraqi security forces and masked snipers in Iraq – who have killed 250 people – and attacks by Hezbollah and Amal supporters on protesters in Lebanon, have raised concern about Iran’s role in the quelling of the demonstrations.
Senior defense officials in Israel have warned that all fronts are interconnected due to the Islamic Republic, pointing to rocket fire from Gaza the day after Hezbollah fired a Kornet anti-tank missile toward a military ambulance.
Could it be that this time Ata received orders to try to shift the military’s attention away from the North, even if it’s for just one news cycle?
With tensions high on the northern border – with concern that Iran is becoming bolder and will attempt more attacks – the IDF is trying even harder to prevent a deterioration in the South.
Israel, which has been working to contain the violence in Gaza to prevent a military confrontation, holds Hamas responsible for all attacks that emanate from its territory, even if they are done by PIJ.
But that strategy is only emboldening Ata, who can go on firing rockets without repercussions.