Gaza terrorists attacked the western Negev with at least six Kassam rockets Tuesday, following an Egyptian-brokered "truce," during which three other missiles were fired. No one was injured, but at least one building was damaged in the Eshkol region.
International media heralded Monday's 24-hour truce as a success because "only" three rockets and one mortar were fired. Hamas later explained that it maintained several hours of quiet before the attacks at Egypt's request.
The attacks on Israel appear to be measured and timed according to the political situation. The daily barrage of up to dozen rockets and mortars, which exploded as far north as Ashkelon, stretched the patience of residents of southern Israel past the limits and fueled harsh criticism from politicians campaigning for the February Knesset elections.
Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni, head of Kadima, announced an explanatory campaign to prepare the groundwork for unspecified counterterrorist operations. Egypt, the United Nations, France and other countries sprung into action and called for another ceasefire, similar to that of June 19, which never took full effect.
Hamas responded with minimal attacks after observing several hours of quiet at Egypt's request. It immediately resumed attack but kept them to a lower number, creating the impression that it is ratcheting down tensions.
Foreign leaders continue to express understanding for traumatized Israelis while adding that Israel must open Gaza crossings. Defense Minister Ehud Barak has ordered them closed for most of the time during the rocket barrages as a retaliatory measure.
"I can see very clearly the traumatic effect that the repeated rocket attacks from Gaza into Israel are having. People are traumatized," said British Foreign Office envoy Bill Rammell, who visited Ashkelon this week.
"The rocket attacks are simply unacceptable," he stated but he then added, "I am also conscious[ly] looking at the situation in Gaza - the lack of humanitarian access, the lack of supplies, the lack of aid, the power cuts - that is creating a humanitarian crisis. And I think that it is very clear that Hamas has not been defeated militarily…. I think that the last six months - albeit intermittently broken by rocket attacks - has actually been a much better situation than in the past."
Rammell claimed that the people he talked with "appreciated the relative calm that the ceasefire has brought."
The general public response has been to the contrary, with increasing demands that politicians act instead of talking while fears increase that metropolitan Tel Aviv will be on the edge of the next round of escalation.
The Cabinet heard warnings this week that Hamas has longer-range rockets that can reach Be'er Sheva's 250,000 residents, living east of the Gaza region, Also in rocket range are Kiryat Gat, Kiryat Malachi and Gedera to the north. The next city in line is Rehovot.