ANALYSIS: Hamas leaves Israel with only one option in Gaza

Israel must restore deterrence against Islamist terror groups which have turned Gaza into a large military base attacking Israel non-stop.

Yochanan Visser,

Hamas trains for confrontation with Israel
Hamas trains for confrontation with Israel

srael and the Palestinian terror groups in Gaza came one step closer to all-out war on Monday evening when an undercover operation by an IDF elite unit near Khan Younis ended in a shootout with members of Hamas’ military wing Izz-a-Din al-Qassam.

According to the IDF and Palestinian media, 7 Hamas terrorists were killed while a senior IDF officer lost his life during the operation.

Lt.Col. M., as he was called by the IDF, was only 41 years old and left a wife and two children.

The reason his full name was not disclosed could be that he was a Druze officer serving in an IDF undercover unit. Social media in Israel were rife with reports Mem was indeed a Druze officer.

Serving in the IDF has become a controversial issue among the Druze minority in Israel since the Knesset passed the so-called Nation-State Law and led to the resignation of two Druze officers who asked themselves how they could continue serving the state after the Israeli government, according to the Druze claims, broke the “blood alliance” between the Druze and Israel.

The undercover operation in Gaza was not an attempt to abduct Nour Barakeh, a Qassam Brigade commander who reportedly was in charge of the Hamas’ terror tunnel project and served as the commander of Hamas’ regional battalion in Khan Younis.

Barakeh was among the seven Palestinian Arab terrorists who were killed by the IDF undercover unit and his death led to a massive response by Hamas which started to pound the Israeli communities and towns around Gaza with a barrage of rockets.

The rocket barrage lasted for several hours while the Iron Dome anti-missile shield downed several projectiles, no casualties and only light damages were reported inside Israel.

Maj. Gen. (res.) Tal Russo, a former commander of the IDF Southern Command, told TV Channel 10 in Israel the operation most likely was an intelligence gathering mission.

“Activities that most civilians aren’t aware of happen all the time, every night and in every region. This action — an operation that was apparently exposed — wasn’t an assassination attempt. We have other ways of assassinating people and we know how to do it much more elegantly,” Russo said.

Many aspects of the IDF operation remain subject to military censorship, but the IDF insisted that no soldiers had been kidnapped during the battle in Khan Younis which only ended after the Israeli Air Force carried out a rescue mission and struck Hamas’ targets in Gaza.

On Monday afternoon, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, who prematurely ended his visit to Paris where he attended the centennial of World War 1, held security deliberations with the IDF top echelons, while Hamas staged a mass demonstration during the funeral of the 7 slain terrorists.

At the same time, IDF artillery fired at an observation post in northern Gaza according to the Hamas-linked Al-Aqsa radio station.

Shortly afterward, Hamas launched a surface to surface missile at an Israeli bus traveling close to the security fence on the border with Gaza, seriously wounding the driver who was transferred to a local hospital.

This was the start of an unprecedented escalation which Hamas said was the beginning of a bombardment of the enemy.

"In response to yesterday's crime, the joint command of Palestinian factions announce the beginning of bombardment of the enemy's settlements with scores of rockets," Izz-a-Din al Qassam announced.

At the time of this writing, more than 100 rockets had been fired at the south of Israel while the IAF was responding by fresh airstrikes on terror-related targets in Gaza.

Three Israelis were lightly wounded when one of the rockets hit a house in the border town of Sederot despite the deployment of an Iron Dome battery in the area.

Sirens were heard as far as the Dead Sea and the Jewish communities in the southern Hebron hills.

Until now Hamas and the other Palestinian Arab terror groups in Gaza have refrained from using middle range and long-range missiles which can reach cities north of Tel Aviv and Jerusalem.

This could be an indication that the Muslim Brotherhood offshoot doesn’t want to trigger a new all-out war with Israel at this point.

Israel, however, is running out of its options and has to restore deterrence vis a vis the Islamist terror groups which have turned Gaza into a large military base from which Israel is attacked non-stop since the beginning of this year.

Recent public statements by PM Netanyahu that he wasn’t interested in a new war with Hamas and would do everything to prevent a humanitarian disaster in Gaza, as well as internal disagreements in the Israeli security cabinet have apparently sent the wrong message to Hamas and its allies.

It came therefore as no surprise that the IDF operation in Gaza on Sunday night was celebrated as a “victory” by the Palestinian Arab factions in Gaza and resulted in the heaviest missile barrage at southern Israel since the 2014 summer-war.

Observers and commentators, as well as residents of the towns of villages in the Gaza belt, are therefore convinced that Israel should change its policy of restraint versus Hamas and should now launch a new ground operation, but this time decide to finish off Hamas and Islamic Jihad in Gaza.