The IDF so far generally holds its fire, the Security Cabinet talks ,and rival terrorist groups expose what may be Hamas loss of control over Gaza. In the shadows is the Palestinian Authority’s scheduled effort for recognition by the United Nations next month.
Israel normally orders the IDF to “retaliate” after rocket attacks, and the response usually is in the form of an aerial bombing of a few of the hundreds of terrorist tunnels and weapons storage or manufacturing facilities.
The ferocity of the more than 100 rocket attacks on southern Israel the past 48 hours has been met with relative silence as the Security Council discusses what – if any – action to take.
One consideration is that the counterterrorist Operation Cast Lead campaign more than two years ago proved to be effective only temporarily, and most military officials predicted it would “only be a matter of time” until the next round, especially since international pressure put an end to the operation before it achieved its goals.
Hamas and other terrorist groups possess hundreds of tons of explosives and thousands of missiles, including highly advanced anti-aircraft and anti-tank missiles.
Israel’s primary problem is that its 2005 withdrawal from Gaza and the Philadelphi terrorist route bordering Egypt has left the areas without any surveillance of terror. This is despite promises by the United States that Israel could rely on it to implement mechanisms to stop terrorists from crossing back and forth between Gaza and northern Sinai, and building tunnels to smuggle arms and goods into Gaza.
In addition, the ouster this year of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak has removed any chance of Egyptian control of the Sinai, where terrorist cells and Bedouin have the upper hand.
As the scheduled debate nears in the United Nations on recognizing the Palestinian Authority – which would officially bury the American-led ”peace process” – terrorist groups in Gaza are interested in blowing up PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas' chances of gaining diplomatic and political approval.
Hamas threw out Abbas’ Fatah leadership from Gaza in a bloody terrorist militia war four years ago.
Since, then, Hamas has increasingly been challenged by rival terrorist groups with their own arms and weapons. The Al-Nasser Salah al-Deen Brigades, the military wing of the Popular Resistance Committees linked to Al Qaeda, but also considered by some experts an offshoot of Hamas that has its silent approval, carried out the sophisticated and well-planned terrorist attack north of Eilat on Thursday.
Hamas disassociated itself from the attacks, but as other groups, such as Islamic Jihad, attacked Be’er Sheva and Ashkelon with Grad rockets, Hamas could not remain outside the assault and joined the terrorists’ party, officially announcing an end to a two-year-old ceasefire that never really existed.
The Al-Qassam Brigades, an arm of Hamas, said it fired rockets at Nahal Oz, Beersheba and the Eshkol regional council in response to Israeli retaliation.
After Thursday’s deadly attacks, Israel immediately bombed the Popular Resistance Committees' leaders in Rafiah, which straddles the border between Gaza and Egypt. However, it since has held fire except for actions against “ticking bombs” of terrorist cells preparing to launch rockets. Isolated terror tunnels and weapons facilities also were bombed. The Air Force targeted one rocket launching cell Sunday, the only counterterrorist action since Saturday.
Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh has called on Egypt, the United Nations and the Arab League to urge Israel to halt retaliation.
Israel's Cabinet met, but there has been no clear announcement of plans.
The Chinese news agency Xinhua reported that “several sides expected that ceasefire between Gaza militant groups and Israel would be restored after two days of violence.”