Sirens went off in southern Israel last Thursday as jittery Israeli civilians dashed for cover or scanned the skies for rockets and counter-rocket fire. It turned out to be a false alarm but no less disconcerting. Approximately 17 rockets have been fired at Israel from Gaza since December 7, the day following America’s recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.
Four rockets were fired on December 13. One landed in open area, two were intercepted by the Iron Dome anti-rocket defense system and a fourth landed in Gaza, hitting a United Nations-run school. It’s a sure bet that had the school been damaged as a result of Israeli fire, Israel would have been excoriated by so-called human rights groups and their nefarious allies in certain quarters of the establishment media. Another rocket was fired on Friday but it too fell short and landed in northern Gaza, ironically hitting the home of the brother of a senior Hamas official. A further two rockets were fired on Sunday, landing in the vicinity of the Hof Ashkelon region and causing damage to a house and car.
The sudden escalation in rocket fire from Gaza has the potential of spiraling into a wider conflict. It is believed that those responsible for the uptick do not belong to Hamas but are taking their orders from other terrorist groups that roam Gaza, such as the Palestinian Islamic Jihad. Still, Hamas controls the borders and they could put a stop to the mischief if they wanted. That is why Israel holds Hamas, Gaza’s governing authority, responsible for all rocket fire and that is why Israel often directs its retaliatory fire at Hamas installations.
Thus far, the rockets have caused little damage though one hit the courtyard of a kindergarten in the border town of Sderot, shattering a window and causing light damage to the building. The building was fortuitously empty at the time but the indiscriminate nature of the attack demonstrates just how truly savage Israel’s genocidal enemies are. It also demonstrates how precarious the situation is. A direct hit on a school packed with children would instantly trigger a massive and crushing Israeli military response.
In addition to rocket fire, Islamic terrorist groups have been busy digging tunnels in an effort to infiltrate Israel for the purpose of carrying out mega attacks involving mass shootings and kidnappings. On December 10, Israel Defense Force intelligence and engineering units uncovered a Hamas tunnel that penetrated hundreds of yards into Israeli territory. The tunnel was destroyed in a controlled blast. Six weeks ago, the IDF destroyed a PIJ tunnel killing 14 terrorists including 12 PIJ members and 2 Hamas operatives attached to a naval commando unit.
IDF Spokesperson Brig. Gen. Ronen Manelis said that Israel was doing everything to restore calm and noted that the IDF had established a high level of deterrence vis-à-vis its enemies. The head of Israel’s Southern Command, Maj. Gen. Eyal Zamir warned Gaza residents not to aid terrorists because it would result in conflict with Israel and Gaza’s civilians would stand to lose the most under that eventuality. The message was conveyed to Arab residents of Gaza by the army’s Arabic-language spokesperson via social media.
Hamas is currently in reconciliation talks with the Palestinian Authority, the entity headed by the autocratic octogenarian Mahmoud Abbas. As with previous reconciliation efforts between the rival Palestinian authorities (some would refer to them as gangs), the talks have reached an impasse centered on power sharing and money. It’s difficult to say if the lack of progress with the PA is prompting Hamas to turn a blind eye toward border transgressions committed by affiliated terrorist groups. Trump’s recent recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital may also be partly responsible for the increased belligerence. Hamas called for a new intifada but Islamists have never needed much prodding to launch attacks against Israel.
Gaza is also suffering from chronic power shortages, rampant corruption and hyper unemployment. Its anemic economy, which produces nothing, depends largely on donations from the West and wealthy Arab countries. It is not beneath Hamas to start a war in a cynical effort to deflect attention away from its own shortcomings and then blame Israel for the devastation that is sure to follow. Hamas has become expert at exploiting its impoverished citizenry to further its own narrow objectives.
In the meantime the IDF is carefully monitoring the situation. Its Iron Dome crews are on a high state of readiness. Combat engineers have deployed new technologies and techniques to defeat the tunnel menace as evidenced by the recent discovery and destruction of Hamas and PIJ tunnels. In fact, in the past two years, several dozen seasoned tunnel diggers and experienced terrorist commanders have been killed while digging tunnels. The IDF has succeeded in transforming tunnels into giant terrorist burial chambers and the terrorists are cognizant of this. In addition, the construction of an anti-tunnel barrier surrounding Gaza’s periphery continues apace. The subterranean barrier is also said to be equipped with sophisticated sensors that can detect tunneling activity. The IDF expects to uncover more tunnels as progress on the tunnel barrier continues.
Hamas should understand that it is playing with fire by testing Israel’s patience. It played that game in 2009, 2012 and then again in 2014 and paid a steep price. It appears that Hamas may have forgotten the beatings it took during those campaigns. It may be time for the IDF to once again, “mow the lawn;” a reference to periodic Israeli military action aimed at establishing deterrence, degrading the enemy and reminding him why messing with Israel doesn’t pay.