Israel Blames Hamas for Gaza Rocket Attacks
Israel believes Hamas is behind the rash of Kassam rocket attacks and has vowed to strike Hamas members responsible. This is a dramatic turn of events that will ratchet up tensions as Hamas and Fatah continue to fight their own battles amongst themselves simultaneously. Hamas has, for the most part, observed an informal ceasefire agreement with Israel for over a year. But their involvement in terror attacks has not necessarily diminished as much as their visible direct participation in them.
The group directly responsible for many of the rocket attacks on the western Negev desert towns in Israel, including Sderot and Ashkelon, is the Popular Resistance Committees, made up in large part by Hamas terrorists but also including terrorists from Fatah and Palestinian Islamic Jihad as well. (For more, see here and here.)
Many observers have long suspected that the Popular Resistance Committees have provided Hamas a terror channel for operations without having direct fingerprints on attacks. This has allowed Hamas to publicly continue the claim of observing the ceasefire, assisting their international political image, while still engaging their Israeli enemy. The Haaretz report cites an anonymous Israeli official indicating that the IDF will not refrain from engaging Hamas terrorists as they are seen, tracked and linked to attacks, but “will refrain from targeting the group’s leaders because they are not issuing orders to fire rockets.”
The IDF did launch an airstrike on what it called a PRC rocket factory in response to the recent Kassam rocket attacks. Reuters reported a PRC source stating that it was a training facility.
Hamas and Fatah are engaged in their own internal struggle for how to deal with Israel, Fatah wanting to negotiate a two-state settlement and Hamas adamantly refusing to recognize Israel, adhering to the ‘From the River to the Sea’ vision of a Palestinian state. Abbas had given Hamas a deadline of midnight Sunday night to come to an agreement or face a public referendum on the issue. Abbas has decided to give Hamas an extension until midnight Thrusday night to reach the same agreement before resorting to a public referendum.
The head of Israel’s Shin Bet (internal security), Yuval Diskin, testified to the Israeli Knesset that arms smuggling has been on the rise in Gaza since the Israeli withdrawal and that there is evidence of a ‘Global Jihad Movement’ within Israel’s own borders. The movement is in its early stages of formation, and Diskin said, “We have intercepted plans to carry out attacks, but those plans were not operational.”
On Hamas, Diskin said, “The Hamas is using the relative calm and freedom from the Israeli military presence to build up its power by developing its militias.” To that end, Aaron Klein reports that Hamas has been stockpiling weapons while operating under the ceasefire agreement with Israel “so its members will be ready to launch attacks immediately should its leadership decide to end a long-term truce with Israel.”
In the West Bank, the IDF is considering a large clearing operation ahead of executing Olmert’s pullout plan. The operation’s intent will be to destroy as much of the terrorist infrastructure as possible before Israeli boots abandon the West Bank, leaving it to become a hornets’ nest. In current operations in the West Bank, the IDF arrested 12 Palestinians in Nablus and Jenin in pursuit of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad.