JERUSALEM—IDF Spokesman Brig. Gen. Ronen Manelis warned Hamas Thursday to completely halt rocket fire into Israel from the Gaza Strip or face a blistering Israeli response.
But another senior IDF source told TPS that while the terror group would like to maintain the current period of relative quiet, Hamas could easily miscalculate and allow itself to increase the rate of rocket fire into Israel, which would force Israel into a large-scale response.
The source said that Hamas was facing a contradictory range of domestic pressures inside Gaza, to attack Israel and not to provoke a large-scale IDF incursion. The organization’s 30th anniversary, as well as its objection to US President Donald Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel could likely make firing rockets into Israel too hard to resist.
But the source stressed that Hamas does not want the current situation to escalate, both because the organization is committed to continuing with the reconciliation process with Mahmoud Abbas’ Fatah Party and because Gaza civilians can hardly withstand another military operation.
Manelis, on the other hand, noted that Israeli intelligence officials believe that most or all of this week’s 16 rocket attacks – the most since Operation Protective Edge in 2014 – were not staged by Hamas, but rather by rogue groups operating in the Gaza Strip. Still, he said that fact was of little consequence and that Israel holds Hamas accountable for any violence emanating from its territory.
“The only option Hamas has is to completely stop the rocket fire,” Manelis told Army Radio earlier Thursday. “There is no other option. We consider even one rocket attack to be completely unacceptable.”
Manelis admitted that the attacks over the last week have been “tough,” but noted that the three-and-a-half years since Operation Protective Edge have been one of the quietest periods of time for residents of the Gaza Belt region since the Six Day War. He also stressed that “Israel’s deterrence wasn’t built in a day and will take more than a week to collapse.”
Manelis then accused Hamas of trying to play two sides of the same coin by insisting that they are trying to reign in the rogue groups while at the same time calling for a renewed intifada.
However, the spokesman was left speechless when asked by veteran interviewer Ilana Dayan whether Israel could be accused of doing the same thing by insisting on a “zero tolerance” policy for rocket fire while at the same time refusing to respond to all attacks.
More than 15,000 rockets have been fired at Israel from Gaza since the turn of the millenium, including more than 11,000 since Israel withdrew military forces and expelled Jewish residents from the Strip in August, 2005.
Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman visited Thursday the southern city of Sderot, where he attempted to ease tensions following several days in which Gaza based terrorist groups fired rockets into Israel.
‘We can all be calm. We know exactly what to do, how to do it, and when to do it,’ Liberman said. ‘In any case, I have instructed the IDF to be prepared for any scenario.”
Liberman said the recent rocket attacks have nothing to do with a lack of Israeli deterrence, but rather that they are a result of infighting between battling factions within Gaza, most notably Hamas and the Islamic Jihad.
‘I hope that the people of Gaza will press their leadership to invest all their energy and funds into improving of the economy in Gaza, instead of tunnel digging, rocket manufacturing and attacking Israel,’ said Liberman, adding that ‘[the way they are operating is]putting the entire population of Gaza at risk.’