(June 4, 2018 / JNS) Israel has repeatedly stated that it has no interest in a military campaign in the Gaza Strip, but reality may still drag it there, perhaps even this week.
The accumulation of shooting attacks and kite terrorism, together with two highly volatile events Hamas plans to hold on the border, will once again test the tenuous cease-fire achieved last week.
The first event is planned for Tuesday, when the Palestinians mark “Naksa Day,” mourning the Arab defeat in the 1967 Six-Day War.
Hamas has again called for the Palestinian masses to rush the security fence and breach Israeli territory. The terrorist group would like to recreate the border violence that plagued the U.S. embassy move to Jerusalem on May 14, as a high number of casualties would place Gaza in the international spotlight.
Fearing that Gazans would not heed the call, Hamas has also called for border demonstrations on Friday, which is both the last Friday of Ramadan and the Iranian “Quds Day” (Arabic for Jerusalem). This also reflects the deep ties between Hamas and Iran and Tehran’s growing influence on the coastal enclave.
These efforts prove Hamas is invested in provoking violence on the Israel-Gaza Strip border, but it is doubtful even Gaza’s rulers fully understand the volatile potential of this policy.
This goes beyond the fact that, as the past few weeks have shown, border protests easily spiral out of control and result in a large number of casualties or Hamas’s unspoken approval of other terrorist groups in Gaza firing rockets at Israel. The increasing kite terrorism wreaking havoc on the border-adjacent communities is not something Israel can tolerate much longer.
So far, kite terrorism has posed little threat to human lives. But the property damage it has caused and the potential economic toll it would take on Israel in the form of rising produce prices—not to mention the erosion of Israeli deterrence by such a basic, almost primitive, instrument all mandate we come up with countermeasures.
If we fail to mount a formidable response to kite terrorism, Hamas may believe that Israel is willing to tolerate its fields and forests being burned, and is refraining from striking back for fear of war.
Defense officials have said as much in a situation assessment held on Sunday. Israel would prefer to avoid another full-fledged conflict with Gaza—both over the fact there is no way to know how or when one would end, and because it needs to stay focused on the northern sector—but it has to make it clear to Hamas that it has crossed the line and that if it keeps it up, war will follow.
Such messages have yet to be relayed to Hamas’s leadership, meaning every tactical event in the coming days has the potential to escalate into a full-blown military campaign.
Yoav Limor is a veteran Israeli journalist and columnist for Israel Hayom.