(December 30, 2018 / JNS) After six weeks of relative calm in southern Israel since November’s flare-up that saw the heaviest rocket barrage since “Operation Protective Edge” in 2014, a rocket was fired from the Gaza Strip on Saturday night. It struck an unpopulated area in the Sha’ar HaNegev Regional Council in the western Negev; no injuries or damage were reported.
Israel responded with helicopter fire on a Hamas post in the southern Gaza Strip.
Saturday’s projectile stirred concern among the rocket-weary residents of communities near the border.
“After the last round, I thought there would be a ceasefire for a few months before it all began again,” said Ariel Shagerman of Kibbutz Or Haner, in the Sha’ar HaNegev Regional Council, where the rocket landed.
“A month-and-a-half is nothing. In the end, they [Hamas] got everything they wanted. They got money. And now, again, we need to wonder whether it [the ceasefire] will last or not. That’s bad for us because Hamas isn’t deterred anymore,” Shagerman said, referring to the Nov. 13 ceasefire agreement.
“There used to be more deterrence. We’ve gotten familiar with it. In the end, Hamas controls what happens, not us. The hardest part is the uncertainty we have to live with. When the rocket landed, I wondered if another round [of violence] was starting,” he said.
Danny Rahamim of Kibbutz Nahal Oz was also worried about another escalation of violence, and said residents of the western Negev would relaunch a protest campaign to demand that the government take more decisive action against Hamas.
“It’s complete nonsense that Israel is putting money into Gaza. That’s money that goes to Hamas,” said Rahamim.
“On Friday, we feel the tear gas [used in the weekly Hamas-organized riots on the Gaza border], which reaches us here, and we hear the shouting. For a month-and-a-half, there weren’t any rockets, and now it’s starting up again. I think this rocket was just the beginning.
“I’m sure that they [Israeli residents] will revive the protests if there is another round of violence. I have no doubt that people are already sick of it. The uncertainty is hard on them, especially when there’s no end in sight. There are people here who’ve had post-trauma for almost 20 years. It’s really difficult,” said Rahamim.
Regardless of the renewed rocket fire, the Palestinians’ weekly border demonstration on Friday was quieter and sparser than the protests of the preceding weeks, possibly because of the winter weather. Only some 5,500 Palestinians protested at various points along the border fence.
Some protesters threw rocks at Israel Defense Forces, who opened fire in accordance with IDF regulations. Palestinian sources reported that one protester was killed, and several were wounded in the clashes.
Palestinians also launched two balloons fitted with explosives from Gaza across the border fence on Friday. The balloons landed in the Sdot Negev Regional Council, where Israel Police sappers neutralized the devices. No one was injured.