Major rocket barrage leads to biggest Israeli military response since 2014 war
More than 100 rockets and mortars were fired from the Gaza Strip into southern Israel on Tuesday, causing numerous injuries, in what amounted to the largest assault on Israeli border villages and towns since the 2014 war against Hamas.
While most of the projectiles were intercepted by the Israeli army’s Iron Dome anti-missile defense system, mortars struck at least two Israeli communities, the IDF reported. In response, the Israeli military struck over 50 targets in Gaza belonging to Hamas and Islamic Jihad, the latter of which was primarily responsible for firing the projectiles.
The Iranian-backed terrorist group vowed to attack Israel after three of its fighters were killed this week in an Israeli air strike.
According to Pinhas Inbari, a Fellow at the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, “Islamic Jihad is trying to challenge Hamas, which itself is torn between the new leadership of Yahya Sinwar, who is trying to regulate the situation in Gaza, and the more hardline elements that do not want to make concessions. Sinwar fears the circumstances are so dire and is coordinating with Egypt to make changes so that the people do not revolt.
“By contrast,” he elaborated to The Media Line, “Iran has a presence In Gaza and those factions loyal to it, including members of Hamas, do not want Sinwar to succeed and are attempting to spoil his policies.”
Despite Islamic Jihad being directly responsible for the missile barrages, Israel maintains a policy of holding Hamas accountable for all attacks emanating from the Palestinian enclave. Hamas has, of late, refrained from launching rockets at Israel and has greatly clamped down on the ability of other Gaza-based terrorist groups to do so. Instead, its fighters have resorted to other aggressive measures, such as planting bombs along the border fence and flying flaming kites into Israel.
“[Tuesday’s violence] is probably a tactical change [on Hamas’ part], rather than a strategic one,” Gilead Sher, head of the Center for Applied Negotiations at Israel’s Institute for National Security Studies, told The Media Line. “My reading of the situation is that Hamas is loosening its control over other factions involved in jihad against Israel such as the Salafis in order to demonstrate the exact opposite, which means that when Hamas wants it has control over the other organizations. And when it does not want, then this is what happens.
“The characteristics of the projectiles and targeting of specific areas means the current campaign is not completely uncontrolled,” he expounded to The Media Line. “So I do not estimate that this a strategic change, although it is unclear how the situation will play out in the upcoming days, weeks, or hours even.”
The latest conflagration comes on the backdrop of the “March Of Return” protests that began in Gaza on March 30. They culminated in a massive demonstration on May 14 when the U.S. officially relocated its embassy to Jerusalem. During that protest, at least 60 Palestinians—many of them Hamas members—were killed in clashes with the IDF.