Wednesday, October 24, 2012
By Barry Rubin
In 12 hours during the night and early morning of October 23-24, Hamas and its allies launched 68 rockets and also mortar shells. Iron Dome anti-missile missiles brought down 7 of them. Two foreign workers on Israeli farms were critically wounded; three or four others were lightly wounded; and several houses were damaged. Israeli civilians were told to stay near shelters and schools were closed. Earlier, a roadside bomb seriously injured an Israeli officer.
Israeli military forces hit two rocket-firing teams, an area from which launchers were firing, and tunnels used to smuggle in rocket motors. Similar short-term heavy barrages took place in March and June. Hamas sources reported three dead, two of them Hamas soldiers.
There are two important factors in this latest offensive. First, the attacks from Hamas and the smaller groups it allows to operate from the Gaza Strip are increasing. Second, an emboldened Hamas is now more directly involved in these operations.
This trend is a direct result of the fact that Hamas now feels secure in that its Muslim Brotherhood allies are governing Egypt and allowing more, and apparently more advanced, military equipment to enter the Gaza Strip.
The danger is that as the Brotherhood consolidates power in Cairo and Hamas becomes even more confident it will at some point open a war against Israel. Such a conflict would bring even more Brotherhood-Hamas cooperation and such things as escalated attacks across the Egypt-Israel border and the entry of Egyptian volunteers into the fighting. An Egyptian army that has been purged by the Brotherhood regime will not pose an independent barrier to such a situation, which could lead to Cairo being dragged into war with Israel.
The Obama Administration, which in the past has pressured Israel to reduce import sanctions against the Gaza Strip, cannot be assumed to support a higher level of retaliation. Nor, as far as can be seen, has it put any pressure on the Egyptian government to reduce cooperation with Hamas. This all could be a formula for future crisis and war.
Posted by Barry Rubin at 12:21 PM