Yaakov Katz
Haaretz (Analysis)
September 16, 2010 - 12:00am

Hamas is on the horns of a dilemma. On the one hand it has made a strategic decision to increase its terror attacks against Israel – 10 rockets were fired into Israel on Wednesday – in order to torpedo the peace talks between Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas.

On the other hand, Hamas does not want to go too far with its attacks, to the point that Israel will feel compelled to send two IDF divisions into Gaza and carry out Operation Cast Lead II.

As a result, Hamas in recent weeks has allowed the jaljalat (Arabic for thunder) groups – al-Qaida and global jihad proxies based in Gaza and made up mostly of former Hamas operatives – to launch attacks into Israel.

While it has given these groups the green light for small operations, it is also restraining them and not allowing large attacks that could end in many casualties on the Israeli side and force the IDF back into Gaza.

Hamas’s hope is that these attacks will torpedo the peace talks, although the meeting on Wednesday at the prime minister’s official residence in Jerusalem between Netanyahu and Abbas is an indication that the terror group’s efforts are not, for the moment, succeeding.

For the same reason, Hamas claimed responsibility for the shooting attack two weeks ago near Hebron that killed four Israelis, although the IDF is still not certain that Hamas was behind it.

There are, however, additional factors. Hamas in Gaza is torn between two camps. The first is the political echelon led by Ismail Haniyeh, which is believed to be more in favor of restraint because it fears a harsh Israeli response.

The second camp is led by Hamas’s military wing Izzadin Kassam and its chief Ahmed Jabari, who is pushing to return to the days before Cast Lead, pre- December 2008, when it was firing dozens of rockets a day.

While Hamas’s focus is on rebuilding damaged infrastructure and obtaining new longrange rockets, the military wing is genuinely frustrated with the restrictions placed on its freedom to attack Israel.

In contrast to the media, the IDF did not make a big deal Wednesday about the firing of at least two mortar shells containing phosphorus into Israel. Firstly, it is not the first time that phosphorus mortar shells were fired into Israel – it happened during Cast Lead – and secondly, the assessment within the Southern Command is that the group that fired the shells did not even know that they contained phosphorus.

As a matter of fact, phosphorus shells contain less explosives than regular ones and therefore create less shrapnel. On the other hand, they are highly flammable.

Israel, for its part, plans to continue with its current policy, which can be described as an “eye-for-an-eye.”

On the one hand, Israel will strike back at Gaza, as it did Wednesday afternoon by bombing a terror tunnel in southern Gaza, but on the other hand, it will not, at this stage, launch a major operation on the ground inside Gaza.

This stems from intelligence assessments that the current wave of violence will run out following the Jewish holiday season in a little over a week. The belief is that Hamas is letting its operatives and proxies let off steam from a month of Ramadan when it did not really attack Israel at all.

The same intelligence assessments predict, though, that while this wave will soon end, it will not be the last and as the peace talks pick up speed and progress, so will the terrorism from Gaza.


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