Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Israel and Hamas near a Spring war

After nearly two months of rising tension, Israel and Hamas have taken a step towards a full-blown military confrontation: Before dawn Saturday, April 2, an Israeli air strike killed three senior Hamas Izz al-Din Qassam Brigades gunmen in the Gaza Strip in an operation described by an Israeli army spokesman as pre-empting a major Palestinian terror-cum-kidnap campaign scheduled for Passover. A fourth Palestinian was seriously injured by the airborne missile which struck their car between Khan Younes and Deir el Balakh.

The Hamas Brigades warned Israel its "dangerous escalation" would have "consequences."

debkafile's military and intelligence sources predict that the war confrontation which Saturday brought closer to realization will be unlike any previous Israel-Palestinian showdowns in the sense that it will be less the product of the old Middle East order and fall more under the influence of the radical elements rising out of the current Arab unrest, especially in Cairo, amid the decline of Western influence. Hamas may also resort to jihad against "the Israeli enemy" as a distraction from the rising disaffection of the Gazan population against its increasingly repressive methods of enforcing ever stricter Islamic decrees.

Saturday, after nearly two months of heightened Palestinian terrorist activity and low-key Israeli reprisals, both sides dropped their long pretense of seeking calm.

Ever since the massacre of five members of an Israeli family at Itamar on Feb. 11, Israeli government leaders have tried to sell the line that Hamas was not really seeking to raise the level of violence. They continued to play down Hamas' motives through a 50-round mortar barrage in a single day (March 19) on Israeli civilian locations abutting the Gaza Strip, several Grad missiles fired at the towns Ashkelon, Ashdod, Beersheba and Netivot and a bombing attack in Jerusalem on March 23, which killed a tourist and injured 65 after two relatively terror-free years.

In between major attacks, the Palestinians have maintained up until the present a steady trickle of Qassam and mortar fire against Israeli civilians.