The current round of escalation in the south started on Friday afternoon, following the assassination of Zuhair al-Kaisi, director-general of the Popular Resistance Committees in Gaza. This is the man who was behind the horrific terror attack a few months ago near to Eilat. According to the IDF, al-Kaisi was planning more deadly terror attacks.
However, even without the elimination of a terrorist leader, a conflagration on the southern border was just a matter of time. So long as the Hamas government in Gaza allows active terrorist groups, such as the Popular Resistance Committees and the Islamic Jihad, to plan and carry out attacks, it will be difficult, and perhaps even impossible, to preserve the tense silence that has prevailed along the Gaza border since Operation Cast Lead three years ago.
The Popular Resistance Committees and the Islamic Jihad differ from Hamas in that they do not seek to control Gaza nor do they want to manage the lives of its inhabitants.
Instead, they devote themselves to the struggle against Israel, viewing that struggle as their raison d'être. For these organizations, there are hardly any limitations to the nature and scope of terror attacks against Israel.
Hamas, on the other hand, wants to consolidate its rule in Gaza; therefore, its primary interest is to preserve its fragile truce with Israel. In light of this, Hamas from time to time pressures the terror groups in Gaza to refrain from acting against Israel along the Gaza border; but it does not stop them from planning attacks from the depths of the Sinai Peninsula.
No one has any interest in intensifying the escalation, but the current volatile reality promises another round of escalations of this type in the future. This will be the case as long as Hamas does not control its partners in Gaza, and does not officially and completely decide to abandon the armed struggle against Israel.