Saturday October 10, 2015
Israel Hayom
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Yoav Limor

Dancing to the extremists' tune


The dynamics behind the events in southern Israel over the past few days are the work of no more than a few dozen radical terrorists who are trying to force the area into an overall escalation.

Every night, usually moments before the evening news goes to air at 8 p.m., these terrorists fire several rockets at Israel. They aimed at Sderot on Saturday and at Netivot on Sunday, knowing that the chances were they would be able to get away with it.

One of these terror cells was taken out by the Israeli Air Force on Sunday, near the southern Gaza Strip town of Khan Younis, but its counterparts have survived. It is likely that Hamas, which is familiar with the shooters and has some of them on its payroll, has been refraining from cracking down on them. Whether this is the result of simple reluctance or Hamas' inability to do so depends on whom you ask.

Israel, which is also familiar with the majority of these terror operatives, has been refraining from embarking on wholesale targeted assassinations, in an effort to avoid causing a full-blown security escalation.

This vacuum is exploited by radical terrorists, whose only ideology is wreaking havoc. Some of these terrorists are affiliated with the Islamic Jihad, which is funded by Iran, but the majority of them are affiliated with various Salafi terror groups.

While Israel claims that regardless of the shooters' identity, Hamas -- as Gaza's ruler -- is responsible for any rocket fire, it is hard to miss the defense establishment's growing concern that Hamas seems to be losing its grip over the Gaza Strip.

As of Sunday night, Israel's policy remained unchanged: Any rocket fire will meet a military response, and each response will be more forceful than the previous one. The IAF struck 12 terror targets following Saturday night's rocket fire on Sderot, and it is very likely that Sunday's rocket fire on Netivot did not go unmet.

Still, the ball is in the other side's court. Israel is passive for now. Some -- mostly in the GOC Southern Command -- would argue that it is too passive, as it has opted to exercise risk management according to circumstance, waiting to see if a Qassam rocket would, heaven forbid, hit a kindergarten or a community center, or cause multiple casualties in a way that would mandate a massive Israeli operation.

Hopefully, that will not happen, and Hamas will come to its senses -- be it as a result of pressure from Egypt, the Israeli strikes, or of its own accord -- and crack down on these terror cells. Otherwise, it will be up to statistics to determine the trajectory of this escalation.

Despite Hamas' clear reluctance toward a security escalation, and its desire not to provide Israel with an excuse for another operation in the Gaza Strip, it has fumbled its response and has failed to truly stop those firing rockets.

This conduct is risky for Hamas, as well as for Israel, which is taking a big chance by allowing extremists to determine the dynamics on the ground, as this may result in a confrontation in which neither side is interested.

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