A new series of rockets were fired from the Gaza Strip into Israel Tuesday, triggering an in-kind response from Israel in the form of airstrikes. Israel has stipulated that negotiations would not occur under fire. As a result, Egypt-mediated peace talks have collapsed and an anonymous Hamas spokesman declared the talks over. An Israeli spokesman said that because it had been agreed that the talks would only take place only under a total cessation of hostilities, the restart of hostilities broke the premise of the talks.
Israel Defense Forces (IDF) reported that three rockets had been shot at approximately 4 p.m. by militants in the Gaza Strip toward Beersheba, population 200,000. The missiles were not intercepted by IDF’s (Iron Dome missile defense network), but landed in open areas. Injuries were not reported. At the time of the opening salvo, an extended cease-fire was in effect, but Israel has since recalled its negotiators from Cairo.
After the first three Gaza-launched missiles, more were fired into Israel and intercepted. As reported by police in Gaza, Israel responded with 25 or more airstrikes. An IDF spokesman said that in order to rebuild Israel’s security, the previous policy of finding terrorists and destroying their infrastructure in the Gaza Strip will continue.
On Sunday, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu stated that, if the intent of Hamas in continuing its “drizzle” of rocket fire is to force concessions from Israel, “It’s mistaken.” Known in Israel by the catch-phrase “tif-toof,” the continued missile-fire from Gaza prompts Israel to make good on its policy of zero-tolerance to militant attacks.
A protest of tens of thousands of Israelis in Tel Aviv Thursday evening demanded a more clear-cut solution to the dilemma. Present at the protest were residents from southern Israel who have seen rocket fire even in the absence of full-scale fighting.
A Hamas spokesman blamed Israel for the premature restart of fighting, stating his belief that the country is not sincere about reaching an agreement. Sami Abu Zuhri said that the various Palestinian factions ” … are ready to all possibilities.” A right-wing member of Netanyahu’s cabinet, Naftali Bennett, said that negotiating with terror organizations (such as Hamas) begets more terror. The Minister of Economy said that, for Hamas, “Rockets are not a mistake, they are a method.” Hamas is classified as a terrorist organization by the United States, the European Union, Canada and Japan.
Regarding which Palestinian faction fired the three rockets toward Beersheba, Abu Zuhri said simply that he had no information, making it unclear as to which group actually launched the rockets. Although the most visible in news media, Hamas is not the only militant group in Gaza. One possibility as to which faction shot the rockets is the Islamic Jihad militant group, which has been attending the talks in Cairo.
It was only yesterday that Palestinian and Israeli delegations both said that they were very close to an agreement. This optimism prompted a 24-hour extension of the week-long ceasefire.
Despite the public words, great distances remained on some important issues. For example, before the collapse of talks and the resumption of fighting, Hamas stipulated a total removal of the land, air and sea blockade of the Gaza Strip and also clearance to rebuild the Port of Gaza. The previous port was destroyed by the IDF in 2000 after the outbreak of the Second Intifada. Israel had previously approved Palestinian plans to rebuild the port south of Gaza City in 2005. Israel remains concerned that, if the blockade were to be lifted, that Hamas or other factions would, as before, use imported materials to create more offensive apparatus, such as the tunnels Israel recently destroyed that enabled Palestinian terrorists to illegally enter Israel.
By Gregory Baskin