Israel's missed opportunity to bring back deterrence

Analysis: Government's response to rocket barrage after PIJ prisoner dies on Tuesday, emboldens Gaza factions to launch attacks in broad daylight and seek to determine new rules of engagement

Yossi Yehushua|

Israel's response to the rocket fire from Gaza in the latest attacks was a missed opportunity to restore Israeli deterrence in the face of the terror factions that are emboldened to launch their fire in broad daylight, in response to the death of an Islamic Jihad member in prison, after his 86-day hunger strike.
3 View gallery
בית ספר רבין, שדרות
בית ספר רבין, שדרות
Children head to school in Sderot after night of rocket fire from Gaza
(Photo: Roee Idan)
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The Gaza-ruling Hamas terror group as well as the PIJ, wanted to draw new lines of conduct and were successful and the Israeli chance to respond in force – not only to events on the Gaza border but especially to those in the north over Passover.
Israel's retaliation to the rocket fire on Tuesday, came late, at night and did not exact a heavy price from the Gaza factions, while tens of thousands of Israelis spent their night in shelters and secured areas, only to hear that by morning, security measures were lifted and life was to return to its routine.
The death of the prisoner ignited rage in the Strip and dragged Hamas into the fight. After three rockets landed in Israel in the morning hours on Tuesday, the IDF called on residents to remain close to shelters. But as children were making their way home from school, a heavy barrage of 26 rockets hit the south wounding three people.
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הרכב שנפגע בשדרות
הרכב שנפגע בשדרות
Kids inspect a car damaged in a rocket attack on Sderot on Tuesday
(Photo: AP)
This threw southern communities back to life under sirens and growing frustration. Israel's weakness was noted in Gaza and rather than de-escalating their aggression, they continued to launch rockets during the night and into Wednesday morning.
Israel's deterrence has been eroding over time. and the government's decision on a lax response to rockets freed disproportional attacks from the Islamist factions. Israel cannot be blackmailed to release hunger-striking prisoners or decide its strategic policies according to tactical events.
The government must be reminded that the problems from Gaza cannot be solved by military might alone. If the factions there try to impose their new lines, Israel must take the reigns and lay down the law, from a position of strength and not while under fire.
Security officials should ponder the results of the Iron Dome missile defense system, which in this latest cycle failed to prevent injuries of three men in Sderot, and showed a relatively low rate of successful interceptions. Out of the 26 rockets fired at the border communities in the afternoon, 16 landed in unpopulated areas and four, which should have been intercepted, exploded inside areas of population.
The missile defense system intercepted six rockets with a 67% rate of success, far below the 96% or 92% success in previous rounds.
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תיעוד היירוטים של כיפת ברזל בשמי עוטף עזה
תיעוד היירוטים של כיפת ברזל בשמי עוטף עזה
Iron Dome intercepts rockets over Ashkelon
(Photo: Reuters)
While the IDF was focused on the south, the northern border and West Bank remain a concern with the option of a multi-front event similar to the one last month, still a possibility.
Iran's president Ebrahim Raisi is expected in Damascus on Wednesday, a week after his foreign minister visited the Lebanese border with Israel. Iran may detect an Israeli weakness in its defense against the Lebanon-based Hezbollah group after the military response to the Gaza rocket attacks.
According to foreign media reports, Israel indicated it would not stop its attacks on Iranian and Hezbollah targets in Syria and rendered the Aleppo airport out of service in its latest strike there. That was the right call and a message to Tehran that the war between wars against them will continue.
The same message of strength should be directed at the Gaza factions.

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