After an anti-tank missile injured four soldiers and rockets continued to pound southern Israel, the government and security establishment reached the conclusion that the terror groups in Gaza are not deterred and that the threat on the residents of south and central Israel is growing. Therefore, Israel decided to restore its deterrence through a series of painful attacks on top military figures and assets belonging to all the terror organizations in Gaza, with an emphasis on Hamas.
It was clear that only a drastic operation that would exact a heavy toll from the terror groups would restore the diminished deterrence. However, there are two reasons why Israel would be wise not to expand its operation in Gaza at this stage: Israel does not want to give the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt an excuse to violate the terms of the 1979 peace agreement, and it also realizes that Hamas does not have full control over Gaza. Hamas' collapse as a result of a broad military operation may lead to the rise to power of groups that are much more extreme, such as Islamic Jihad, the Popular Resistance Committees and other Salafi groups that want to take Hamas' place. Such a development would escalate the situation in the south rather than quell the violence.
Therefore, Israel decided on a series of escalating measures, the first of which was the assassination of top Hamas commander Ahmed Jabari, who orchestrated dozens of terror attacks that emanated from Gaza and Sinai and was also responsible for Hamas' tough stance during the prisoner exchange negotiations that eventually led to the release of captured IDF soldier Gilad Shalit.
Jabari was also behind the strategy of launching attacks against Israel from the Sinai Peninsula and transferred some of Hamas' infrastructure to the Egyptian territory.
Following the targeted killing of Mohammed Def by an Israeli aircraft, Jabari became the most powerful Hamas figure in Gaza and essentially dictated its policy. Today Israel settled the score.
Israel's response on Wednesday was planned a long time ago, but it was postponed due to the election campaign. However, when the rounds of violence became more and more frequent and Hamas and Islamic Jihad improved their military capabilities, it became clear that the army must operate immediately.
Islamic Jihad has recently replaced Hamas as Iran's offshoot in Gaza, and it has been equipped accordingly. Both Hamas and Islamic Jihad are in possession of Fajr rockets with a range of 75 kilometers, meaning they can reach Tel Aviv. It was also apparent that the plan to restore the army's deterrence would intensify the rocket and mortar fire on Israel.
It is safe to assume that Hamas and Islamic Jihad will try to launch these long-range rockets also toward central Israel, including Tel Aviv and Herzliya.
Israel's goal is to achieve a long-term ceasefire with Egyptian mediation, so that all of Gaza's armed groups would be committed to it. The IDF will continue to pound Gaza until such a truce is reached. Jabari's death is a severe moral blow to Hamas, although it did not hurt its military capabilities.