The army has no intention of changing the new policy it adopted this week, that fires caused by launching incendiary kites and balloons into the Gaza border communities will lead to airstrikes against terror targets in the strip.
The IDF's policy will continue despite the new equation Hamas tried to present on Tuesday night, that it would respond to every IDF strike with immediate rocket and mortar shell barrages at Israeli territory.
In recent days, the IDF has detected a drop in the number of fire-sparking kites, from 20 to 30 incendiary kites and balloons launched into Israel last week to four or five in the past two days—a possible indication that Hamas has been deterred from continuing the activity that has inflicted serious financial damage on Gaza vicinity farmers and affected the state of mind of the western Negev residents.
Military officials believe the range of possibilities in the exchange of blows between the two sides was narrowed down Tuesday night, bringing the next IDF operation in the Gaza Strip closer. Hamas isn't expected to back down from the new fire equation it is trying to create, but if it keeps launching the incendiary kites from its observation posts on the border on a daily basis, the IDF will respond with airstrikes which will lead to rocket barrages and pave the way to a war.
Coordination between terror groupsMost of the 45 rockets and mortar shells fired on Tuesday night were launched by Hamas in a controlled manner. Few were launched by Islamic Jihad members as part of the coordination and cooperation between the two major terror organizations in the strip.
An evaluation of the situation by the Southern Command before the latest airstrike in the strip took the possibility of immediate rocket fire into consideration, and the Air Force was prepared for two additional airstrikes in the middle of the night and early Wednesday. A total of 25 targets were attacked, including military posts, underground training facilities and arms depots.
At the moment, there are no preparations for a military operation in the foreseeable future, and routine life in the Gaza vicinity communities continues. The forces on the ground likely won't be reinforced this weekend as they were in recent weeks, during the violent protests on the border fence which were attended by thousands of Palestinians.
Nevertheless, IDF officials realize that what happened Tuesday night was another major step towards a military conflict, although neither side is interested in a war at this stage.
Meanwhile, the defense establishment's efforts to come up with a technological solution to the incendiary kites are continuing in full speed. Hamas, for its part, is expected to keep launching the kites after failing to break the status quo vis-à-vis Israel in recent months.
'We are doing what we said we would'
IDF Chief of Staff Gadi Eisenkot vowed Wednesday afternoon to return security to the residents of the south after Tuesday night's rocket barrages.
"The IDF is working around the clock with the initiative and strength our enemies know well. We will continue targeting those who seek to harm us, and return the security to the residents of the south," Eisenkot said at an officers' course graduation ceremony.
"I'm convinced we will achieve this with wisdom, determination and soon," he added.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, also speaking at the ceremony, expressed his support of the IDF chief and the army. "Gadi, the entire nation is behind you and behind IDF soldiers," he said.
He described the volatile situation in the south. "We have a blessed peace with Egypt and Jordan that lasts despite the storms over time, but we're seeing on several fronts enemies who attack us or try to attack us," the prime minister noted.
"I do not intend to go into detail about what we are planning vis-à-vis Gaza. The intensity will be stepped up as necessary. We are prepared for any scenario and our enemies would do well to understand this—now," Netanyahu warned.
Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman had a message to Hamas: "For what happened yesterday, I have only (four) words for Hamas: It was a mistake."
"We're still surrounded by hatred and cruel enemies. In the Gaza Strip we're facing Hamas and Islamic Jihad, in Sinai there's ISIS, Hezbollah is on the Lebanese border, and al-Qaeda is on the Syrian border. And behind all of them is Iran," Lieberman added.
Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri responded to Lieberman, writing: "Do not misunderstand our patience."
Earlier Wednesday, Hamas and Islamic Jihad's military wings claimed responsibility for attacking seven Israeli posts overnight in response to "the ongoing Zionist aggression."
"We stress the equation of 'bombing in response to bombing,' and we will not allow the enemy to force aggressive equations against our people and the resistance," a joint press release from the two terror groups said.
"The Israeli leadership bears full responsibility to any aggression and will pay the price for that. All attempts to break the popular Palestinian protest will not succeed," the statement continued.