Hamas's military wing wants war
Analysis: The chances of restoring the quiet are shrinking by the hour. Hamas's political leadership doesn't want the IDF to enter the strip, but its military wing prefers escalation over reconciliation. With that, it is inviting a large-scale Israeli military operation, even though it knows it'll be more deadly and destructive than ever before.
It's not at all certain Hamas's political leadership wants another military campaign in which the IDF would enter the Gaza Strip. In fact, it's pretty clear it doesn't want this, but the military wing is the one to decide, and it is the one that initiated the incidents on the border fence on Thursday and Friday, with the clear intention of escalating.
The measures the Hamas men used on Friday in the seemingly "routine" clashes along the border are clearly meant to lead to an escalation. There were others signs—which cannot be elaborated on—that the military wing wants a massive escalation in Gaza.
This is exactly why Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman visited the Gaza border on Friday morning and specifically stated Hamas is dragging the strip to war—against the interests of its residents. The defense minister's comments, which were quickly disseminated in the media, were meant to serve as a grave warning.
And, indeed, what the defense minister hinted on happened on Friday afternoon. The IDF responded with attacks, and it will likely not end with this initial response. That is why the residents of the Gaza border area are called to listen to the instructions of the Home Front Command and remain alert.
Still, it might be possible to prevent a large IDF operation in the strip, but the chances of restoring the quiet are shrinking with every passing hour. It's pretty obvious we're in for a stormy weekend, but there is still a slim chance it would be possible to prevent what the Israeli government and the IDF—as well as Hamas's political leadership—don't want.
It is, as I previously mentioned, Hamas's military wing that reached the conclusion that an escalation now—which will cause suffering to all residents of the Gaza Strip—is preferable to reconciliation with Fatah, the Egyptians and Israel. Such reconciliation will force them to give up all types of terrorism, require them to return the bodies of IDF soldiers and the living Israeli citizens they're holding, and stop them from digging tunnels and manufacturing rockets.
To Hamas's military wing, escalation will lead to condemnation from the world, and eventually they believe they could get what they want—including humanitarian aid to the strip's residents—without having to compromise on anything.
The State of Israel knows this, and does not want a large-scale operation in Gaza, at the end of which we'll be back more or less to the same place, or worse, we'll have to stay in the strip for at least a few months. If the losses, the killing, and the PR damage to Israel's image in the world can be avoided, then the State of Israel prefers restraint, even though doing so severely erodes the deterrence.
But Hamas's military wing has probably already made up its mind. It may not want the IDF to enter the strip, but it clearly wants serious escalation and fighting and is unwilling to make any concessions.
Therefore, it is essentially inviting a large-scale IDF operation in the strip, even though it knows this time it would be more destructive and more deadly than all of the previous rounds. And it won't start slowly, but rather with a sweeping strike from the first moment.