Hamas's dangerous games demand different kind of reaction
Analysis: Hamas and Islamic Jihad won't take responsibility for the rocket fire at Be'er Sheva and central Israel, but the rockets—with their longer range and bigger payload—clearly came from them. The terror groups are trying to send a message: This is what might happen if the ceasefire talks fail.
Israel is already responding to the rocket fire from Gaza that hit a home in Be'er Sheva and landed in the sea off the shores of a city in central Israel. This rocket attack constitutes a grave escalation, leading to the cancellation of the Security Cabinet meeting planned for Wednesday morning, as the situation has changed fundamentally.
It appears the rocket fire was unprecedented in its characteristics. Hamas and Islamic Jihad, likely in coordination, initiated the two rockets as a message and a threat meant to extract the negotiation with the Egyptians on an arrangement with Israel from the stalemate it reached on Tuesday.
An Egyptian delegation is currently in Gaza for ceasefire negotiation efforts, while the head of Egyptian intelligence, Kamel Abbas, is due to arrive in the strip on Thursday
On Tuesday, the Egyptians made different proposals meant to achieve calm and reach an arrangement, while Hamas set steep demands on lifting the blockade and the funds they want to get from the Palestinian Authority.
The Egyptians, meanwhile, warned Hamas that if this coming weekend sees more violent incidents on the border, Israel will respond with a serious blow.
That is why these two organizations avoided taking responsibility for the rocket launches and even released a false statement condemning it. They want the negotiations to continue, but under the clear threat of what might happen if it fails.
There are quite a few signs indicating that. Primarily, we know for a fact the rockets were locally produced, have a greater range and a heavier warhead—the kind only Hamas and Islamic Jihad possess.
The accuracy of the hit in Be'er Sheva and the (likely intentional) miss of the rocket fired at central Israel, which fell at sea, indicate a high level of execution and planning characteristic of Hamas and Islamic Jihad.
Furthermore, the strict compartmentalization that left Israeli intelligence in the dark about the identity and affiliation of the shooters indicates this is a Hamas/Islamic Jihad initiative.
While it's unclear which of the two organizations launched the rockets, or whether it was an "errant" faction that received the rockets from one of them, it doesn't really matter. This is a classic way to send out a message with a vague origin (they're not taking responsibility) meant to prevent the need and the cause of the other side (Israel) from responding with great force.
Conversely, the IDF takes the same approach against Iran's entrenchment efforts in Syria (what's called the "war between the wars").
And if more proof is needed—in late August Hamas leader in Gaza Yahya Sinwar announced to journalists that "by mid-October the siege will be lifted one way or another." We're two days past that ultimatum, which we didn't take seriously enough.
In any case, the State of Israel must not allow such a dangerously unprecedented move to happen without a counter move that makes it clear to Hamas, Islamic Jihad and the Egyptians that we are unwilling to negotiate an arrangement while the other side is gambling with the life of Israeli citizens as a leverage to promote its positions. Not punish them, but rather make it clear that this constitutes throwing out the rule book, and only Palestinians will be hurt by it.