Hamas did not stage riots or confrontations along the Israel-Gaza border on Saturday night, for the first in months of nightly incidents at the friction points along the security fence.
Earlier in the day, however, a mortar shell was fired at the Eshkol Regional Council and exploded in an open area; a cluster of balloons carrying the warhead from an anti-tank missile was found in a forested area of the Negev; and a bullet fired from the northern Gaza Strip hit a house in Netiv HaAsara in the Hof Ashkelon Regional Council. There were no casualties in any of the incidents.
Sources familiar with the details told Ynet that the lack of nightly confrontations at the fence constitutes a form of confidence-building measures on the part of Hamas, in order to prove its willingness to move forward with the proposed understandings with Israel.
These understandings include a lull in the violence in exchange for Israel easing restrictions on Gaza, and are the result of mediation by a delegation of senior Egyptian intelligence officials, who have been shuttling between Israel and Gaza over the past few days.
The current Israeli assessment is that the Islamic Jihad is trying to torpedo these attempts at calm, and is responsible for the rocket and mortar fire as well as the explosive balloons dispatched over the weekend.
The Egyptian delegation, headed by the country's deputy intelligence chief General Omar Hanafi, left Gaza on Friday. As far as is known, the team is still in Israel where they are holding talks with security officials to re-establish the understandings that will lead to calm. It is as yet unclear whether the halt in clashes along the border is a one-off or will last over the next few nights.
The substantive overnight offensive by the IAF against targets belonging to the Hamas military wing, together with the pressure being exerted by Egypt, has led the organization to understand that Israel has run out patience and as such the chances of a relatively large military confrontation are higher than ever.
Nonetheless, Hamas is still dabbling in psychological warfare to achieve its ends. It is using various sources to leak to the Palestinian media a range of demands for easing conditions in the Gaza Strip. These demands include issues relating to the electricity supply and infrastructure development, as well as increasing the fishing zone for Gaza's fishermen. As far as is known, the Egyptian-brokered indirect talks between the two sides to formulate these understandings have not yet borne fruit, but there does seem to be some progress.
On Friday, not long after the Egyptian delegation set out from Gaza, a 23-year-old Palestinian was killed by IDF fire during clashes along the fence in the southern Gaza Strip. This led to the mortar shell being fired at Israel on Saturday evening, which exploded in an open area of southern Israel.
Indeed, it is not inconceivable that the Islamic Jihad is also behind the Saturday night rocket fire, given that it is not committed to the understandings that are being formulated by Egypt, and actually may also oppose them. According to assessments in Gaza, Islamic Jihad is opposed to the agreements currently between brokered and launched the rocket fire in an effort to torpedo the negotiations.
Meanwhile, Qatari envoy Mohammed al-Emadi is expected to arrive in the Gaza Strip this week, bringing a lifeline of more than $100 million for the impoverished families living there.