Changes in Islamic Jihad and Hamas could disrupt the delicate
dance the enemy territories have been doing for years, and may
demand something different than Israel's longstanding deterrence
Islamic Jihad, the militant group responsible for the most recent
assault on Israel from the Gaza Strip, announced on Thursday that
Egypt had intervened to restore calm -- a familiar resolution to the
familiar cross-border exchange of rockets and airstrikes that had
shaken Gaza and southern Israel over 24 hours.
But Hamas, the Palestinian faction that has ruled Gaza since
2007, said it knew of no such truce. The statement was a sign of the
profound changes in the coastal enclave since a military-backed
government took control of Egypt last summer.
Those changes could disrupt the delicate dance the enemy
territories have been doing for years, and may demand something
different than Israel's longstanding deterrence strategy known as
"cutting the grass" -- occasional, inevitable incursions carefully
calculated not to create too much chaos.
Egypt's shutdown of hundreds of smuggling tunnels beneath its
border with Gaza, frequent closings of its Rafah crossing into the
strip and the banning of Hamas as a terror organization have left
Gaza's 1.7 million residents more isolated and desperate.
Unemployment is 39 percent, fuel shortages have led to half-day
blackouts, prices for staples are soaring and travel is thwarted. A
weakened Hamas has struggled to maintain control in the face of
increasing challenges from its political rival, Fatah, as well as
from the Iranian-backed Islamic Jihad, and less-organized radical
"It's quite clear for Israel that the balance of power in Gaza is
changing, and not to a very optimistic direction," said Shaul Shay,
the director of research at the Institute of Policy and Strategy and
the Interdisciplinary Center in Herzliya. "At least Israel and Hamas
both have no interest in escalation, but there are other parties
that are playing in the Gaza Strip, other bad guys. To put an end to
this threat, the only way to do it is a large-scale ground
operation, and I don't think anybody in Israel is eager to go back
Tony Blair, the Middle East peace envoy for the "quartet" of the
United States, Russia, the European Union and the United Nations,
said the rocket strikes "underline and illustrate the depth of the
"One thing we are going to need, medium- and long-term, is a
completely new strategy towards Gaza," Mr. Blair told reporters in
Jerusalem on Thursday.
After an hourlong barrage of more than 60 Islamic Jihad rockets
on Wednesday afternoon, Israel pummeled Gaza Wednesday night with
bombs on 29 of what it called "terror sites," by far the most
intense exchange since the cease-fire that ended eight days of
violence in November 2012. But the only injury reported was an
Israeli woman who fell while running for cover, a sign that each
side wanted to make a forceful showing without risking further
Hostilities continued on Thursday: Israeli airstrikes hit nine
targets near the southern border town of Rafah, injuring three,
after two rockets from Gaza hit open areas in the Israeli cities of
Ashkelon and Ashdod, and four earlier ones were launched but did not
reach their targets.
"Our police in the south is clear: we will strike at anyone who
tries to attack us, and will respond forcefully to any attack,"
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu declared at a morning appearance
here. "It would be worthwhile for terrorists in the Gaza Strip to
start internalizing the fact that they have an issue here with a
very determined government and a very strong military. …