Israel Losing Patience, Warning Hamas: Another Gaza Invasion, Built on Pinpoint Intelligence?

[This analysis was written by Yossi Melman, co-author of Spies Against Armageddon, for the website of the commercial multilingual TV news service based in Israel,]

There is a sense of déjà vu on the Israeli-Gaza border. Fourteen months after the second Israeli military invasion of Hamas controlled Gaza (codenamed Pillar of Defense) there is a feeling in the air that another – third round is just around the corner.

In the past three weeks 17 rockets were launched from Gaza targeting Israeli cities and rural communities. Luckily the attacks caused neither human lives nor damage to property. Some of the rockets did not reach their targets, others exploded in open space and some were intercepted by the Iron Dome missile defense system.

The rockets were fired by the Iranian supported and financed Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) and by some small, al-Qaida inspired renegade splinter groups.

But for Israel there is one culprit, meaning one address for heavy pressure — the Hamas government.

Israeli intelligence experts monitoring developments in Gaza are puzzled. They are trying to decipher the reasoning and motives behind the attacks.

There are some explanations and estimates. One is attributed to the weakening of Hamas. Since the civil war in Syria three years ago in which Hamas turned its back on the Bashar Assad regime and its Iranian ally, the Palestinian movement lost two major sponsors.

For a while, Hamas hung its hopes on Egyptian President Mohammad Morsi and his Muslim Brotherhood government. But soon Morsi was toppled. His government was replaced by a military regime led by Defense Minister Abdel Fatah al Sisi.

General Sisi, de facto ruler of Egypt

General Sisi, de facto ruler of Egypt

General Sisi and his military increased their secret security cooperation and intelligence coordination with Israel.  Both countries intensified their pressure on Hamas.

Sensing the weakening of Hamas government and its grip on power in Gaza, PIJ and the radical Islamist militant splinters feel they have more room to maneuver, that they can be disobedient and get away with it.

Another explanation for launching the rockets is the ongoing  peace negotiation between Israel and the Palestinian Authority — brokered by U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry.

It is assumed that the negotiations are reaching a crucial moment; and though mild and vague, some sort of an interim agreement is possible.

The Palestinian militants, who oppose peace, have increased their operations to signal that agreements are not determined around tables but in the battle field.

One should not rule out, however, that the rocket fire is secretly sanctioned by Hamas in its efforts to please Iran and once again be taken under the Islamic Republic’s wings. Isolated Hamas leaders recently initiated contacts with Iran, according to intelligence sources, and Hamas is asking to regain political and financial support as well as arms shipments. In return, Iranian leaders asked Hamas to show their readiness to renew the hostilities against Israel by launching rockets.

Whatever the reasons are, for Israeli leaders and military commanders the rocket attacks are intolerable. They are erasing the reative peace produced by the last Israeli military campaign against Gaza.

Over this past weekend Israel conveyed a strong message via Egyptian intelligence. Hamas was told that if the rocket launches continue,  it’s just a matter of time before the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) once again invade Gaza.

And this time, unlike in the previous military campaigns of 2009 and 2013, the ultimate aim might be the toppling of the Hamas regime.

January 21, 2014

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