Gaza: Why Israel and Hamas are trading rocket fire
Both sides are maneuvering for another ceasefire, and Israeli troops are not likely to invade the Gaza strip, say analysts.
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Demonstrations also were held in South Lebanon and the Bekaa Valley. The mood in Lebanon's Palestinian refugee camps was one of anger and mourning. In Ain al-Hilweh, the largest and most lawless of the 12 established camps in Lebanon, black flags adorned streets, and verses from the Koran were broadcast from mosques.Skip to next paragraph
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"The people are ready to participate in any action against the Israelis," says Abu Ahmad Fadel Taha, the leader of Hamas in Ain al-Hilweh. "Right now we are gathering blood donations money and food for the people of Gaza. There is no decision yet to take military action along the border [with Israel]."
In an ominous indicator of potential problems in Lebanon over Gaza, a Lebanese farmer discovered on Thursday afternoon eight Katyusha rockets primed for launch from a valley, four kilometers north of the Israeli border. The 122mm and 107mm rockets, with respective ranges of 20 and 12 kilometers, were connected to timers for a launch Thursday night. Lebanese Army troops defused the rockets. UNIFIL and the Lebanese Army have since stepped up patrols along the border.
Israeli officials estimate that more than 300 rockets have been fired by Hamas in the past week. Analysts say that Hamas may have done so with the goal of improving the terms of the next cease fire and to force Israel to open up the border crossings into Israel. Hamas bragged that Israel would not dare an invasion.
Indeed, despite the display of military superiority, Israelis are worried about an "exit strategy" because they are loathe to be drawn back into Gaza three years after withdrawing.
The price of overrunning the tiny coastal enclave would likely be heavy civilian casualties on the Palestinian side as well as significant numbers of Israeli soldiers. Israeli officials have said that they don't want to bear the responsibility of looking after an impoverished population of 1.6 million.
The absence of clear goals against Hezbollah in 2006 led to a prolonged war in which the Iranian-backed Shiite group was able to survive intact – exposing Israel's vulnerability to short-range rockets and difficulty against guerilla attacks.
Israel's government, which is currently in a reelection campaign, wants to bring to an end the eight years of Hamas rockets landing in southern Israel.
"There's the question of Iran," says Meir Javedanfar, the coauthor of a book on Iran's nuclear program. "If Israel can't defend itself against a small group like Hamas, then it will look weak to the region and embolden the right wingers in Iran to increase support for Hamas."
In the southern Israel town of Sderot, shell shocked from eight years of attacks, local Israelis say they feel a sense of relief and defiantly refused Sunday to take cover in shelters at the sound of rocket alerts. "Today is a day of celebration in Sderot," says Sasson Sara, a local shop owner. "Today I feel that we finally started to deal with terror."