Israeli strikes in Gaza risk political win for Hamas
The Islamist militants in Gaza may emerge as a symbol of defiance, much as Hezbollah did in its 2006 war with Israel.
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In its defense, Egypt's foreign minister, Ahmed Abu Gheit, blamed Hamas's missile attacks against Israel for escalating the conflict.Skip to next paragraph
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Similar criticism was voiced by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, who, in an interview with the Arab daily Asharq al-Awsat, blamed Hamas for its refusal to renew a six-month ceasefire as the main reason for the fighting.
"It is not the sole reason, but it is the direct reason," he told the paper. "The pretext that was given to Israel is that there is no cease-fire, so there is aggression. If there were a cease-fire there would have been a long hesitation in starting such a fierce attack. It is true that there were various attacks in the past months, but they were bearable. We hope the 'calm' will be restored."
To be sure, there are many differences between the 2006 war and the Gaza conflict. Hezbollah was much better organized and had greater freedom of action – militarily and politically. It also had much greater freedom of movement and a network of underground tunnels in which to hide.
Palestinian militants have been able to step up their attacks on southern Israel, which they did Monday, and police reported dozens of rockets fell in the morning, primarily in the areas of Sderot and Ashkelon. The fatality in Ashkelon, a coastal city just a few miles from the Gaza border, was the first ever from a Palestinian rocket.
As Police Commander David Bitan surveyed the missile site in Ashkelon, phone calls and two-way radio messages interrupted with alerts from cities around the Gaza border region. Bitan said that the police were not surprised by the stepped up attacks, and plan for the strikes to continue.
Initial celebration in southern Israel over the Israeli assault was replaced by caution as some residents described the city as a ghost town, with people staying home from work, schools closed, and shopping malls shuttered by order of the Israeli army's home-front command.
As Arik Dustra closed his electronics shop at mid day to go home to his 16-year-old sister, he described hearing a missile touch down in a soccer stadium across the street.
"I've been a soldier for four years and I've seen similar strikes.This is like duck hunting, he said. "We felt protected by the military. I want peace, but I want to give [Hamas] a piece… I want them to feel like we feel. When there is a missile they don't know where to hide."