Rocket attacks on Israel: Why Hamas has an interest in keeping Gaza quiet
Rocket attacks near the Israeli towns of Sderot and Eilat have raised concerns of escalating Israel-Hamas tensions. But while Hamas could be a potential spoiler in peace talks, it also has an interest in avoiding a fresh clash.
Tel Aviv, Israel
The most significant volley of Gaza attacks and Israeli reprisals since last year's Operation Cast Lead raised concern over the weekend that tensions could escalate between Israel and Hamas. Meanwhile, additional rocket attacks on Monday apparently aimed toward the southern Israeli resort city of Eilat raised speculation of Hamas involvement there as well.Skip to next paragraph
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But Palestinian analysts say that Hamas, while a potential spoiler in peace talks that look likely to move ahead, has more of an interest in maintaining calm. Increased rocket fire from Gaza risks forfeiting the sympathy its residents – and its Hamas rulers – have garnered after Israel's fatal raid on activists challenging the Gaza blockade.
"It’s against Hamas’ interest to fire rockets," says Nashat Aqtash, a communications professor at Birzeit University in the West Bank. "They are trying to cool the situation with the Israelis to win international support for the release of the [blockade]."
While Israel eased the blockade amid international furor over its fatal raid on the Mavi Mamara, the United Nations is pushing for an in-depth investigation that could increase pressure for a further opening of the blockade.
The naval blockade that the activists were challenging remains firmly in place – a precaution, Israel says, against Iranian arms shipments reaching Hamas – and badly needed building materials have yet to move freely into the territory amid Israeli fears that they will be used to bolster bunkers. Strict limitations on banking and travel remain in place.
Israel holds Hamas responsible
One rocket hit the Israeli city of Ashkelon, and a second landed near an Israeli college next to the town of Sderot – a frequent target of the rocket fire that precipitated Israel's offensive against Gaza. All told, four rockets were fired into Israel over the past week. No one was injured by the rockets, but Israel’s retaliatory attacks killed a Hamas military leader.
Though the rockets were fired by Palestinian militias not affiliated with Hamas, the Islamist movement is considered by both Palestinian and Israelis to be firmly in control of Gaza and able to enforce a moratorium on rocket fire if it desires.
"I view Hamas as being directly responsible for any attack on the State of Israel that originates in the Gaza Strip, and this is how the international community must see things,’’ said Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in remarks at the weekly cabinet meeting. "Israel reserves the right to defend its citizens."