Egyptian, Palestinian, and Israeli sources tell The Tower that the Iran-backed terror group Hamas is now believed to have been responsible for Tuesday’s rocket strike on the Israeli city of Ashkelon, the first and so far only violation of the ceasefire that ended Operation Pillar of Defense in November 2012.
Egyptian media, Fatah-linked websites, and at least one web forum tied to Hamas have also indicated that the group was behind the rocket attack.
This week The Tower reported that Iranian agents have made their way into Gaza. Palestinian security sources identified the Iranians as rocket experts linked to the Islamic Republic’s Revolutionary Guard who infiltrated the Hamas-controlled area to help Hamas and Islamic Jihad develop longer-range missile capabilities.
It’s possible the rocket was fired by a few renegade Hamas operatives, in contravention of orders from the top, or even that the rocket strike was a mistake. In recent weeks Hamas has launched a number of rockets into the Mediterranean, several of which have landed in Israeli territorial waters. Fatah’s terrorist wing, the Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigade, had previously claimed responsibility for the rocket attack on Ashkelon, but Israeli security sources are now casting doubt on that scenario. In the past various Islamist groups have attacked Israel and then posted announcements attributing the strikes to Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigade in order to hide their own participation.
Still, Hamas has told Egyptian intelligence that it has not changed its policy on the ceasefire and that it does not intend to commit further violations. Egyptian authorities have told Hamas explicitly that escalation with Israel is liable to harm Egyptian national security, and is considered by Cairo to be a red line.
Meanwhile, tensions persist between Hamas and Egypt over the group’s smuggling tunnels. The terrorist organization’s Iz al-Din Qassam Brigades scrambled yesterday to deny any links to a prior threat that it intends to harm the Egyptian military. As The Tower reported earlier this week, an Egyptian court has ruled that the smuggling tunnels linking the Egypt-controlled Sinai Peninsula to the Gaza Strip constitute a threat to the Egypt’s national security. The Egyptian military has found an effective way to collapse and shut down the tunnels by flooding them with water.
An adviser to Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh has said the organization supports the tunnels’ closure only if it is matched by an opening in the movement of goods between Gaza and Egypt, something that has not happened to date.
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