In the West Bank a Palestinian terrorist stabbed to death 32-year-old Evyatar Borovsky. He was the first Israeli victim of Palestinian terrorism since September 2011. In the Gaza Strip, Israel struck Hithem Ziad Ibrahim Masshal, a leader of the Salafist Mujahideen Shura Council, not far from a Hamas military base. The strike was Israel’s first targeted terrorist assassination since the end of Operation Pillar of Defense in November 2012.
The relative quiet Israel has known in the West Bank and Gaza Strip are likely to end.
Almost half a year has passed since the end of Pillar of Defense. Since then 19 rockets have been fired at Israel. The IDF has nonetheless restrained itself from targeted strikes against terror operatives in Gaza. Israeli decision makers and hoped and hope to avoid another escalation with Hamas. They also recognize that the group has been making some efforts to stop other terror organizations from lobbing rockets at Israel.
Those efforts were far from enough. While the Hamas government created a security body that was supposed to stop the rockets, Hamas’s armed wing – the Izz al-Din al-Qassam Brigades – maintained links with groups intent on continuing the rocket fire. Those groups included Al Qaeda-linked elements. Highly placed Palestinian officials in Ramallah said certain Hamas leaders in Gaza are intentionally turning a blind eye to the rocket fire. They named Hamas officials Ayman Noufal and Raed al-Attar specifically.
Eventually Israel had no choice but to respond to the continuing rocket fire from the “Shura Council.” The Israelis carefully selected their target – Israeli Military Intelligence identified Masahel as having been involved in recent rocket fire on the Israeli city of Eilat – and made sure to avoid collatoral damage. Jerusalem seems committed to avoiding yet another confrontation with Hamas.
It’s unclear, however, that another confrontation can be avoided. Gaza has no shortage of groups in favor of rocket strikes. Hamas may not be able to stop them, even if its officials could find time to do so in between regulating the amount of gel permitted in the hair of Gaza’s adolescents.
The stabbing attack south of Nablus this morning is also no great surprise. The vibe on the Palestinian “street” West Bank is very much in support of attacks. The Palestinian Authority very pointedly passed on unequivocally condemning the attack.
A third Intifada has not yet begun. But a flare-up may not be far off.
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