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Despite rocket attacks and retaliations, no one wants an escalation in Israel´s south and in Gaza (HAŽARETZ NEWS) By Amos Harel and Avi Issacharoff 06/24/12)Source: http://www.haaretz.com/news/diplomacy-defense/despite-rocket-attacks-and-retaliations-no-one-wants-an-escalation-in-israel-s-south-and-in-gaza-1.443395 HA'ARETZ} NEWS SERVICE HA'ARETZ} NEWS SERVICE Articles-Index-TopPublishers-Index-Top
At this point, there doesn´t seem to have been a change in Israeli policy: If Hamas enforces a cease-fire, Israel will hold its fire.

As opposed to earlier predictions (including our own), calm did not return to the southern border over the weekend. Although Hamas has officially accepted an Egyptian-brokered cease-fire, it has done little to enforce it on the smaller Palestinian factions.

Israel can´t tell whether this is because Hamas can´t do so or doesn´t want to. The attacks, which kept residents of border communities in shelters over the weekend, led to a series of political and military consultations yesterday. But at this point, there doesn´t seem to have been a change in Israeli policy: If Hamas enforces a cease-fire, Israel will hold its fire.

Over the past two days, Hamas has sent urgent messages via Cairo that it does not want an escalation. Because this still seems to be a key interest on both sides, and because involvement in Gaza by Iran and Syria remains low, there´s a reasonable chance calm will prevail. It just might take longer to kick in than initially thought.

On the Israeli side, two tactical developments are noteworthy. One is the improved intelligence before the air force or artillery units fire at rocket-launching squads. The second is the Iron Dome battery deployed to protect Sderot.

Some experts had claimed that Sderot was too close to the Palestinians´ launching sites for Iron Dome to be effective. But yesterday the battery intercepted five out of six rockets fired at residential areas. Israel is concerned about the smaller factions´ firepower - more than 150 rockets since the escalation began last week. Only Hamas´ decision to focus on army posts and communities near the border - not Be´er Sheva and Ashdod - prevented more damage.

Hamas´ leadership of the attacks - after a long hiatus - is new. Meanwhile, Islamic Jihad, which led the last round of fighting in March, has stayed on the sidelines.

Today Egypt announces the final result of its presidential election. A lack of calm in Cairo could reduce Egypt´s involvement in restoring calm to the south. (© Copyright 2012 Ha´aretz 06/24/12)

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