Eyeless in Gaza, and Cairo (ISRAEL HAYOM OP-ED) Yoav Limor 06/24/12)
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The motivation to continue the internecine fighting, both in Israel
and in Gaza, was relatively low on Saturday. Both sides were waiting
eagerly for the whistle to indicate the end of this latest round of
violence. Both sides were conducting themselves carefully, going to
great lengths to avoid escalation.
This restraint was also evident on Friday, and certainly after Hamas
announced its cease-fire. Israel was surprised, or should I say
disappointed, to discover that other terrorist organizations had
ignored the cease-fire declaration and had continued to fire rockets.
As a result, Israel decided to communicate to Hamas that it would not
be permitted to sit on the sidelines while rockets were exploding. On
Saturday, the Israeli attack on Hamas´ nerve center — Gaza´s main
security headquarters, al-Saraya — was intended to clarify to Hamas
that sovereignty has a price.
After recovering from the shock, Hamas responded by launching five
rockets at the southern Israeli town of Sderot. It was a measured
response, designed to retaliate but not to escalate. Beyond that,
Hamas did not fire any more rockets; the other organizations
maintained the steady rocket fire, which number 150 rockets so far,
but kept things on a relatively low flame: With the exception of one
rocket, Beersheba and Ashdod, the biggest population centers in the
south, were kept out of rocket range. (The Israel Defense Forces, for
its part, made sure not to leave any threat unanswered, efficiently
thwarting rocket fire and leaving 14 terrorists dead).
In consultations on Saturday night, the political echelon granted the
IDF the freedom to continue with its current line – target rocket
squads preparing to launch projectiles and retaliate for every
successful launch; exercise moderation, understand the context, and
make sure not to escalate violence.
All eyes are looking beyond Gaza to Egypt, where the results of the
presidential elections are slated to be announced. It is true that
Hamas is awaiting the results with trepidation, but Israel is no less
concerned over tactical dynamics in Gaza that could incur strategic
damage in Cairo. No one here really wants to see a new Egyptian
president – certainly not one belonging to the Muslim Brotherhood –
flexing his first leadership muscles on Israel.
The general intention on Saturday night was to maintain calm. But
still, regardless of the relative calm, we should be disturbed by the
increasing frequency of these bouts of violence and by the ever-
shorter periods of calm between them. We cannot ignore the increasing
correlation between attacks on the Israel-Egypt border and escalation
in the Gaza Strip.
Perhaps this is a positive step, in terms of fingering Hamas as the
culprit behind attacks from Sinai, but it also grants any resident
terrorist in Egypt the keys to escalation with Israel. To neutralize
these threats, Israel needs not only to maintain deterrence over
Gaza, it must also quietly pave inroads to the new regime in Cairo.
As of now, this is the only way to preserve the quiet in Gaza, which
will allow Israel to concentrate on real problems, like Iran and
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