Over the last twenty-four hours, the Gaza strip and southern Israel have been transformed into free-fire zones. Even with Egyptian-brokered ceasefire talks between the two sides underway, the volatile situation spilled over once more. A barrage of Hamas rockets and mortars was fired against Israel from positions in Gaza, prompting a wave of Israeli airstrikes against military targets in Palestinian territory. The majority of the projectiles fired by Hamas were intercepted by Israel’s Iron Dome system, but not all. Some did manage to make it through, causing injuries to at least 11 Israeli citizens. According to Palestinian government sources, three people were killed in the Israeli air attacks.
Some analysts believe Hamas is ratcheting up the attacks in order to show its strength during the negotiations. While possible, this strategy runs a serious risk of sparking a full-blown conflict with Israel, even if neither side wants that. Another prospect is that the order to initiate the latest rocket attacks came directly from Tehran. It is well known that the Iranian government has tremendous influence with Hamas. With the regime under increasing pressure from US economic sanctions snapping back into place, Iranian leadership might surmise that instigating a flareup of hostilities between Hamas and Israel will give it some needed breathing room. The timing of events certainly supports this possibility. Coincidences are rare in the world of Middle Eastern geopolitics.
Israeli citizens have been wounded in the attacks, opening a door to the possibility of further escalation. Public pressure on the Israeli government for further military action against Hamas could rise, contradicting the government’s desire to stabilize the situation. Protecting its citizens is the main priority for the Israeli government though. If the Hamas rocket attacks continue, and the number of Israeli casualties rises, this conflict could escalate dangerously. If that occurs, likelihood of a major conflict breaking out increases ten-fold.