One hundred and forty Qassam rockets landed in Israel last week. On Monday night, the barrage caused the first Israeli fatality in the current round of hostilities - a 35-year-old woman from Sderot.
It seems that Hamas has learned the lessons of the Second Lebanon War. Its militants timed the lethal Qassam salvo to occur just before the 8 P.M. television news after keeping a low profile all day. Hamas in Hezbollah's clothing.
As in all the previous years of the second intifada, it's the body count that matters. The victim's funeral will determine the government's response. The week-long barrage, by contrast, does not count for much. Israel will now escalate its actions against Hamas and Islamic Jihad.
Since the renewal of aerial assaults against Palestinian terrorists, the Israel Air Force has killed 30 suspected militants. Security forces will now focus on adding prominent Palestinian military leaders to that figure. High up on the list are Ahmed Jabri, Ahmed Randor and Mohammed Deif - all from Iz al-Din al-Qassam, the Hamas military wing.
All three are promoting an escalation in the fight against Israel, and the renewal of suicide bomb attacks within Israel proper. However, Hamas' capabilities in launching suicide bombers past the Green Line are not what they used to be.
Years of preemptive efforts by the Shin Bet security service and the Israel Defense Forces have greatly diminished Hamas' abilities, and decimated most terror networks in the West Bank.
Nonetheless, one or two determined suicide bombers are likely to penetrate into Israel sooner or later. The main question is whether Hamas will flinch as a result of the pressure Israel is applying. Last night, the answer was still no.
Still, large IDF forces are not expected to enter the Gaza Strip any time soon. Chief of Staff Gabi Ashkenazi will opt for a regulated escalation through a system of stages. As the defense establishment knows, Hamas is a long way from acquiring Hezbollah's capabilities.
Moreover, massive aerial strikes in the Strip will result in many civilian casualties. The army can warn in advance all it wants; unlike in Lebanon, the residents have nowhere to go.
So the best the government can aspire to after the current conflagration is another temporary cease-fire. The catch is that Hamas will emerge from it with more determination and force.
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