Escalation in the south / IDF retaliates as Qassams hit Negev
Hamas issues statement blaming Israel for the deterioration and for wounding Palestinian civilians in Gaza and the West Bank; IDF kills Hamas militant.
Palestinian militants fired a Qassam rocket from Gaza into the western Negev Friday night, and another Saturday morning. No injuries were reported and the air force attacked a group of militants firing rockets, injuring one.
This month, the Palestinians have fired 15 rockets into Israel from the Strip, eight of them over the past three days. This marks a significant escalation when considering the past several weeks.
As expected, Hamas issued a statement Saturday blaming Israel for the deterioration and for wounding Palestinian civilians in Gaza and the West Bank. The group warned of the implications of such "enemy aggression." On Thursday, the Israel Defense Forces killed a Hamas militant.
The current escalation is the first since April. In the previous round, the Palestinians fired rockets at Ashdod and Be'er Sheva. But the escalation ended because Israel quickly took the upper hand: It stepped up its air attacks against Hamas and other Palestinian factions. Also, its Iron Dome defense system intercepted eight Katyusha-type rockets.
It appears that the escalation over the past two weeks is largely a Palestinian initiative, which Israel has responded to with limited air attacks. The fact that the rockets have hit open fields in the Negev without casualties has kept the clashes to a minimum.
Palestinian commentators in Gaza have not offered a reason for the escalation. Hamas and Islamic Jihad normally avoid firing rockets. But it appears that Salafist groups, affiliated with Al-Qaida, are trying to trigger an escalation with Israel.