Israel plans more pinpoint strikes against Hamas in Gaza
Security cabinet and IDF officials believe hostilities needed to show Israel won't ignore rocket attacks.
Decision-makers in Jerusalem said Israel would continue to launch pinpoint strikes against Hamas and other Palestinian militant organizations in the Gaza Strip, Haaretz has learned.
Israeli aircraft on Thursday wounded 10 Palestinians in the attempted killing of a Hamas operative in southern Gaza. Palestinian militants launched two Qassam rockets and one mortar round into Israel, resulting in no casualties or damage.
Hezbollah, meanwhile, has vowed to strike Israeli targets, and Cypriot authorities Wednesday detained an Iranian arms ship that Israel believes may have been en route to Hezbollah.
The decision to carry out further pinpoint strikes against Hamas emerged after consultations between the security cabinet and top Israeli defense officials. The hostilities were necessary to let Hamas know that strikes against Israel would not go unanswered, one source said.
During the deliberations, intelligence officers said Hamas was trying to contain its radical elements because it was interested in cementing a cease-fire agreement. This, the intelligence officers said, was why the organization is delaying its response to recent strikes by the Israel Defense Forces.
The first IDF strike against Hamas after Operation Cast Lead came on Tuesday, after the death of one Israeli soldier in an explosion near the border with Gaza. Since then, the Israel Air Force carried out several retaliatory raids.
The latest, which wounded 10 Palestinians, was aimed at Mohammed Samiri, whom the IDF believes was involved in planning and carrying out the attack on the IDF patrol on Tuesday. According to reports from the Strip, Samiri was riding a motorcycle in Khan Yunis when a missile exploded near him, wounding him and several others.
Another IAF raid took out what the army believed to be a weapons production shop in Rafah.
In an interview with Al Jazeera, Hamas' prime minister in Gaza, Ismail Haniyeh, said reconciliation was Hamas' "main aim."
"I think it is not in America's interest to stay in conflict with the Arab and Muslim worlds, considering its interests in the region," he said. "We hope that the new American president revises all the policies of his predecessor."
Hezbollah's leader, Hassan Nasrallah, also spoke to the media yesterday, saying the organization had "an open score" with Israel." These statements, according to defense sources, sit well with Hezbollah's reported intention of carrying out a major attack as the one-year anniversary of the assassination of Hezbollah's Imad Mughniyeh approaches.
Mughniyeh, the organization's number two, died in a car blast in Damascus on February 14 a year ago. Hezbollah officials say they hold Israel responsible.
Although Hezbollah was mentioned as a likely recipient of the arms on board the Iranian ship the Cypriot customs services detained yesterday, Israeli sources said the cargo may have been meant for Hamas. The Cypriot customs service began unloading some of the cargo Wednesday, a diplomat from the European Union told Haaretz.
The move apparently came after Israel and the United States requested that Cyprus stop the ship, which was carrying a large amount of weapons, including artillery rounds and rockets.
The vessel left the Persian Gulf a few weeks ago and reached about 60 miles from Cyprus' port city of Limassol on Wednesday.
Since the ship was flying Cyprus' flag, the Cypriot authorities were the only ones authorized to confiscate its cargo.
According to the diplomat, Cypriot customs officials had contacted the Iranian boat and demanded that it sail to Limassol for inspection.
The U.S. Navy had earlier detained the ship in the Red Sea, but was forced to release it Tuesday when it became apparent that there was no legal basis for holding it. Cyprus' embassy in Tel Aviv declined to comment on the matter.
Amos Harel, Avi Issacharoff, Anshel Pfeffer, Yoav Stern and Barak Ravid contributed to this article.