rockets - AFP - April 10 2011
An Iron Dome missile responding to a rocket launch from the Gaza Strip. Photo by AFP
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Fewer rockets were fired at Israel on Sunday, but the fact that Katyushas did nonetheless fall in Be'er Sheva spurred tough talk from Israel, which threatened to continue attacking the Gaza Strip.

Still, if there are fewer launches Monday, Israel will likely reduce its attacks, and this round of hostilities will wind down by midweek, much as last year's periodic flare-ups did.

This optimistic assessment comes with two strong caveats: One, this is all true so long as there are no Israeli deaths; and two, the Islamic Jihad's rising frustration at its inability to achieve much may lead it to take the extreme - almost suicidal - step of firing rockets at the Tel Aviv area.

Despite the 150 rockets that have put a million Israelis under siege, Israel seems to have the advantage in this round.

Even before it assassinated Popular Resistance Committees secretary-general Zuhir al-Qaisi, the Israel Defense Forces prepared itself effectively when it came to both offense and defense, which substantially reduced the risk of Israeli casualties, while extracting a heavy price - 18 dead - from the Palestinian side.

And while the Islamic Jihad has received rockets from Iran with a range of 40 kilometers (and apparently several rockets that could reach over 70 kilometers ), its efforts to hit Be'er Sheva and Ashdod have been mostly stymied by the Iron Dome system.

It was no coincidence that Defense Minister Ehud Barak said on Sunday the Iron Dome system had provided "decision-making freedom" to the political echelon, and called to speed up the acquisition of additional batteries. Indeed, what had been conceived as a tactical response to the rocket fire has taken on strategic significance, and the IDF is planning to absorb a fourth battery within a month.

Southern residents' relatively high observance of the Home Front Command's guidelines also significantly reduces the risk of casualties, although the desire to watch enemy rockets being shot down in real time may lead to tragic losses down the road.

Even as the Popular Resistance Committees and Islamic Jihad continued to fire, Hamas could be heard at every opportunity stating that it supports a cease-fire and that it was making intensive contacts with Egypt to achieve one.

Hamas is in difficult straits, not just ideologically - since making efforts to stop the rocket fire looks to most Gazans like capitulating to Israel - but also practically.

The Islamic Jihad, with the help of Iran, has expanded into a military organization many-thousands strong. Enforcing its authority over it is not so easy for Hamas, especially since it does not want to look too eager to do Israel's bidding.

Israel - despite its mantra that because Hamas is sovereign in Gaza it is responsible for what goes on there - almost seems to understand, and has not bombed Hamas offices or installations. The IDF's focus on hitting launchers on Sunday generated far fewer casualties than have been seen previously.