The explosion heard earlier this evening in the Tel Aviv area didn’t hurt anyone, but left considerable fear in its wake.
From the initial investigation it seems possible that the projectile actually landed south of the Gush Dan region. Still, it makes one anxious. Memories of the missiles that fell in this area during the 1991 Gulf War have faded, and even the last suicide bombing in Tel Aviv occurred over six years ago.
But media drama aside, it’s important to keep things in proportion; having missile fired from Gaza to the Dan region was almost inevitable, given the circumstances. Hamas has an account to settle with Israel following the assassination of the Ahmed Jabari and it’s trying to score psychological points, even as the murderous bombardments by other Palestinian groups on Israel’s south – which today killed three people in Kiryat Malakhi – continue.
At the same time, the Palestinians now have only limited ability to fire medium-range missiles that can reach the Dan region. Most of their array of Fajr medium-range missiles was eliminated by Israel Air Force air strikes on Wednesday. Hamas apparently has only a few standard rockets in this range left, along with some improvised rockets with a similar range, which the other extremist Islamic factions also have. They probably do not have the volume to do serious damage to the center of the country.
But still, by firing at the Dan region, the Palestinians have violated the threat equation, and one assumes that Israel will respond even more harshly. IDF Spokesman Brig. Gen. Yoav Mordechai said that “an unquiet night” is to be expected. If that’s true for Tel Aviv and in Be’er Sheva, it’s especially true for Gaza.
But the continuing escalation still doesn’t necessarily mean we’re headed for war. Analyzing the interests of the two sides shows that Hamas indeed has something to fear from a reprise of Operation Cast Lead, which would involve an extensive Israel Defense Forces ground operation in the Strip. Such an operation would put the existence of the Hamas regime in Gaza at serious risk. It’s doubtful that Israel is interested in that, either. The military preparations at this point are for local brigade operations, not for reoccupying the Gaza Strip.
The key to the efforts to restore calm will be Egypt, especially after the announcement that Egyptian prime minister is expected to visit Gaza on Friday. Cairo will try to help find a mechanism to end the confrontation. But Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi has problems of his own: If there are huge demonstrations Friday in Cairo in support of the Palestinians, the Egyptian government is likely to harden its public stance against Israel.