Hamas' Motivation / Renewed Force, Renewed Truce

Hamas is under heavy pressure from the Israel Defense Forces and the Shin Bet security service in the West Bank, and therefore, it resumed rocket and mortar fire at Israel from the Gaza Strip. Its assumption is that it has an operational advantage against civilian communities in the Negev - an edge it would like to utilize to obtain a cease-fire in the West Bank. However, the chances of Israel agreeing to this are currently nil.

From Israel's perspective, the main danger is that Hamas will surprise the IDF by kidnapping a soldier or civilian, just as it did last June, when it kidnapped Gilad Shalit and killed two other soldiers. This danger should not be underestimated: The IDF's operational deployment in Gaza is nonideal, entailing various risks.

Abu Obeid, a spokesman for Hamas' military wing, claimed yesterday that Israel long ago abandoned the Gaza cease-fire, and therefore, it no longer exists for Hamas, either. "We will let the missiles talk!" he declared. According to him, yesterday's attacks were a response to Israel's "crimes" in Jenin, Nablus and Gaza - though they may also have been meant as cover for an aborted ground operation. And in Damascus, Mahmoud Nazel, a Hamas leader, urged all the Palestinian factions to prepare for renewed fighting against Israel.

Palestinian announcements exaggerated the number of rockets and mortars fired at Israel, perhaps because some landed in Gaza instead. In recent weeks, there have also been several incidents of sniper fire at Israelis by Hamas snipers.

It is clear that Hamas is under heavy pressure in the West Bank. Thus far, all its efforts to step up its operations there have failed. Israel has largely succeeded in isolating Gaza from the West Bank, and has thus far prevented virtually all attempts to smuggle rockets into the West Bank or to manufacture them there - though a few primitive rockets, with a very short range, were found near Bethlehem, apparently destined for use against Jerusalem's Gilo neighborhood. And every week, Israel arrests dozens of Hamas and Islamic Jihad operatives, as well as Tanzim operatives who receive assistance from Hezbollah.

Hamas views all this as a major operational failure. Apparently, there is therefore a growing view within the organization that it is worth heating up the Gaza front again in order to produce new cease-fire talks in which Hamas could achieve a reduction of Israel's pressure on it in the West Bank. Any such agreement would also make it easier for Hamas to set up Qassam rocket manufactories in the West Bank.