Hamas is changing the pattern of its respoinse to non-lethal Israeli attacks on Gaza, Israeli army sources said Wednesday after dozens of rockets were fired from Gaza toward Israel overnight in retaliation for IDF attacks on the Strip.
Top Israeli army brass conferred Wednesday morning over Israel's policy toward the rocket attacks. According to military sources, in the past, Israeli attacks on Hamas targets that did not cause fatalities passed without a reaction from the militant Islamist group. As a result, the sources say, the IDF has taken care in recent months not to harm members of Hamas or Palestinians launching incendiary kites and balloons.
In a shift on Hamas' part, on Tuesday night, about 45 rockets and mortar shells were fired from Gaza toward Israel in response to non-lethal Israeli attacks on Hamas targets. The Iron Dome missile defense system intercepted seven rockets; five landed in Israeli border communities – including one that landed near a kindergarten. At least three of the rockets landed inside the Gaza Strip itself.
"The Gaza Strip isn't going to be a firing range for Israeli F-16s," commented Islamic Jihad spokesman Daoud Shihab. "The time when the occupation had freedom of movement is over. It is the duty of the resistance forces to react according to the circumstances in the field and as they see fit."
In response to the rocket barrage into Israel, the IDF attacked the Strip again, taking aim at 25 Hamas targets.
Army sources say that Hamas' decision to carry out its attacks during the nighttime hours, when residents of Israeli border communities are at home and close to shelters, demonstrates that the Islamist movement is using a measure of discretion. The fact that Hamas has been firing rockets at small communities rather than large cities is also seen as an indictation of caution on its part, officials believe.
Meanwhile, the military acknowledges that the current situation could create tensions between the army and residents in the south. The IDF has yet to announce any change in policy toward Hamas, and officers stress that the view that Hamas should be attacked in response to incendiary kites and balloons sent over the border into Israel continues to prevail.
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