Israeli Defense Officials Believe Botched Op Won't Derail Talks on Gaza Deal

Israeli defense sources do not predict further escalation but fear Hamas retaliation attacks that will drag the sides into further turmoil

The Iron Dome defence system, designed to intercept and destroy incoming short-range rockets and artillery shells, in the southern Israeli town of Sderot, November 12, 2018.

>> Update: Massive barrage of over 100 Gaza rockets launched at Israel; IDF strikes Strip

That said, the army is preparing for a possible deterioration in the situation. The fear is that Hamas will try to create a formula wherein operations such as Sunday's will be met with a large attack against the military, in Gaza or in the West Bank. Such a development would lead to a harsh IDF response and to a general decline to a point that none of the parties actually want.

>> Gaza incident was a botched Israeli military op, but not an assassination attempt | Analysis

Gaza incident was a botched Israeli military op, not an assassination attempt.

The military did not directly connect Sunday's flare-up to recent Gaza clashes that are connected to the weekly protests by the Israel-Gaza border fence. The choice by Hamas and Islamic Jihad to aim their fire at Israeli communities by the Gaza border led the Israeli defense establishment to conclude that Hamas is not trying to provoke war. Its rockets and shell fire were designed to let out steam and show Gazans that Israel's penetration into the Strip would not pass unremarked and without reaction.

According to defense assessments, Hamas sees Sunday's events as a success despite the deaths of its people, since it killed a senior Israeli officer. The fact that the movement has disclosed the details of the event and presented it to Gazans as a success might moderate its response. The longer the quiet in Gaza lasts on Monday, the greater the probability that this round is over, defense sources say.

Recent clashes between Israel and the Palestinians were a response to the weekly protests by the Israel-Gaza border fence. This was not the case on Sunday. Sunday's operations was part of the battle the army constantly wages on all fronts to preserve Israel's superiority in the face of threats, say defense sources. Executing a sensitive operation like Sunday's always carries the risk that it can turn from a pinpoint tactical incident into a political strategic one.

The exact nature of the operation was not released for publication. According to Iz al-Din al-Qassam, Hamas' military wing, the Israeli military sought to "deal a harsh blow to the resistance forces." According to the Lebanese newspaper Al-Akhbar, the Israeli defense forces were planning an to take hostage the man responsible for the attack tunnels in Khan Younes.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told reporters in Paris Sunday, hours before the operation was exposed, that he was "doing everything I can to prevent an unnecessary war." The premier added that "first, we aim for calm, then an agreement. We’re not there yet. The decision to go ahead with this process is the right one, I think."