Israeli Officials Say Chance of Major Gaza Operation Low, Hamas Wants to End Round of Violence

According to Israeli assessments, Hamas wants to end this round of fighting following damage caused by IDF strikes

Smoke rises from an explosion caused by an Israeli airstrike on a building in Gaza City, Aug. 9, 2018.
Arafat Ooda/AP

The Israeli security establishment said Thursday evening that the chances of a full-fledged military operation in the Gaza Strip have decreased significantly in the past few hours. According to Israeli assessments, Hamas will want to end this round of fighting following the damage caused in Thursday's attacks on Gaza and on the building that the Israel Defense Forces destroyed in Gaza. 

The security cabinet met Thursday evening to discuss the situation in Gaza. At the end of the security cabinet meeting, the cabinet instructed the IDF to "continue operating with full force against terror elements."  The general assessment in the political establishment is that if the night passes quietly, with no rocket launches from Hamas, there will not be a major operation in the Strip.

Prior to the meeting, a political source said that "Hamas was dealt a serious blow, Israel will keep acting will full force." Netanyahu and Lieberman instructed the IDF to prepare for every possible scenario. 

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The Israeli military struck 150 targets in Gaza in retaliation to a massive barrage of rockets that was fired at Israel since Wednesday evening. Some 200 rockets were fired at Israel, the military said, with over 30 rockets intercepted by the Iron Dome missile defense system. Most of the rockets exploded in open areas.

Palestinian factions in Gaza declared earlier Thursday that they consider the latest round of violence between Israel and Gaza over, saying that maintaining the peace now depends on Israel. After the statement was released, however, a rocket was fired at the city of Be'er Sheva, located some 40 kilometers from the Strip. This was the first time rockets were fired at the city since the 2014 Gaza war.

Hours later, the IDF renewed its attacks on Gaza, destroying a building in the al-Shati refugee camp in northwestern Gaza. The strikes wounded 18 Palestinians, reports in Gaza said. According to the IDF, the five-story building was used by Hamas's internal security forces.

Palestinian sources, however, reported that the building housed a cultural center. A source in Gaza said that the building is located near the house of senior Hamas political leader Ismail Haniyeh, who is from al-Shati refugee camp. A resident of the camp, where the building is located, told Haaretz that "the attacked building is an art and culture center which has no political or security use. The building also serves the Egyptian community that lives in Gaza. There is no reason to target this building other than harming a Palestinian cultural symbol."

Meanwhile, Egypt announced that it has been working with both Israel and Hamas since Wednesday to prevent an escalation and continued attacks on the Strip. According to an Egyptian source, Cairo is continuing its communication with various actors in order to restore the calm and prevent further flare-ups.