Gaza Rocket Fire at Israel Was Act of Defiance Against Hamas, Says Official in the Strip

Hamas officials estimate the current round of aggression has ended, and claim that the Israeli response is seen as deviating from norm established in recent calm, indicating it seeks escalation

A Palestinian man inspects a Hamas after it was targeted by Israeli warplanes in the southern Gaza Strip November 2, 2019.
\ IBRAHEEM ABU MUSTAFA/ REUTERS

The rockets that were fired into southern Israel on Friday night from Gaza were not launched by one of the major factions in the Strip, which collaborate through the joint war room, a Hamas official told Haaretz on Saturday.

He also said that this was an act of defiance against Hamas by unknown factors. At the same time, Israel's response is seen in the Strip as deviating from the rules estbalished in the region in recent months - in a way that indicates that Israel intends to escalate the situation, he said.

Officials in the Gaza Strip expressed on Saturday increased fear of escalation and another round of fighting in the near future due to the lack of a political horizon and delays in implementing the understandings reached in the cease fire agreement, and in particular the implementation of civilian relief. Hamas's political echelon estimates that the current round of aggression has ended, but that it may signal further escalation down the road.

According to one of the officials, the uncoordinated rocket fire demonstrates a great deal of frustration in the Strip with the delayed implementation of understandings reached in the last cease-fire. However, he said, the main factions do not intend to launch rocket fire at this stage, but rather to promote less drastic protest measures, including increased demonstrations near the Gaza border.

A man checks a car damaged iby shrapnel from a missile fired from Gaza Strip in Sderot, Israel, November 1, 2019.
Tsafrir Abayov,AP

The intention is, among other things, to engage in nighttime activity, disperse explosive balloons and get closer to the fence - measures that have been avoided since the last round of fighting, officials said.

However, the Islamic Jihad has released a statement saying "It's our right to defend the Palestinian people as long as there is aggression against them, and we will not allow Israel to set new game rules."

The organization did not state there would be an immediate response, but instead said there is a lot of room to respond in the event that Israel "acts foolishly."

Activists from other non-Hamas organizations say that the launches were a message to Israel, following the visit of Qatar's Ambassador Muhammad al-Amadi to Gaza, and his meetings with Hamas officials.

"We were informed that Qatar has made it clear that they do not intend to continue giving money to the Strip for much longer, and that funding may cease by end of the year - whether it is payments for diesel fuel or financial aid for needy families," said one of the activists, adding that "This decision is a huge lever on Hamas in a way that will lead to a crisis."

However, Hamas and other factions believe that mediators in Gaza will act immediately to prevent further escalation, with an emphasis on the UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process Nickolay Mladenov, and Egyptian intelligence officials.