The defense establishment will recommend that the government take measures to make life easier for Gazans and give a chance to understandings reached between Egypt and Hamas over the weekend.
Thus by late Sunday, Israel is expected to announce the easing of the flow of goods through the Kerem Shalom crossing and the extension of the fishing zone off the Gaza Strip that was curbed following recent events.
Defense officials say Hamas realizes the threat of a broad military campaign by Israel that would wipe out the group’s successes since the Palestinians’ protests began at the Gaza border fence on March 30.
During the talks between Hamas and Egypt, Israel clarified that border incidents involving terror squads and firing at Israel would no longer be tolerated; Hamas would pay heavily if this continued.
Hamas has emerged from the clashes over the weekend with several achievements. Reconciliation with the Palestinian Authority is on the agenda again, the international community is encouraging the development of infrastructure that will relieve Gaza’s humanitarian crisis, and more importantly, Hamas remains the dominant organization in the Strip, something it realized it stood to lose in a broader round of fighting.
As part of the cease-fire understandings, Egypt gave Israel certain guarantees, and Israeli defense officials believe that their side should take confidence-building measures, especially vis-à-vis Egypt.
The IDF believes that Hamas is cooperating with Islamic Jihad and that the cease-fire covers this smaller group as well, which increases the chance of the cease-fire holding.
Based partly on contacts with mediators, the IDF believes that Hamas is starting to realize the price it is paying for the so-called March of Return at the border fence, with pressure being applied by Gaza residents as well.
The IDF believes that Hamas mistook Israel’s restraint as weakness, but the attacks over the last two weeks and messages delivered to the organization have convinced it that the IDF has changed direction and is making preparations that would allow for a broad campaign.
According to the IDF, over the weekend Hamas was considering a response to the killing of its operatives, but it is unclear whether the sniper who killed an Israeli soldier was acting with the knowledge of Hamas leaders or whether local commanders misunderstood instructions.
The IDF is investigating the incident. One question is how the bullet penetrated the soldier’s body armor, which has been sent to a lab for examination. The possibility that a fragment hit the soldier in the neck is also being investigated.
The IDF aims to convey zero tolerance for violence initiated by Hamas, but there is no intention of starting a broad campaign if it turns out that an incident involves rogue groups in Gaza trying to ignite the region.
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