Skirmishes on Gaza Border Subside as Hamas Shuns Big Fight

The security situation on the Gaza border appears to be calming down after a tense two weeks. Hamas once again is preventing smaller organizations from firing rockets at Israel, probably worried that the recent exchanges would lead to an all-out confrontation with Israel.

Recent weeks have seen a number of serious incidents in the Gaza Strip. Seven Palestinians, members of militant organizations, were killed in a clash with the Israel Defense Forces near the border fence and in an air-force bombing of a rocket-launching unit in the center of Gaza.

For the first time, Hamas fired a Kornet-type anti-tank missile, hitting an Israeli tank, and several organizations fired mortar shells and rockets into Israel, wounding residents on a kibbutz near Ashkelon.

Israel retaliated by attacking manned Hamas offices and bases, for the first time in many months, threatening to destroy them unless the organization held back.

Over the past two days, Hamas spokesmen announced that they had no interest in a large-scale conflict in the Strip, so the smaller organizations were cautioned to stop the rocket fire.

Senior government officials told Haaretz it seems Hamas allowed the smaller factions and its own military wing to let off some steam for a few days. But this escalation was now over.

"The way things stand now, it seems the basic rules of the game have not changed," one official said.

Yesterday, an isolated incident did occur on the Gaza border when Palestinians opened small-arms fire at an IDF patrol moving along the fence near Kibbutz Kissufim. No casualties or damage were reported.