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Hamas Launches Barrage, and Signs Its Name

Out of the blue attack likely meant to provoke, distract

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An Israeli man (and dog) Saturday morning in the Klsufim kibbutz.(David Buimovitch/AFP/Getty Images)

In violation of a two-year ceasefire that had mostly been enforced, Hamas launched (and took credit for) dozens of mortars from Gaza into southern Israel Saturday morning, injuring two civilians. Another rocket from Gaza—this one not like the mortars fired Saturday, and not yet claimed by any group—landed in the coastal Israeli town of Ashkelon Sunday. Israel responded Saturday with tanks and helicopters, reportedly injuring five and killing two. Israel also moved to lodge a formal complaint with the United Nations, which has lately become a battleground for Palestinian statehood.

The New York Times accurately described the attack as “unusually intense,” and Hamas’s taking credit for it as “uncommon.” Hamas asserted it was a response to an Israeli airstrike Wednesday that killed two of its members. The technical term for this explanation is bullshit: Israel struck Wednesday in response to a rocket fired earlier; Hamas knows that whenever it fires into Israel, Israel fires back. So what prompted it?

The best guess is that Hamas is trying to distract Gaza Palestinians from the current grassroots campaign for unity between Hamas and Fatah, the less extreme Palestinian group that rules the West Bank. Over the past week, in the Palestinian territories’ version of the upheavals that have gripped most of the Arab world, people in both Gaza and the West Bank have taken to the streets to demand that the rivals (indeed, foes—they fought in armed conflict a few years ago) unify for the larger cause of Palestinian nationalism. In turn, both groups, and especially Hamas, have cracked down on these protests.

“Is there any other way to interpret Hamas’ claim of responsibility than an attempt to divert attention from #Mar15?” tweeted George Hale, the English editor of the West Bank-based Ma’an News Agency, referring to the pro-unification movement. Hamas, this theory goes, is trying to change the subject from its conflict with Fatah by picking a fight with Israel in order to create a rally ‘round the flag effect. Which would be solely its own business, if that tactic did not involve the reckless, provocative launching of dozens of notoriously inaccurate weapons at civilian areas. The attack, in other words, was unusual and uncommon, but, sadly, it was not out of charater.

Mortar Fire From Hamas, and Israeli Tanks Respond [NYT]
Palestinian Rocket Slams into Ashkelon [JPost]
Earlier: Hamas, P.A. Reportedly Crack Down on Unity Protests

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Good read on things.

I would add that ‘unity’ probably means ‘get rid of Hamas’, in so many words. The two approaches Fatah and Hamas represent are not really compatible, and it’s hard to conceive of a merger that would preserve the latter group’s governing principles. Gazans obviously can’t say that, but Hamas probably understands full well what the implications are.

Joshua Lessard says:

I think it’s more likely that Iran is directing the latest attacks to draw attention away from itself and its reemerging democracy advocates protesting.
Either way, it’s likely to try and draw Israel into criticism and try and liken its responses (or overreactions) to quashing democratic movements like you see in Yemen and other places in the last week.

Plausible, and more or less the same M.O. The question is, can Netanyahu parry it deftly?

Harold says:

Your subhead:
“Out of the blue attack likely meant to provoke, distract”

That was secondary. Its primary purpose was to kill Jews, of course, like all the other attacks.

Before you get into convoluted analyses, always look first at the obvious.

Bennett Muraskin says:

Really? Hezbollah’s rockets during the last Lebanon war killed many Arab citizens of Israel. How do you explain that?

Harold says:

Reply to Bennett Muraskin:

From Hezbollah’s point of view, those were unintentional and unfortunate side-effects. But the primary purpose of their missiles then, like the primary purpose of Hamas’s missiles now, was and is the murder of Jews.

Surely even a hater of Israel can see that?!

Bennett Muraskin says:

But Israeli bombs and rockets are, of course, not meant to kill Arabs.

Please tone down your rhetoric. No name calling.

Dani ben Leb says:

Arabs living in israel are considered scum by Hezbollah, so they “deserve” to die.

Hamas’s and Hezb’s days are numbered in the current ME dynamic. As the dictators fall, so will Iran and Syria, which means no more safe heavens and weapons in Damascus. When the Islamofascists run out of steam there will be peace.
The Arab facebook generation wants peace, just like all sane people, the young want a future, jobs, freedom and no nagging Islam, but a spirituality of their choice.

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Hamas Launches Barrage, and Signs Its Name

Out of the blue attack likely meant to provoke, distract

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