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Hamas arrests Salafi militants to halt rocket launch into Israel

Hamas leader Ismail Haniya (L) and Hamas's leader in the Gaza Strip Yahya Sinwar wave during a rally marking the 30th anniversary of the founding of the Islamist movement, in Gaza City, on December 14, 2017
Hamas have relayed their message through Egyptian intelligence that it seeks to avoid escalation in violence

The Gaza-based Hamas government has arrested a number of Salafi militants in recent days in an attempt to halt the groups rocket attacks into Israel, reported Haaretz on Tuesday.

Through Egyptian intelligence sources Hamas have relayed the message that it seeks to avoid an escalation in violence, according to a Haaretz report.

Among those arrested were said to be operatives responsible for the past weeks uptick in rocket fire, in what has been perceived as the largest incidence of rocket fire since the 2014 Israel-Hamas War.

At least 18 rockets have been fired at Israel since US President Trump’s highly-contested decision to declare Jerusalem as the capital of the country. Whilst a number of rockets have been intercepted by the Iron Dome missile defense system, several have landed in the populated areas of Sderot and south of Ashkelon.

Motti Kimchi

Around half of the rockets fire have fallen short of their targets, landing inside the coastal enclave. The most recent was on Friday when a rocket hit a residential building in the town of Beit Hanoun belonging to an Egyptian family, inside the Gaza Strip.

Despite Israel’s intelligence services concluding that Hamas does not seek wider conflict with Israel, a series of airstrikes have been carried out against weapons facilities inside the Gaza Strip. On Sunday the IDF targeted six Hamas weapons facilities.

“I estimate that Hamas does not really want a confrontation, particularly after we destroyed some of their tunnels,” said Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman on Friday. “They know they will lose all of their strategic valuables so they have an incentive to end the conflict.”

In an attempt to explain Hamas’s slow response to stymying the fire, a Haaretz analysis attributes this to the “overall atmosphere in the territories” following Trump’s Jerusalem decision and Hamas’s cautiousness about appearing to “oppose the resistance” against Israel too explicitly.

“One can assume the group seeks to direct the protest to more comfortable channels, like terror attacks in the West Bank and demonstrations near the fence surrounding the Gaza Strip,” the Haaretz report continued, as a harsh Israeli response could be damaging for the group.

Idan Moldovsky/Ministry of Defense

Criticism within Israel regarding Prime Minister Netanyahu’s seemingly restrained approach has mounted with the heads of opposition parties, with Avi Gabbay from Zionist Union and Yair Lapid from Yesh Atid, urging a stronger military approach against Hamas.

“The prime minister is weak against Hamas, for two weeks, they’ve been firing our citizens and we don’t hear him,” retorted Gabbay at the weekly party meeting, reported The Times of Israel.

“When Hamas sees that the prime minister does not comment, what is it supposed to understand?” Gabbay continued.

Based on the limited results from prior Gaza operations, such as Operation Pillar of Defense 2012 and Protective Edge 2014, Haaretz argue that a more extensive military operation, as per the ongoing construction of an underground barrier against the tunnels in the strip. serves a more effective purpose than previous iron fist approaches.

(Staff with Agencies)


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