Hamas does not seem to want large-scale clashes yet. The organization actually has good reasons to believe that Israel is the one heating up the southern front. It began with a bombardment a few weeks ago that disrupted the transfer of a large amount of money from Egypt to the Gaza Strip, continued with the interrogation of engineer and Hamas member Dirar Abu Sisi in Israel, and ended with last week’s bombing of a Hamas training base in which two Hamas militants were killed.
It is noteworthy that Hamas has not fired at Israel over the past two days, even after four Palestinian civilians were killed by errant IDF mortar fire on Tuesday.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu did speak out strongly yesterday, but in his two years in office, he has been very careful when it comes to military action. Netanyahu left for Russia last night, and today, U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates arrives in Israel. Such a diplomatic schedule limits Israel’s ability to act.
Netanyahu spoke of “an exchange of blows.” It seems Israel wants to strike the last blow in this round and then declare a halt. The concern is that Islamic Jihad will refuse to play by Israel’s rules.
And if Israel’s goal is to go back to the rules in force in Gaza a few weeks ago, how much force is it worth using to get there?