Reports of exchanges of fire continue to emerge from the Gaza Strip, as Palestinian groups pursue the tactic of “a strike for a strike,” adopted in May of this year. In the early hours of Wednesday, Israeli shelling of the Qassam Brigades, Hamas’ military wing, and an empty car in the Gaza strip was promptly met with a response from Palestinian resistance groups, which launched approximately a dozen rockets in return. No injuries were reported.
Some observers Mada Masr spoke to pose that Israel is keen to avoid a war in the Gaza strip, one of the primary reasons being the tense military and security situation in northern Palestine. However, recent weeks have seen ongoing exchanges as people in Gaza continue to launch flaming kites and balloons carrying explosives into Israel. The flaming balloons have caused fire damage to farms owned by Israeli settlers, leading to an wave of anger that Israel is attempting to quell.
The launching of rockets by Palestinian factions in the pre-dawn hours of Wednesday came less than 10 minutes after Israel targeted an empty car in the Nuseirat refugee camp in central Gaza, which the Israeli military claimed belonged to the head of a Hamas militant cell involved in the launching of flaming projectiles into Israel.
“Israel can not sit idly by while damage is being done by these flaming kites,” says Omar Jaara, a professor of Israeli affairs at An-Najah University. “The occupation is accustomed to conventional wars, but [these techniques of] attrition will strike at its heart,” he adds.
Jaraa believes the Palestinian resistance groups deserve credit for carrying out a campaign based on the notion of “a strike for a strike,” saying that continued strikes will lead to “security and social confusion inside Israel.”
The Palestinians’ rapid response is part of the tactic adopted in May of this year following a series of raids on Palestinian sites. Reacting to the raids, the Qassam Brigades and Al-Quds Brigades (the armed wing of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad group) launched 114 rockets at Israeli settlements along the perimeter of the strip, and released a joint statement on May 29 asserting their intention to adopt the “a strike for a strike” policy.
The dozen rockets fired at settlements were addressed in the Israeli press the following morning, with significant space and air time devoted to discussing the Palestinian tactic, with some suggesting that it may lead to a war in the Gaza Strip in the near future. This scenario is likely to take place, according to some, in the case that strikes result in mutual losses for both sides, or if they target sensitive military facilities.
The Palestinian factions released a joint statement on Wednesday, which Mada Masr obtained a copy of, reasserting their commitment to the “strike for a strike” tactic. “We will not allow the enemy to impose its notions of equivalence on our people, and we will remain loyal to the wounds of our people and the blood of its martyrs,” the statement reads.
Senior Hamas official Khalil al-Hayya tells Mada Masr that a “joint operations room for the resistance has consolidated the unity of the factions,” saying that this represents a “historic precedent in the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.” He praises the cooperation between the Palestinian factions, which he says comprises of the popular mass Great March of Return protests and the use of the “a strike for a strike” approach, adding “the resistance is running the battle wisely.”
On Wednesday, Palestinian affairs correspondent for the Israeli Yediot Ahronot newspaper Elior Levy tweeted, “When Hamas publicly uses harsh terms [such as] ‘we will respond to strikes with strikes,’ we must conclude that Hamas is saying that it is not frightened by the prospect of a large-scale military confrontation at this time.”
Former Israeli military commander Yom Tov Samia criticized his government’s response to the Palestinian attacks in an interview on Israeli Army Radio, saying “attacking an empty vehicle does result in the other side being deterred.” The former general asked why the Israeli government had not assassinated leading Hamas figures, adding, “Are [prime minister] Netanyahu and [defense minister] Lieberman not the security masters? What are you waiting for, amid the failure to deal with this phenomenon? Or does Israel wants to peel onions without tears?”
In the wake of an attack one week earlier, Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman addressed the barrage of rockets and mortars aimed at Israel from the Gaza Strip on June 19.
“I have only three words for Hamas: That was a mistake,” Lieberman said during the graduation ceremony for military officers in the occupied Negev on June 20. Hamas spokesperson Sami Abu Zuhri responded to the defense minister in a tweet later that same day, saying, “Do not misunderstand our patience.”