What happened: Three rockets were fired from the Gaza Strip at the southern Israeli town of Sderot late on Sunday night. Two of the were intercepted by the Iron Dome aerial defence system and another landed near a highway. Israeli aircraft bombed Hamas military targets on Monday morning in response.
- The attack took place during a live outdoor concert in Sderot, with video images showing a few thousand concert goers fleeing for cover.
- In response, Israeli jets struck Hamas military targets in the northern Gaza Strip but no fatalities were reported. Israeli authorities announced that fuel supplies to Gaza’s main power plant would be reduced by 50 per cent in response to the attacks.
Context: The attack took place after two weeks of significant violent incidents on the Israel-Gaza border.
- At least nine rockets have been fired at Israel from Gaza since mid-August, the most severe escalation since May. In addition, four cross-border military attacks have been attempted during this period involving heavily armed personnel from Gaza trying to break through the border fence. All the attempted attacks were intercepted and prevented by IDF units stationed in the area.
- Despite a tentative ceasefire deal between Israel and Hamas brokered by Egypt and the UN, it is believed Hamas is demanding faster implementation of the deal’s terms, in addition to increased financial support and infrastructure aid for Gaza.
- Hamas has blamed renegade actors inside Gaza — whether Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) as in similar past cases or, now, “angry youth” — for the increase in attacks. For its part, the IDF yesterday blamed PIJ for the missile fire, as it’s done in the past.
Looking Ahead: On Monday Egyptian officials invited senior leaders from Hamas and PIJ to Cairo in an effort to reduce tensions and prevent further attacks. The increase in violence comes just three weeks before the Israeli general election on 17 September, heaping additional political pressure on Benjamin Netanyahu to respond more forcefully to attacks from Gaza. Netanyahu has however exhibited extreme pragmatism and caution with regard to any potential military campaign in Gaza. For this reason, Hamas may sense an opportunity to extract — via missile fire — additional concessions from Israel ahead of the election. The Iran factor may also be significant. PIJ receives financial and military support from Iran and is believed to be more responsive to Tehran’s tactical requests to launch attacks on Israel – as would likely be the case with tensions growing in Lebanon and Syria.