For the first time since 1970, a rocket has fallen near Jerusalem, fired by Hamas from the Gaza Strip, Other long-range missiles landed near Tel Aviv.
The Fajr-5 rockets, built by, ahem, Iran, “is short on accuracy, [but] a significant boost in destructive power,” Wired.com reported.
Since Israel assassinated top Hamas military operative Ahmed Jabari, the terrorist group has rained more than 500 rockets on the Jewish State. The Israel Defense Forces have struck 500 targets in Gaza, which has been ruled by Hamas since shortly after Israel withdrew from the territory in 2005.
The Jabari assassination was a response to intensified aggression by Hamas, including 750 prior rocket attacks on Southern Israel.
Now tensions are escalating. Israel has called up 30,000 reservists and threatened Hamas operatives “whether low level or senior leaders, [not to] show their faces above ground in the days ahead.” Hamas warned that Israel has “opened the gates of hell.”
Particularly ominous is the open support Egypt has given Hamas. New Egyptian president Mohammed Morsi was the head of the Muslim Brotherhood, which also was the spawning ground for Hamas. So, Morsi and Hamas are brothers under the skin, so to speak.
Since Hosni Mubarak was ousted as Egypt’s president in the Arab Spring last year, the Egyptian military across the Gaza border in Sinai has given Hamas a freer hand. Hamas maintains elaborate tunnels between Gaza and Sinai through which it transports weapons and supplies that help it break an Israeli quarantine.
On Friday, Morsi declared:
We have the power to uproot the aggressiveness…I don’t want to take unusual steps, but if I see that the homeland is in danger, I won’t hesitate.
This is a critical change in the balance of power in the region. Since the historic 1978 Camp David Accords, there’s been peace between Israel and Egypt, which had fought four wars since Israel’s independence in 1948. Two Intifadas, two Lebanon wars, and serious Israeli military action against Hamas in Gaza and the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank came and went without real opposition from Egypt.
But now with Morsi in charge, that’s all in jeopardy. And who knows what might happen in a Syria torn by civil war? And then, of course, there’s Iran, whose nuclear program poses the biggest existential threat to the Jewish State.
Surely Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who faces an election in a couple of months, doesn’t want to be bogged down in a two- or three-front war. Clearly Hamas understood that, which is why it struck while the iron is hot.
Meanwhile, President Mahmoud Abbas is pressing for observer status at the United Nations for the Palestinian Authority, which controls the West Bank. If this is what Israel gets after ending the occupation of Gaza, don’t expect Israelis to support any solution that could ultimately leave Hamas in control over large swaths of the West Bank.
Israel’s Iron Dome missile defense system has worked well, destroying 100 Hamas rockets in the air. But it’s not invincible.
Its first ground invasion of Gaza since Operation Cast Lead in 2009 now looks likely. Expect huge blowback from parts of the international community when the inevitable civilian casualties occur.
If Iranian ally Hezbollah in southern Lebanon steps in to support Hamas, we could have the first full-fledged Middle East war since 1973, with unimaginable consequences.
That’s why President Obama must read Morsi the riot act and tell him Egypt won’t get a dollar more of U.S. aid if it doesn’t try to broker peace rather than foment war between Hamas and Israel.