The Iranian proxies in the Gaza Strip have not been shy about their eagerness to renew hostilities, preferably but not necessarily at their convenience. Hamas’s Gaza Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh recently reiterated that Hamas will never cease trying to destroy Israel, and to make sure everyone was on the same page the Palestinians fired rockets into Israel while UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon was in town. All of which lead to a military flare-up last month, leaving some Palestinian groups badly damaged but not even scraping Hamas’s military infrastructure.
So naturally attacks on Israeli troops, especially around the southern Gaza border, are again on the rise. IDF patrols are being targeted with 50 kg explosives, more than 50 mortar attacks have been launched at Israeli soldiers, and anti-tank missiles are a constant threat. Israeli leaders are describing the attacks as an escalation, and have apparently had enough:
Israeli planes dropped pamphlets in the southern Gaza Strip on Monday morning, warning Palestinians not to enter a no-go zone on its southern border. The leaflets, signed by Israeli forces general command, include a map of the zone, a Ma’an correspondent said. An Israeli army spokeswoman said the leaflets were dropped in several locations, and “reiterated to the citizens of the Gaza Strip to keep a 300-meter distance,” from the border area.
The IDF expects the situation to get worse before it gets better:
But for Ben-Ezra and other commanders, it appears just a matter of time before they are forced to undertake a more aggressive mission in the Gaza Strip. Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Benny Gantz has already given orders to start training for operations in Gaza, and the infantry brigades are scheduled to complete their preparations for these drills shortly. “This pressure cooker will explode some time,” said Ben-Ezra.
Why are Israeli military officials so sure that Iran’s Palestinian proxies will sooner rather than later unleash their rockets and missiles on Israeli civilians?
There’s the straightforward answer, which is that those groups continue to openly declare their intent to kill Israeli civilians, and – a few years removed from Operation Cast Lead – they’re again ready to instigate war. According to this line of reasoning, the IDF knows roughly how many rockets and missiles Palestinian groups need before they feel safe renewing hostilities, and the IDF also knows that the Palestinians are approaching that number. Thus the preparation.
But Hamas and Islamic Jihad and their sundry ilk aren’t the only actors in the Middle East (putting aside analysts who continue to peddle definitively debunked theories on linkage, it’s arguable if the Palestinians even count as significant regional actors). It could easily be that the Israelis are concerned with Gaza because they have their sights set on the day after an Israeli attack on Iranian nuclear facilities. Knowing that Tehran will order its Gaza proxies to unleash their Iranian-provided missiles, the IDF may be gearing up to respond to Hamas’s mullah-ordered retaliation.