Attack comes after IAF strike in Gaza Strip kills Islamic Jihad member; spokesman for Hamas medical service says 2 other people wounded.
Two mortar shells fired from the Gaza Strip exploded in open areas in the Eshkol Regional Council on Wednesday morning. No injuries were reported, but light damage was caused.
The mortar fire comes after the IDF on Wednesday morning confirmed that a member of the terrorist group Islamic Jihad was killed in a car explosion in the Gaza Strip as a result of an IAF strike. The IDF said that specific targets were hit.
Islamic Jihad identified the man as a local leader in the southern Gaza city of Rafah. A spokesman for a medical service run by Hamas said two other people were wounded after the car was targeted by IAF aircraft.
On Monday, a senior diplomatic official said that Israel did not enter a ceasefire agreement with Hamas, and it would continue to take action to thwart any terrorist action, be it the firing of rockets or attempts to infiltrate Israel coming from the Gaza Strip.
At the same time the official said if there were quiet from the other side, Israel would not initiate a major military action inside Gaza. This decision, he explained, was motivated by a number of factors, including the situation in Egypt, Syria and the Palestinian Authority, as well as the number of Iron Dome batteries Israel could deploy.
Government officials said throughout the day that Israel was concerned that a large scale military action at this time could severely damage ties with Egypt, which is currently in transition; could divert attention from the situation in Syria; and might not be wise until Israel has more Iron Dome batteries deployed in the South – it currently has two – to defend larger swaths of the population from the missiles that would inevitably rain down in the area in the event of a wider military action.
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu convened a highlevel security and diplomatic consultation that extended to 3 a.m. on Monday, where the decision to act to thwart terrorist acts, but not initiate a major military action, was taken.
According to the senior official, while Israel was ready for a war, it did not want to be dragged into it at a time not of its own choosing. He said that wider considerations needed to be taken into account, including relations with Egypt and the US.
Some defense officials believe Hamas actively fired rockets into Israel, others claim they sat on sidelines as smaller groups attacked.
The Israeli intelligence community is in disagreement regarding Hamas’s involvement in the recent round of violence between Israel and terrorist organizations in the Gaza Strip.
Officially, Hamas has claimed it was not involved in the attacks near Eilat on Thursday, which Israel attributed to the Popular Resistance Committees, or in the firing of more than 150 rockets and mortars into Israel, which came to a tentative end on Monday with the institution of a tense ceasefire.
Defense officials told The Jerusalem Post on Tuesday that there were two conflicting schools of thought within the intelligence community – those who believe that Hamas actively fired rockets into Israel and those who claim that Hamas sat on the sidelines during the rocket fire, which was carried out by smaller terror groups based in Gaza.
One source of the confusion came on Saturday night when a number of Gradmodel Katyusha rockets were fired at Ofakim from an area of the Gaza Strip believed to be under Hamas control.
While the Hamas leadership denied its involvement, lower-level field operatives issued a claim of responsibility on the website of the Kassam Martyrs Brigade, Hamas’s military wing.
An hour after it was posted, the claim of responsibility was removed from the site and was replaced by a claim of responsibility from the PRC.
“Hamas, for the most part, appears to have sat out this recent conflict and did not actively participate in the firing,” one defense official said.
The Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center issued a report on Tuesday detailing the rocket fire into Israel during the recent round of violence, showing that Islamic Jihad fired most of the projectiles and the PRC several dozen.
The intelligence official said the confusion surrounding Hamas’s claim of responsibility for the rocket fire into Ofakim was likely an example of the disagreement within the terror group’s leadership over whether it should or should not be actively attacking Israel.
Hamas’s absence from direct participation in the attacks is understood within Military Intelligence to be the result of a number of factors, which include concern that it would be blamed for thwarting the Palestinian bid for statehood at the United Nations next month.
In addition, Hamas is believed to be concerned that an escalation in fighting would strain its newlyrestored ties with the interim government in Egypt, and would additionally undermine its general efforts to rebuild infrastructure that was damaged during Operation Cast Lead two years ago.