Shlomi Eldar writes in Al Monitor, “On Aug. 9, Israel’s Security Cabinet was scheduled to convene for a crucial session on a long-term cease-fire deal with Hamas. Instead of debating what the Israelis dub “regulation” with Hamas, however, Cabinet members talked about responding to the firing of more than 150 rockets by Hamas from Gaza that began the evening of Aug. 8. That barrage into southern Israeli communities resulted in civilian injuries. On the morning of Aug. 9, rockets were also fired at the coastal town of Ashkelon. Since Hamas took control of Gaza 11 years ago, Israel has not faced such an extreme paradox, with the heads of all its defense forces and the political echelon wavering between approval of a peace deal or war.”
“The latest escalation on Israel’s southern border came after an Israeli tank shelled a Hamas position in Gaza on Aug. 7, killing two members of its military wing. A spokesman for the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) explained that the shooting had stemmed from a mistake: Israel had thought that the militia was poised for attack when it fact it was showing off its firepower at a ceremony for movement leaders….
” After the Aug. 7 incident but prior to the rocket barrages the following day, senior Israeli defense officials had relayed a conciliatory message, almost an apology, to Hamas for the tank shelling. Briefing reporters, the IDF spokesman appeared to be sending a message to the movement, saying that had the army known in advance of the ceremonial event, IDF force commanders would not have approved the shelling. The message was passed on, but the heads of Hamas’ military wing could not ignore the killing of two of their men, even at the cost of derailing an agreement that seemed headed for an early signing in Cairo and would save Gaza from a major humanitarian crisis. Senior Hamas officials were up front about the military wing’s intent to avenge the deaths of its fighters. In other words, they rejected the Israeli explanation-cum-apology.”…
“The leaders of the military wing, determined to prevent Israel from changing the “rules of the game,” did not care that heavy barrages into the Israeli south only three weeks after the third cease-fire in two months entered into force could torpedo the understanding already reached on the way to a hoped-for deal. Their quest for honor and desire to maintain a deterrent balance vis-a-vis Israel appear to be more important in their view than an agreement that could result in a significant easing of the Israeli siege on the enclave and guarantee Hamas’ rule for years to come. (more…)