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“Hamas's Next Test”
June 5th, 2018

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Israel has repeatedly stated that it has no interest ‎in a military campaign in the Gaza Strip, but ‎reality may still drag it there, perhaps even this ‎week.

The accumulation of shooting attacks and kite ‎terrorism, together with two highly volatile events ‎Hamas plans to hold on the border, will once again ‎test the tenuous cease-fire achieved last week.

The first event is planned for Tuesday, when the ‎Palestinians mark "Naksa Day," mourning the Arab ‎defeat in the 1967 ‎Six-Day War.‎‏ ‏

Hamas has again called for the Palestinian masses to ‎rush the security fence and breach Israeli ‎territory. The terrorist group would like to ‎recreate the border violence that plagued the U.S. ‎embassy move to Jerusalem on May 14, as a high ‎number of casualties would place Gaza in the ‎international spotlight.‎

Fearing that Gazans would not heed the call, Hamas ‎has also called for border demonstrations on Friday, ‎which is both the last Friday of Ramadan and the ‎Iranian "Quds Day" (Arabic for Jerusalem). This also reflects the ‎deep ties between Hamas and Iran and Tehran's ‎growing influence on the coastal enclave.‎

These efforts prove Hamas is invested in provoking ‎violence on the Israel-Gaza Strip border, but it is ‎doubtful even Gaza's rulers fully understand the ‎volatile potential of this policy. ‎

This goes beyond the fact that, as the past few ‎weeks have shown, border protests easily spiral out ‎of control and result in a large number of ‎casualties or Hamas's unspoken approval of other ‎terrorist groups in Gaza firing rockets at Israel. ‎The increasing kite terrorism wreaking havoc on the ‎border-adjacent communities is not something Israel ‎can tolerate much longer.‎

So far, kite terrorism has posed little threat to ‎human lives. But the property damage it has caused ‎and the potential economic toll it would take on ‎Israel in the form of rising produce prices--not to ‎mention the erosion of Israeli deterrence by such a ‎basic, almost primitive, instrument all mandate we ‎come up with countermeasures. ‎

If we fail to mount a formidable response to kite ‎terrorism, Hamas may believe that Israel is willing to ‎tolerate its fields and forests being burned, and is ‎refraining from striking back for fear of war. ‎

Defense officials have said as much in a situation ‎assessment held on Sunday. Israel would prefer to avoid ‎another full-fledged conflict with Gaza--both over ‎the fact there is no way to know how or when one ‎would end, and because it needs to stay focused on ‎the northern sector--but it has to make it clear to ‎Hamas that it has crossed the line and that if it ‎keeps it up, war will follow.‎

Such messages have yet to be relayed to Hamas's ‎leadership, meaning every tactical event in the ‎coming days has the potential to escalate into a ‎full-blown military campaign. 

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