Renewed Gaza Rocket Fire Threatens Hopes for Calm

Additional rocket attacks threatened to shatter the hopes for calm in Israel on Monday, after a noticeable reduction in rocket fire had followed a violent weekend. The IDF Spokesperson’s Twitter feed reported that multiple rockets hit during the day on Monday, with one rocket intercepted by the Iron Dome missile defense system near the Beersheba area, a major city in Israel’s south. According to the IDF Spokesperson’s Twitter feed, at least four rockets were launched Monday evening.

The latest launchings came just as things seemed to be gradually calming after an escalation in rocket attacks over the past few days, in which Israeli man was killed and others wounded. The spike in rocket attacks has been the worst since August.

Earlier on Monday, prior to the day’s most recent attacks, IDF spokeswoman Lt. Col. Avital Leibovich had told The Mideast Update by phone that the next few days would be key in seeing if a new calm would take effect. “[In] the next few days I think we will be much clearer on where we are heading: to tranquility or flaring-up,” said Leibovich.

At the time things were looking calmer. Leibovich said that while more than 40 rockets and mortars were fired in the previous 48 hours, the majority of those occurred at least 24 hours ago. In addition, safety instructions were eased for the southern Israeli communities. That relaxation of the guidelines included a recommendation to send kids to school, although the ultimate decision was left up to the communities themselves.

Said Leibovich at the time regarding the numbers of rockets, “I hope they’re coming down. I think it would be accurate to describe the situation as tense at this point… it’s not a complete quiet, but I hope that it will quiet down in the next day or two.”

The pattern of significantly reducing attacks before a true calm takes effect has been seen multiple times in past Gaza rocket assaults. However, the latest fire puts a renewed quiet in doubt.

Israeli Prime Minister’s spokesperson Ofir Gendelman, via his Twitter feed, said earlier on Monday that Israeli leader Benjamin Netanyahu said that a ceasefire had not been reached. Paraphrasing Netanyahu, Gendelman said, “There is no cease and there are no negotiations.” He noted that the IDF “continues its operations. We will act forcefully against the terrorists.”

During the latest round of fighting, Israel responded to the rocket attacks in part by targeting terrorists preparing to fire at Israel. Leibovich said that about 10 terrorists in multiple terror rocket squads were hit this way. Included among those were members of the terror squad responsible for a rocket attack on Wednesday that kicked off the latest escalation.

Despite the violence, the IDF allowed supplies to enter into Gaza on Sunday and Monday. “We are a humane country, and as such we do every effort in order to convey the humanitarian supplies needed in Gaza, despite the rocket fire,” said Leibovich.

The Islamic Jihad terror group was repeatedly mentioned in news reports about the violence, but Leibovich noted that the Hamas terror group is still in charge in Gaza and are therefore held responsible.

When asked about Israel’s concerns about the rise of the Islamic Jihad, Leibovich said, “Gaza has many terror groups, but it has one main group that controls it, this is Hamas. So Hamas is accountable for any rocket fire coming out of Gaza.

“You know to the average Israeli who has 30 seconds, approximately, to run to the closest shelter, it really doesn’t matter who is the terrorist squad behind the launch. Terror is terror and a threat of rockets is still a threat, regardless of who operates it. So for us Hamas is accountable.”

(By Joshua Spurlock,, October 31, 2011)